With an increasing focus on the EV market, The Ford Motor Company’s business model has become at odds with its membership in ALEC, the fossil-friendly business lobbying group backed by the Koch brothers. Sure enough, just last week Ford confirmed that its relationship with ALEC is no more. To reinforce its transition to a clean tech model, earlier today Ford announced that it will be the first auto maker to hook up with the Electronic Industry Citizen Coalition.
So, what is the Electronic Industry Citizen Coalition?
The EV Revolution and Electronics
All contemporary cars are loaded with electronics, and EV manufacturers in particular are leveraging a combination of electric drive, energy storage, data analytics, and mobile connectivity to push the electronics envelope even farther.
That all brings up a load of supply chain and lifecycle issues, so it stands to reason that an auto company moving in a corporate social responsibility direction would want to do something about that, especially if it has an interest in the EV market.
The Electronic Industry Citizenship Coalition is this:
Founded in 2004 by a group of leading electronics companies, the EICC is a nonprofit coalition of electronics companies committed to supporting the rights and wellbeing of workers and communities worldwide affected by the global electronics supply chain. EICC members commit and are held accountable to a common Code of Conduct and utilize a range of EICC training and assessment tools to ensure continuous improvement in the social, environmental and ethical responsibility of their supply chains.
Pretty much all of the big players in the global electronics industry are among the group’s 110+ members, including Apple, Xerox, Toshiba, Sony, Microsoft, Logitech, IBM, Intel, Cisco, Best Buy, etc.
Along with the new addition of Ford, you’ll also find some of those names, including Apple and Microsoft, among the growing list of companies that have cut their ties to ALEC in recent years while earning high ratings from other sustainability groups.
When it comes to rating sustainability, it’s important to note that trade organizations can be vulnerable to some degree of criticism for lack of transparency among other faults, and the global electronics industry is particularly loaded with issues. Rivalries between trade organizations and different rating systems can also muddy the waters. However, setting industry-wide goals and standards is a critical first step, and EICC seems to have emerged as the leader in its category.
Ford And The EICC
Here’s what Ford had to say about its new relationship, in a press release earlier today:
Joining the EICC will strengthen Ford’s commitment to respect human rights and improve the basic working conditions at its suppliers’ facilities around the world. It also will enable Ford to further fulfill the promise in its corporate responsibility policy that guides the company’s code of human rights, basic working conditions and corporate responsibility and holds its suppliers accountable for meeting those standards.
So, there’s that. Ford notes that its supply chain focus slightly predates the formation of EICC, as the company began a formal auditing and training program in 2003. The advantage of joining a larger group is to gain additional leverage, among other pluses.
Apparently Ford has been an affiliate of EICC, and full membership required approval from the organization’s Board of Directors. Ford is now expected to do this:
…identify high-risk facilities of its own and its suppliers and conduct audits on at least 25 percent of those facilities. Ford also agrees to actively support the EICC and the goals of the organization’s Code of Conduct in its own operations, progressively implementing the EICC approach and tools in the spirit of the industry’s common goals.
On its part, EICC expects its stepped-up relationship with Ford to lead to additional members from the auto industry, especially considering the “growing convergence between the automotive and electronics industries,” as EICC puts it.
According to Ford, about 15 percent of its suppliers are already EICC members, so it looks like the company is getting a head start.
Ford, ALEC And The Looming EV Battle
The new EICC relationship is just the latest in a trio of sustainability related moves that Ford has undertaken in the past couple of months. The first occurred in mid-January, when the company announced a new partnership with LEGO, a brand that is front and center in the sustainability and renewable energy fields.
The unhitching from ALEC followed just a few weeks after that, and now comes the new commitment to EICC.
This has all been taking place while ALEC (and by extension, the Koch brothers) has been weathering some bad publicity over its connection to the Bundy family, the majority of whom are sitting in jail facing felony charges for threatening federal officers, and worse, over their instigation of armed standoffs in Nevada in 2014, and more recently at the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge in Oregon.
While the Malheur episode was still unfolding, the Kochs also had to deal with some serious blowback over new solar net metering rules in Nevada. The onerous new rules are a big win for investor Warren Buffet’s NV Energy utility, but the Koch brothers ended up taking most of the heat due to their connection with ALEC’s broader anti-solar policies.
Also not helping the Koch brothers much is the resounding nyah-nyah-nyah issued over Twitter a few days ago by EV wizard Elon Musk to his 3.47 million followers.
The tweet was a simple “sigh” accompanied by a cartoon and a link to a Huffington Post article, which detailed rumors of a new Koch-funded campaign to undermine the EV market, supposedly getting under way some time this summer.
The headline was “The Kochs Are Plotting A Multimillion-Dollar Assault On Electric Vehicles.”
As of now the Koch brothers aren’t saying much about their designs to crush EV manufacturers like bugs, but if they really are thinking of taking on the likes of Elon Musk, Mark Fields, and Mary Barra (the person in the Bolt EV on her Facebook), we’re in for an interesting summer.
Image (screenshot): Ford Focus EV via Ford Motor Company.
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