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Ford first automaker to announce saliency assessment

Ford Motor Company has announced the completion of a saliency assessment, conducted in line with the UN Guiding Principles Reporting Framework.

The assessment serves to identify Ford’s most salient human rights issues – those at risk of the most severe negative impact through the company’s activities and business relationships.

Ford is the first automaker to participate in this assessment, and through the framework, has identified nine human rights issues relevant to the company. This helps the company identify a link between environmental issues and human rights issues, and work to develop an action plan to address them.

“This is the first time that we at Ford have really started to combine human rights issues with environmental issues,” said Mary Wroten, director, corporate sustainability. “What we need to remember is that people and the planet are connected, and that’s what we need to talk more about.”

Based on the assessment, the salient human rights issues identified were: product safety and quality, harassment and discrimination, responsible sourcing of raw materials, health and safety, climate change, air quality, access to water and sanitation, forced labour and child labour.

“Meaningful action requires prioritising,” said Caroline Rees, president of Shift. “By identifying and disclosing its salient human rights issues – the most severe risks to people – a company can know where the greatest resources need to go first, as well as build trust and enable more practical internal and external conversations about progress made over time.”

David Schilling, senior program director at Interfaith Centre on Corporate Responsibility, said Ford has done a thorough saliency assessment to identify human rights issues where there is a risk of the most severe negative impacts through the company’s activities and business relationships. “We will continue to engage Ford on how the saliency assessment informs and influences the company’s human rights due diligence to reduce negative impacts,” he said.

Air pollution and climate change were two of the issues referenced regularly as missing from the initial list. For Ford, air pollution is particularly relevant now to the company’s combustion engine cars – the quality of air impacting on a human’s right to life and human rights, and transport vehicles contribution to climate change can have negative impacts on people and communities.

“It is important for us as a company to continue to strive for improvement in the environment, for the sake of those who live in it,” said Kim Pittel, Ford group vice president, sustainability, environment and safety engineering. “We need to develop action plans to monitor, address and increase engagement on these salient issues, including management and remediation, and this assessment helps us to do just that.”

In the future, Wroten says her goal is to develop action plans to monitor, address and increase engagement on salient issues, to ensure continuous improvement, including management and remediation. Establishing an annual review process to confirm saliency of issues is also something on the list.

“I would like to conduct a more detailed analysis of these prominent human rights risks in Ford’s 22 priority sourcing locations and engage with regional internal and/or external stakeholders to gain a deeper understanding of local issues,” she said.