S2: Substantive Stakeholder Dialogue
The Evolution of Engagement
Ford Motor Company has worked closely with Ceres since 2000 to not only disclose and improve its sustainability performance, but to embed sustainability expectations across its business model. Before working with Ceres, Ford’s relationships with external stakeholders were often adversarial. Ceres helped Ford to shift that perspective by bringing it together with investors, issue experts and environmental and social advocates for constructive dialogues.
Ford’s evolution – its journey along the road to sustainability – didn’t happen overnight; it began long before the global financial crisis of 2008. And it hasn’t been driven by a CEO’s spiritual conversion or a desire for a corporate image makeover. For Ford, sustainability is a core business strategy that is improving competitiveness in a global market, creating jobs, and adding to the bottom line; it’s about preparing the company to succeed in a global economy that will be profoundly shaped by climate change, water scarcity and the other sustainability challenges of the 21st century.
When a company joins Ceres, its sustainability journey is often just beginning. Committing to a set of principles is one thing; fulfilling that commitment is another and that is the essence of our work with companies such as Ford. We travel the road to sustainability with them by offering expert advice, convening meetings with various stakeholders, bringing their investors into the discussion, sharing best practices, and challenging companies to elevate their sustainability commitment and performance.
As John Viera, Ford’s Director of Sustainable Business Strategies, has written, Ford works closely with Ceres “to not only disclose and improve our sustainability performance, but to embed sustainability expectations across our business model.” This work can be both collegial and hard-nosed at the same time. We are always pushing Ceres companies to do more, but as an ally not an adversary. Ford today is a sustainability leader because we have worked together, changing the paradigm of how the business of sustainability gets done.
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