Ford South Africa’s Unwavering Commitment to Sustainability Reaffirmed in Centenary Year

Reaching a 100th anniversary is a major milestone for any company, but how does the organisation not just remain relevant and in tune with the current times, but also adequately prepare for the future? In the case of Ford South Africa, it’s through an unwavering commitment to sustainability by continuing to invest in its local operations, rapidly adapting and innovating, reducing its impact on the environment, developing its people and, crucially, uplifting andempowering communities.F

ord’s Centenary in South Africa provides an opportunity to reflect on the Blue Oval’s significant achievements over the past 100 years, which helped shape the country’s automotive industry, and positioned its local operations at the Silverton Manufacturing Plant in Pretoria and the Struandale Engine Plant in Gqeberha as key parts of Ford’s global manufacturing footprint for the Ranger.

As one of the country’s largest original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) and vehicle exporters, Ford’s contribution to the South African economy cannot be underestimated. With local direct investment over the past 15 years for the Ranger program counted in tens of billions of rands, its impact has been immensely significant from a fiscal perspective, while also ensuring that it is on par with the best Ford plants in the world.

Having recently celebrated the one-millionth Ranger produced in South Africa over the past 24 years, Ford is forging full-steam ahead for the latest high-tech evolution in the Ranger story – the first-ever Ranger Plug-in Hybrid Electric Vehicle (PHEV). The construction of a dedicated battery assembly plant, along with changes to the manufacturing and assembly lines to accommodate this new model, have been completed in preparation for full-scale production for export markets commencing later this year.

The launch of the Ranger PHEV will be an important chapter in providing customers with vehicles that achieve improved fuel economy and reduced emissions, while retaining the Built Ford Tough capability and performance that the Ranger is renowned for.

Similarly, Ford is focusing extensively on reducing the environmental impact of its local operations. This forms part of Ford’s commitment to introduce green energy solutions, using 100-percent carbon-free electricity across its manufacturing operations globally by 2035, and achieving carbon neutrality by 2050.

The vast Silverton Manufacturing Plant, which includes Ford’s first on-site Stamping Plant and a high-tech new Body Shop, is powered during the day by an innovative solar carpark comprising more than 30 000 solar panels which generate a peak power capacity of 13.4MW.

The system is being expanded this year with a Battery Energy Storage System, which will provide emergency backup and keep the plant running during temporary power outages. The battery storage system will be able to export any excess power generated over weekends and non-production days back into the electrical grid, capable of powering approximately 600 homes. Ford is also investigating the implementation of a solar energy and battery back-up system for the Struandale Engine Plant as part of its overall sustainable energy targets.

At the same time, the Silverton plant has invested in a new scrap yard facility that significantly increases the amount of paper, cardboard and plastic waste that is sorted on site and recycled.

Investing in people

As a primarily family-owned company, Ford firmly believes in empowering and investing in its people. Ford currently employs 5 200 people in South Africa, having added around 1 200 jobs with the launch of the new Ranger at the end of 2022, and it is a level 3 B-BBEE contributor. Additionally, Ford supports around 60 000 jobs in the value chain amongst supplier companies, 11 of which are located in the Tshwane Automotive Special Economic Zone (TASEZ) located adjacent to the Silverton plant.

Developing its employees through a wide range of skills development, career advancement and study opportunities is an essential part of Ford’s future-thinking strategy that drives continuous improvement and innovation.Manufacturing employees from the Silverton plant are selected to spend time at Ford’s operations in Thailand where the Ranger is also produced along with the Ranger Raptor and Everest. These international experience opportunities contribute to knowledge sharing, relationship building and, ultimately, the successful implementation of best practices that are essential for achieving the highest production quality, efficiency and volumes.

Ford has introduced a Diversity Equity and Inclusion (DEI) Council to further focus its efforts on ensuring that the entire workforce – from the shop floor through to senior management – becomes fully representative and inclusive of South Africa’s demographics in terms of gender, race, sexual orientation and culture. This gives all employees a sense of belonging and respect.

