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More Than Function: 3 Things Customers Want to Know About Your Product

By John Viera

Today, customers around the world care about more than the functionality of a product alone. They want to engage with its story. If they’re purchasing a piece of technology, they want to know how it was made and where materials are sourced. When purchasing an item of clothing, they want to know that it was produced safely and under good conditions. And if they’re purchasing an automobile, they want to be assured that the manufacturing process was environmentally responsible.

So, what does this mean for businesses?

At Ford Motor Co., we think this shift signifies a real turning point. Against a backdrop of increasing resource constraints and climate change, a vehicle stands for much more than just a consumer product. Our customers are curious to learn more about the impacts of their purchases. As we look back at what we’ve accomplished this past year in our recently launched 2014/15 annual Sustainability Report, we’re also thinking about our how we communicate to our stakeholders the way our products are made, the people involved in our global supply chains, and our overall footprint. These questions can spur meaningful conversation, and can be used by any company who is looking to engage customers at a deeper level:

1. How is your product made?

Part of being an effective innovator is understanding the impact your actions have on the surrounding world. The key is to start with your operations and identify potential areas where you can make incremental improvements.

Each year, we continue to make strides to reduce our environmental footprint across our production processes and meet our energy, CO2, water and waste goals as we help tackle the world’s transportation challenges. In 2014, we reduced global water use per vehicle produced by three percent, along with continuing focus on CO2 and energy reductions. Additionally, this year, our Hermosillo Stamping & Assembly Plant in Mexico achieved zero waste-to-landfill status, successfully making Ford landfill-free in all Mexican manufacturing facilities. According to our 2014 numbers for waste generation, our manufacturing plants in Mexico will divert 1.5 million points of landfill waste in 2015 and into the future, joining our other 27 facilities globally that are already zero-waste to landfill.

Tip: Look at all areas of your business, no matter how large or small, to see where you can make an impact. Even committing to one act like changing lightbulbs can make a difference! A small start can lead to big things

2. How well do you know your supply chain?

Suppliers play a key role in the success of any global company, impacting areas from resource use to economic development and global working conditions. As such, we take extra care in understanding the vast scale of our supply chains, including working with other automakers to raise industry standards in the global markets in which we operate. In 2014, we trained 280 supplier companies in six countries on corporate social responsibility, and a cumulative total of 2,948 supplier sites were trained or retrained in Sustainability Management since 2005.

Tip: Partner with suppliers that understand your company’s commitment to sustainability issues and to align on a clear set of consistent requirements and standards. Ford encourages its key production suppliers to introduce codes of conduct that are aligned with international standards and Ford’s Code of Human Rights, Basic Working Conditions and Corporate Responsibility. Use your business relationship as leverage to help equip suppliers with the skills needed to manage supply chain issues through a series of factory-level and management trainings.

3. What are the impacts of using your product?

Beyond adopting best practices throughout our manufacturing processes and supply chains, we remain committed to delivering quality products that not only keep drivers safe on the road, but also deliver more immediate benefits for the environment and climate. This year, we announced a series of global mobility experiments that aim to address different transportation and urbanization challenges – including parking, emissions, and congestion issues – through methods like car-sharing and enhanced vehicle connectivity. Similar to our belief that sustainability should be in every facet of our business, we continued to leverage our industry partnerships to bring innovative solutions, such as MyEnergi Lifestyle, to new places to help consumers improve their energy footprint and promote seamless energy-efficient living.

Tip: When you understand the impact of your product – how it is used, with what other products, how it is changed, and why it matters to customers – you’ll be able to find more innovative solutions to address common challenges. Maybe there is a way your product can interact with something else to make it more sustainable or efficient. We believe that no single company can achieve sustainability in a vacuum, and stakeholders will respect partnerships that achieve more together than they could on their own.



At Ford we are constantly looking for new ways to improve, and as we move towards being both a product and mobility company, we continue to identify opportunities to improve the global communities in which we operate. Every company can look at how it’s impacting the world and strive to make it better. To learn more about Ford’s efforts, you can read our Sustainability Report here.

2015 Sustainability Report Video 

John Viera is the Global Director, Sustainability and Vehicle Environmental Matters for Ford Motor Company, a position he has held since January 2007. Viera is responsible for developing global sustainable business plans and policies, interfacing with global regulatory bodies, reporting externally on the company's environmental and social performance, and leading the company's engagement and partnerships with non-government organizations (NGOs) and other key stakeholders.

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