SOURCE: Erb Institute

November 30, 2009 09:06 ET

Ford Motor Company Expert Makes Business Case for Human Rights Through Erb Institute Course

Class Posts Record Enrollment as MBA Student Interest Surges

ANN ARBOR, MI--(Marketwire - November 30, 2009) - Although "going green" has dominated most companies' sustainability strategies, Ford Motor Company Manager of Social Sustainability David Berdish is teaching future business leaders that human rights holds the greatest unexplored promise for companies seeking to innovate, reduce risk and develop new markets sustainably. Berdish is delivering his insights through "Badlands: The Social Dimensions of Sustainability," a course being offered by the Erb Institute for Global Sustainable Enterprise at the University of Michigan this autumn.

According to recent research from Harvard Law School and the IRRC, only 28 percent of global companies have in place labor and human rights (LHR) policies covering their global supply chains. Through this course, Berdish, who is also a member of the Erb Institute's External Advisory Board, aims to shed light on the relationship between human rights issues in the developing world and the risks companies face when they fail to recognize this connection. Berdish also hopes to illustrate the measurable benefits of adopting sustainability strategy that incorporates human rights policies.

"Companies increasingly rely on the emerging market to source both export and domestic production," said Berdish. "With every new link in the supply chain comes a complex set of environmental and social decisions. This course aims to help future leaders -- Erb Institute graduates and others -- understand those decisions so that they can become forces for positive change in the business world."

Berdish's expertise in this area is born from his role managing both sustainability and human rights programs for Ford, which he describes as the only company in the automotive industry that has a code against which it assesses, evaluates and remediates its supply base, partners, etc. based on human rights issues.

"At the heart of Ford's supply chain strategy is a commitment to human rights and sustainability," says Berdish. "That commitment strengthens our ability to weather economic storms, by building stronger, trusting relationships with our suppliers, their employees and communities. The mutual commitment and alignment of values created reduce risks, improve access to markets and boost resilience and innovation during tough economic times."

Among the sustainability initiatives that Berdish has spearheaded is the Ford Urban Mobility Network, which offers integrated urban transportation solutions for people in cities that can't afford cars or where the infrastructure and congestion is so bad that they wouldn't want to travel by car.

"Sustainability is often limited to the 'green' label, which leaves out the host of social challenges that innovative companies can transform into business opportunities," said Rick Bunch, managing director of the Erb Institute for Global Sustainable Enterprise. "In giving Erb students the opportunity to raise important questions about these issues, Dave Berdish is helping expand awareness and invite new insights into social sustainability solutions for the future."

About the Frederick A. and Barbara M. Erb Institute for Global Sustainable Enterprise

Created in 1996, the Erb Institute for Global Sustainable Enterprise is a 50-50 partnership between the School of Natural Resources and Environment and the Stephen M. Ross School of Business at the University of Michigan. The Institute fosters professional education, public outreach and scientific scholarship supportive of the transition to sustainability -- that is, meeting the fundamental needs of a growing human population in an equitable manner within the means of nature. Utilizing a collaborative approach, the Institute helps business, government and civil society organizations to achieve meaningful progress toward sustainability. Its mission is be a premier source of knowledge and leadership for the achievement of environmentally, economically and socially sustainable development and enterprise. For more information, visit

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