Tuesday, November 11, 2008

This water project brought to you by....

There has been a lot of attention about being green (OK a little less these days with the economic situation, no longer front and center, but the problem hasn't gone away). A couple of weeks ago I received an email from the Audubon Society about a new initiative called Together Green. The idea behind Together Green is that it is a portal and clearinghouse for green initiatives and events. In that respect, it's quite well done as a website. In addition, they also sponsor fellowships as well. Overall well done for it's aims.

What I find most interesting about Together Green is that while Audubon is administering the site and program, it appears that Toyota is the one funding the effort. Now, if you've read my posts in the past you know I am particularly sensitive to green washing. And my first instinct would be to suspect that this is a corporation trading on the Audubon good name, but when one thinks about the sponsor Toyota I thought does this make sense. Toyota's green cred among car manufacturers is top notch, while Detroit was enriching its executives while creating mass market weapons of environmental destruction (and like the financial derivatives which took out the banking industry, the love of easy profits is taking out the US car makers. Not a big surprise!), Toyota was innovating and researching better technologies such as the hybrid engine. So I suspect there is some sincerity on their efforts. Green cred is not a branding exercise, but it can reinforce a brand. So if you write a check for something like Together Green, you better be writing checks for your own house too.

So why fund someone like Audubon instead of Toyota doing itself? Well, I think just as Adam Smith is hell bent on destroying the U.S. auto industry for their sins, the notion of concentrating on your strengths may be in play here. Audubon knows advocacy and it's their core competency, so if you are going to spend a dollar, it might be more green with an organization that dedicates itself to conservation. It sort of reminds me of watching public television, when you see major corporations funding symphony concerts and other cultural events on TV. This program underwritten by so and so.

So has the model of public TV extended to the public (and is there any other kind) of environment? My worry is that in 5 years the grant runs out, I hope Audubon is thinking about planting the next seeds to keep together green, well together.


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