The Nature Conservancy and Harley-Davidson are now partnering with a commitment to plant 50 million trees worldwide by 2025. Yes, I gave this one a double-take, too. The pairing sounds about as natural as Rand Paul writing for Scientific American, so I dug in to find a little more information on this one. Yesterday I had an interview with Geof Rochester, Managing Director of The Nature Conservancy, to learn more about this unusual team.
It turns out the partnership is not as odd as one may have thought. Harley-Davidson has embraced sustainability in recent years, risked committing heresy by launching an electric motorcycle this summer and has indicated it takes climate change seriously. Tree planting is just another cog in the company’s plan to engage its loyal fans and raise awareness about environmental issues many consumers care about—but just do not know how to go about confronting them.
This ambitious plan to plant trees is part of Harley-Davidson’s Renew the Ride program. The company will contribute about $550,000 annually to The Nature Conservancy to help support its Plant a Billion Trees program. The corporate arm of Harley Davidson will work with the company’s dealers and clubs to encourage tree-planting campaigns. Customers and fans who are interested can also make a donation online to TNC in order to support the tree planting efforts.
“You have to remember that one-third of Harley-Davidson’s customers and members either consider themselves conservationists, or belong to a conservation group,” said Rochester, “and at the same time, with what is going on globally, we cannot plant enough trees in the world—this is important for all of us.”
I suppose that is true. One point of biking is to enjoy the open space and scenery, and true to Rochester’s point, you will more likely see a pack of Harley riders on a country road than Fifth Avenue or Rodeo Drive. What is really the key for this program’s success, however, is for those countless rider clubs across the country to take on this ambitious project. As for how all of this is audited, TNC has a strong reputation in this space for how they monitor and measure their tree planting and other environmental programs.
Progress is on the way. So far campaigns by Harley-Davidson on this front have resulted in over 100,000 trees planted along the Atlantic coast in Brazil, and another 100,000 in Virginia this year. The cynic may retort that those initiatives leave about 48.2 million or so to go, but Rochester is optimistic.
“We think it’s important to partner with companies to reinforce the messaging that there is hope, and that there is still plenty of room for people to get involved,” said Rochester as we wrapped up our talk. “People want to feel good about themselves, and planting trees is an activity that can be enjoyed across all groups and all ages. The environmental movement needs more projects like this to reach a broader audience, and we think Harley can help us.”
We want to hear from Harley riders and fans. If your local club or dealership sponsors a tree planting day, would you go . . . and why?
Image credit: Harley-Davidson