Toyota Joins Audubon in Latest Corporate-NGO Partnership

Toyota Joins Audubon in Latest Corporate-NGO Partnership

In another high-profile partnership announced recently, Toyota gave the Audubon Society its largest grant ever -- $20 million -- to fund conservation projects, train environmental leaders and boost volunteerism, the company said Wednesday.

It's a partnership the carmaker will use to engage its workers and business partners in order to promote conservation through the new TogetherGreen program. Up to 200 future green leaders could receive training to combat tomorrow's conservation challenges, and dozens of projects each year will receive funding to conserve water, land or energy.

"Toyota employees have already been energized by participation in volunteer activities at Audubon’s Mitchell Lake Center in San Antonio, Texas," Patricia Salas Pineda Toyota Motor North America’s group vice president, said in a statement. "We’re excited by the promise of more opportunities for them to be involved in hands-on conservation efforts."

The announcement is the latest in a wave of high-profile partnerships between large corporations and nongovernment groups. For instance, the Home Depot Foundation and Habitat for Humanity joined forces last week for a national initiative that will bring green building resources to roughly 17 percent of the 5,000 homes the nonprofit will construct during the next five years. The $30 million program will make at least 5,000 Habitat homes more energy efficient.

And AMD, Intel, Levi Strauss and other companies created the California affiliate of the Green Power Group last month as part of a project spearheaded by the World Resources Institute to spur the growth of renewable power. The 14 member companies are in the process of implementing renewable energy programs.

The partnerships can have a big impact on a corporation’s green cred, according to Ann Barlow, West Coast president of Peppercom, which conducted a survey of consumers and corporate executives with San Francisco-based Media-Screen LLC earlier this year.

Three in four consumers surveyed said their purchasing decisions can be influenced by the endorsement of NGOs.

"Nearly two-thirds of the 100 plus company executives surveyed launched eco-friendly initiatives within the past year, but much of what has been showcased is viewed among consumers as greenwashing," Barlow said. "That’s why it’s important for companies to seek opportunities for guidance from and collaboration with NGOs at all levels, particularly those that are locally or regionally based. They can help companies focus on the most important investments and changes to make."