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Ford Puts Change Down on Paper

Mary Catherine O'Connor | Wednesday June 2nd, 2010 | 4 Comments

Nicole DesNoyer, a producer in Ford’s internal communications group, took an idea and ran with it. With a background in ad agencies, DesNoyer joined the company in 2006 with an eye on sustainability.

“We produce a lot of internal documents,” she says. (Documents like Ford magazines, materials for employees, etc.) “We started a small group with Ford’s sustainability department, me, Ford purchasing and Xpedex (a paper distributor and a division of International Paper) to talk about how to forward the use of sustainable materials in our paper [sourcing].”

The result of this initial meeting is a sea change in how Ford sources paper for its multitude of printing needs.  By working with Xpedex to negotiate new sourcing deals with its vendors, the automaker is now using paper from recycled content and certified by the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) and containing at least 10 percent post-consumer recycled content for its high-volume, consumer and employee printing projects. These include its latest annual report and proxy statement, its owner, employee and retiree magazines, its dealership car catalogs, consumer direct mail and in-dash vehicle owner’s guides.

This move reduced Ford’s consumption of virgin stock by 6,000 tons over the past year
(that’s the equivalent of a loaded freight train with two locomotives and 100 cars).

“Ford is really encouraging advocacy among employees,” says DesNoyer. “We want people [at Ford] to get excited about what we’re doing. And this is something that I have the ability to affect because of my job. It has increased my knowledge base [about sustainable paper production] and I’ve become a point of knowledge in the company.”

Plus, she says, “It’s really important to walk the walk. We do things in terms of fuel economy, managing production, but this is especially interesting, because it’s non-production and it’s driven by individuals not by research, or other things a traditional manufacturing company would do.”

The financial bottom line still matters, of course. But (due partly to Ford’s size and high volume requirements and partly to the fact that, unfortunately, the percent of recycled content in the paper is still low) it’s been a cost-neutral move, according to DesNoyer.  Perhaps the greatest value here, though, is the notion that Ford’s decision to change its paper sourcing practices may influence other organizations to follow suit. DesNoyer says she’s already gotten a call from the United Auto Workers Union with some questions about using FSC paper—it is looking at making the switch too, and wanted to learn from Ford’s experience.

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  • ecolibris

    This is an interesting effort, but I'm not sure if using “at least 10 percent post-consumer recycled content” can be considered 'walk the walk', even if the paper is FSC-certified.

    Also, how about reducing print? I'm sure many of the printed materials mentioned in the article can be made available online instead, hence generating not only a reduction in the company's footprint but also in costs.

    • http://www.mcoconnor.com Mary Catherine O’Connor

      Good point raz. I’ll let Ford respond directly. But Nicole and I did talk about this. There is the option to, for example, run owner’s manuals on DVD. But that comes with its own environmental costs–plus they can be more resource-intensive to update.

  • mcoc

    Excellent point, ecolibris. I'll ask Ford if it wants to respond, but I did talk about one thing with Nicole that might add to the discussion: She said another automaker had switched its driver's manuals to DVD, to save paper. But Ford found that when you consider the environmental impact of printing these disks and then updating them in the future, it decided the impact of using paper was a lesser of two evils.

  • mcoc

    Excellent point, ecolibris. I'll ask Ford if it wants to respond, but I did talk about one thing with Nicole that might add to the discussion: She said another automaker had switched its driver's manuals to DVD, to save paper. But Ford found that when you consider the environmental impact of printing these disks and then updating them in the future, it decided the impact of using paper was a lesser of two evils.

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