Friday, March 28, 2008

Toyota for the Birds?

The Audubon Society announced this week that a recent Toyota grant of USD 20 million, the largest that the 103 year old organization has ever received, will fund its “TogetherGreen” programme for five years. “TogetherGreen” is a nationwide Audubon program to fund conservation projects, train environmental leaders, and offer volunteer opportunities to significantly benefit the environment according to the Society. TogetherGreen is about giving people the knowledge, the support and the opportunities they need to truly make a difference," said Audubon President John Flicker. "We will engage people of all ages, from every community and all walks of life to help shape a healthier future."

Toyota has garnered substantial kudos from environmental groups for its environmental commitment and, among other things, its Prius car, a high profile hybrid suspected of substantial greenwashing about both its performance data and its real environmental impact (see Tesla Motors article below). Toyota has said it will engage its 36,000 U.S. employees and invite its business partners to join with others through TogetherGreen as conservation volunteers to take the individual steps that will add up to significant conservation results. And the company’s commitment to environmental responsibility is pretty hard to shake a stick at either internationally or inside the US. Its environmental initiatives and auditing are rigorous by any standards.

Teaming with Audubon should come as no surprise. The Society is not only one of the oldest conservation organizations in the country, it has historically been one of the most sensible and well run. Not only is the Society well organized on a national basis and at the local level with strong grass-roots organizations, it has a history of rational action behind an unassailable cause. From a corporate perspective, there is very little risk exposure in an association with Audubon and considerable benefit. Birders are much more likely to be interested in Toyota sedan and SUV hybrids than the sort of young environmental activists that are associated with the seemingly more militant environmental organizations. Your Genteel Moderator congratulates the Audubon Society for not only its preservation and conservation work but for its excellent positioning and communications which have made it an ideal beneficiary organization for corporate giving. And hats off to Toyota for putting its money where its mouth is; $20 million is real money in any vocabulary. Mind you, it isn’t all smooth sailing for the company. It has taken criticism from environmental groups over the poor fuel economy of its brand portfolio and its carefully crafted green image is not above suspicion.
The Bleeding Heart could barely restrain himself. Forgetting or forgiving his perceived slander of the Prius in earlier posts, he waxed lyrical about Toyota’s social and environmental responsibility and went on in great detail about some type of swallow that he examines in apparently great detail on the grounds of his Connecticut country digs. The only comment that seemed noteworthy above all the gushing was “Of course, Toyota needs to carry its commitment to the environment through to increase fuel efficiency and emissions reductions across its car and SUV range”, a potentially telling remark. The Bloated Plutocrat was more circumspect. He writes, “ Well, I would have rather seen this money and some of the other fortunes that they are giving away issued in the form of dividends, but I suppose the tax deduction is in order. I don’t particularly mind birds, other than those d***ed pigeons, and I do like a good pheasant shoot, so on balance I take it that this is no bad thing.”

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