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Ford Explores Bamboo Fiber for Lighter Weight Materials, Stronger Supply Chain

Ford Motor Co. is the second major automaker in recent weeks to make the news for focusing on sustainably sourced materials for use in manufacturing. Ford is evaluating plastics made stronger by bamboo fiber for interior car parts like storage bins or side panels, writes Plastics News. The company is actively looking to develop materials based on what is available and plentiful in different areas of the world, rather than “shipping materials, as we currently do, all over the place,” says Deborah Mielewski, head of the sustainable materials team of Ford’s research department.

Bamboo fibers are not only a renewable alternative to traditional reinforcement materials like glass fiber, but they are also 15% to 20% lighter, which could lead to significant savings for the auto manufacturer.

Automakers and other manufacturing companies have been chasing sustainability in their supply chains in order to ensure continued availability of key materials. General Motors has made a commitment to work with the tire industry to ensure it is sourcing only sustainable materials for its tires.

Clothing manufacturers are also seeking sustainable supply chains; Levi Strauss & Co. has said that it is funding $350,000 toward new approaches and innovations in the apparel supply chain. Projects will include expanding a natural indigo dyeing facility, creating products that are less water-intensive, and making wastewater treatment solutions more accessible to small artisan workshops, the company said last month.

In a 3M study released this week, manufacturers and suppliers said that they undertake sustainability measures in their supply chains because they have tangible business value. Those positive business outcomes in supply chain sustainability, suppliers say, mean that sustainability and CSR will remain core focus areas for organizations and their suppliers in 2017, according to the study.

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