Ford CFO Leads Trend Towards Sustainability

Bob Shanks, Ford’s CFO

A recent phone conference with Ford’s chief financial officer, Bob Shanks, reveals the sustainability and green efforts that the carmaker is pursuing. One of the largest revelations during the phone call was the suggestion that a company’s efforts to go green are controlled by those who hold the purse strings. When reviewing the details of Ford’s 14th annual sustainability report, CFO Bob Shanks discussed:

  • Ford’s sustainability strategy. Over the last decade, Ford has reduced carbon dioxide emissions by an average of 37 percent per vehicle. The company is eyeing an additional 30 percent reduction by 2015.
  • Increased CFO responsibility for sustainability. Just as Shanks is helping lead Ford’s sustainability efforts, a recent Deloitte LLP survey shows that CFOs have the most influential role in investing in green technology development.
  • Green sustainability is financial stability. Shanks acknowledged that more chief financial officers should view financial stability as part of their company’s sustainability plans as a whole.

As Ford continues its green efforts with leadership from CFO Bob Shanks, the company is reporting profitability regionally with projections for improvement overseas. In the United States, Ford recorded $8.34 billion in pretax profits. While the markets are weaker in areas such as China and India, strategies are in place as new facilities are opening overseas. Shanks revealed that part of Ford’s plan to increase profitability in foreign markets was to improve waste treatment, energy efficiency, and similar sustainability management.

While Bob Shanks is playing a major leadership role in Ford outside of traditional financial duties that swamp a CFO, other financial executives are finding that sustainability issues are now falling into their jurisdiction. The bottom lines between social, environmental, and economic considerations are now converging into a “triple bottom line” known as sustainability. And as sustainability and financial performance intertwine, the CFO’s responsibility over a company’s green efforts is greater than ever before.

Bob Shanks is the prime example that chief financial officers have transformed from being the fancy accountants to major influencers and drivers behind corporate strategies. As CFOs consider their role in sustainability moving forward, they must also understand their role in investor relations, reporting and assuring external sustainability, and financial risk management.