This is complemented by specific initiatives and support structures such as Women of Ford that promote equal opportunities, and aims to achieve greater female representation across the organisation.

Creating new talent for the future is built on a wide range of MerSETA-accredited learnership, apprenticeship and experiential training projects at both plants. These have provided thousands of young men and women with a fully accredited educational foundation in high-demand fields such as electronics, mechatronics, engineering and vehicle maintenance and repair. This enables them to enter the job market with a valuable qualification – either at Ford or within the broader job market.

Ford supports the Youth Empowerment Service (YES) program to further address the high level of youth unemployment. This provides essential work experience and equips young people for career opportunities. Additionally, the Silverton Incubation Centre run in partnership with the Automotive Industry Development Centre (AIDC) runs a five-year skills training program that ultimately helps graduates find jobs within the supply chain.

Empowering education

Ford takes its role as a responsible corporate citizen very seriously, and is dedicated to an extensive range of community empowerment, upliftment and outreach projects across the country in partnership with leading non-profit organisations.

With education positioned as the cornerstone of economic upliftment, Ford South Africa launched three far-reaching education initiatives for its Centenary celebrations – all designed to give people in South Africa a bridge to the future and the promise of a better world.

Ford South Africa and Ford Philanthropy (formerly the Ford Fund) are funding the creation of 100 Maths and Science Labs for primary schools in disadvantaged areas around the country. This project is being implemented by Gift of the Givers Foundation, with logistics company Maersk donating 100 shipping containers that are beingrefurbished into fully equipped laboratories to promote the STEM subjects, comprising science, technology, engineering and maths.

In partnership with the Nelson Mandela Foundation, Ford SA is funding the establishment of 100 Early Childhood Development (ECD) Centres in disadvantaged areas across South Africa. Additionally, Ford Philanthropy is awarding 100 scholarships to highly motivated young South Africans from under-resourced and under-represented communities interested in STEM-related careers, specifically the mechatronics, autotronics, millwright and electrical trade fields, as well as mechatronics and transportation technicians.

These Centenary legacy projects are in addition to Ford’s ongoing CSR initiatives that support the READ Educational Trust’s Rally to Read, Science2Go which operates a mobile science laboratory and resource centre to promote interest in the various scientific fields amongst school learners, and the Ford College Community Challenge run in conjunction with global NPO Enactus which empowers university students to develop and implement community upliftment solutions.

Protecting the environment

Preserving the country’s precious natural resources is fundamental to any concept of sustainability, and Ford is deeply committed to, and involved in, doing exactly that through the Ford Wildlife Foundation (FWF).

The company has been an active participant in wildlife and ecosystem conservation efforts in South Africa and Sub-Saharan Africa for more than three decades, with this cause coming into even sharper focus in 2014 when the FWF was established. The foundation provides locally produced Ford Ranger Double Cab 4x4s to partner organisations to provide much-needed mobility for the project teams, while allowing them to direct their limited resources to the crucial environmental work.

FWF currently supports 28 projects across South Africa and one project in Mozambique. This comprises 17 conservation projects, seven research projects and five environmental education projects.

Enhancing driving skills, saving lives

As one of the country’s leading vehicle manufacturers, Ford plays an important role in tackling the high level of traffic accidents, injuries and deaths that plague South African roads. Through Ford Driving Skills for Life (DSFL), which was started locally in 2010, more than 9 000 drivers have been trained countrywide on aspects such as awareness, passenger and child seat safety, distracted driving, the perils of drinking and driving, as well as hijack prevention and extraction.

DSFL also delves into hazard recognition, collision avoidance, vehicle handling, speed and space management, while explaining and demonstrating the extensive range of advanced driver assistance technologies that are standard on all new Ford models.

Additionally, Ford provides free introductory 4x4 driver training to customers that purchase a new four-wheel drive Ranger or Everest. The course, which is run by the Ford Adventure Club, focuses on proper driving techniques both on and off-road, and unravels the various 4x4 systems and technologies available.

Customers benefit from hands-on 4x4 instruction and driving experience that will help them reach their adventure destinations safely, and with minimal impact on the environment.