From veggies to cars: rising ethical consumerism in Asia

Climate change, water scarcity, and dwindling natural resources are just a few of the serious, long-term environmental challenges facing many countries across the Asia-Pacific, causing consumers to seek out eco-friendly goods and services.

From Veggies to Cars: Rising Ethical Consumerism in Asia
Hi-tech Ford manufacturing plant in Thailand putting an emphasis on green technology

As consumers begin flexing their socially-minded muscles at the cash register, they are demanding more from the brands they buy. For Ford Motor Company, this rising demand for ethically-produced goods converges with the company’s own efforts to integrate sustainability into every aspect of its business.

The automaker has identified ‘Sustainability Blues’ as a key consumer trend in the Asia-Pacific. Ford’s 2016 Trends Report found that 75 per cent of respondents said they tend to choose products that are environmentally responsible.

Rise of socially engaged consumers

Millennials—the demographic most connected with social media—tend to be the most socially aware and would prefer to buy from like-minded brands.

According to a recent Nielsen global survey, sales of consumer goods from brands with a demonstrated commitment to sustainability have grown more than four per cent globally, while those without grew less than one per cent. In addition, the majority of consumers said they were willing to pay more for sustainable brands, especially millennials, of whom almost three out of four said they would pay a premium for greener products, up from the approximately half just a year before.

“Young consumers care deeply about where and how their products are made, whether they are vegetables or automobiles,” said Sheryl Connelly, global consumer trends and futuring manager at Ford Motor Company. “They feel a personal responsibility to address social issues and are putting their money where their heart is. We must keep pace with consumers’ evolving wants and needs in order to remain competitive.”

From Veggies to Cars: Rising Ethical Consumerism in Asia
Ford manufacturing plant in Thailand

Reducing environmental footprint

Ford has long embraced environmentally friendly manufacturing practices and is going further to make its business greener from the inside out.

Globally, Ford has reduced the energy used in its manufacturing process by 25 per cent between 2010 and 2015. The company is also exploring innovative ways to reduce its water consumption, working towards the aspirational goal of zero potable water used in its manufacturing plants.

In the Asia-Pacific, Ford has made significant progress towards cutting its environmental footprint with recent examples including:

  • Reducing CO2 emissions per vehicle produced by almost 10 per cent in 2016 compared to 2015, and nearly by 40 per cent since 2010;
  • Sending more than 90 per cent less waste per vehicle to landfill in 2016, compared to 2011. In the same year, more than half of Ford’s manufacturing plants in the region were zero waste, including Ford Hai Duong, Vietnam;
  • Using 15 per cent less water to produce each vehicle in 2016, compared to 2015—enough to fill two bathtubs or 1,000 half-litre bottles of drinking water;
  • Introducing three-wet painting technology at its Changan Ford plant in Chongqing, which helps improve paint durability, reduce volatile organic compound emissions, and decrease energy consumption by 10 million kilowatt-hours annually—which is equivalent to the electricity consumption of 18,600 individuals in China over a year.
From Veggies to Cars: Rising Ethical Consumerism in Asia
Three-wet paint technology at Ford's Changan plant

Engineering eco-friendly vehicles from the inside out

Offering greener choices to consumers is a top priority for Ford—from improving the fuel efficiency of its current vehicle line-up to investing in electric vehicles, alternative fuel options, and sustainable technologies.

Ford’s strategy is to pursue cost-effective fuel efficiency technologies that can benefit millions of people to truly make a difference. It is developing or has introduced a wide variety of new engine and transmission technologies, including EcoBoost® engines and advanced six-, nine-, and 10-speed transmissions, as well as weight reductions and aerodynamic improvements that deliver significant fuel economy efficiency.

Ford is also using renewable and plant-based materials in vehicle parts and components to reduce its environmental impact without making any compromises on performance, quality or durability. Today, almost 300 parts used across Ford’s vehicles are derived from sources, such as soybeans, cotton, wood, flax, jute, and natural rubber—and the company is researching the viability of other renewable materials, such as bamboo and the agave plant.

“We are committed to improving our approach to sustainability in ways that preserve our planet,” said Cynthia Williams, director, sustainability, environment and safety engineering at Ford Asia Pacific. “We need to face the core challenges of sustainability head on and encourage innovation in every part of our business.”

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By XY