For Enterprise Rent-A-Car, giving back is linked to the primary business. That means planting 50 million trees over 50 years, for starters
My father, Jack Taylor, launched Enterprise Rent-A-Car in 1957, but he had no idea that his little company—with its fleet of seven cars—would become as successful as it has. Today, Enterprise is the leading car rental company in North America. Despite our company's growth, we've been very careful to remain true to my father's beliefs about the kind of company he wanted Enterprise to be. One of those is the belief that we owe our success to the communities we serve, and we must support their good causes in return.
My brother, Andy Taylor, now chairman and CEO, and I still live by that belief today. That is why the Taylor family, the company we still own, and the Enterprise Rent-A-Car Foundation have contributed hundreds of millions of dollars to causes large and small—locally, nationally, and globally.
Our approach to charitable support and community involvement is based largely on the philosophy of strengthening the communities we serve, one neighborhood at a time. We are just as proud of giving $3,000 to a Syracuse, N.Y., community center for troubled youth as we are of a $30 million donation to the Missouri Botanical Garden to support worldwide plant research.
Like any large company, however, we face the dilemma of choosing among many causes—all of them worthwhile—as the recipients of our gifts. Over time, we have evolved a general strategy that others may find useful as an example.
Address the Parts of the World Our Business Touches
For Enterprise, philanthropy fits into the broader context of corporate stewardship. As we have built our company over the years, we have worked hard to be responsible stewards of all the resources that contribute to our success. We strive to prudently manage our operations, to constantly cultivate the dedication and loyalty of our employees, and to continuously work to earn the goodwill of our communities and of society in general.
Philanthropy plays a strategic role in stewardship commitment where communities and society are concerned. We view that role in terms of addressing those parts of the world that we touch with our business. Our goal is to sustain and build our business for the long term by addressing areas in which we can truly make a difference and over which we have some influence. Let me give you two recent examples of how this approach has guided our giving.
In October, 2006, we announced that the Enterprise Rent-A-Car Foundation will contribute $50 million over 50 years to fund the planting of 50 million trees. This endeavor, announced in conjunction with our company's 50th anniversary in 2007, partners us with the National Arbor Day Foundation and the U.S. Forest Service in a long-term commitment to help replace trees destroyed by fire, disease, and other causes. The trees are being planted in public forests in the countries where our company does business.
So what is the connection to our business? We know the cars we operate have an impact on the environment. Trees help minimize that impact through their natural ability to clean the air. While planting a million trees a year is not a complete solution, 50 million trees over the next 50 years is a step in the right direction.
We also believe we must embrace the latest technologies to minimize fuel consumption and related emissions. And Enterprise is doing that, for example, by deploying the industry's largest fleet of alternative-fuel vehicles, comprised of both hybrids and vehicles using E85 ethanol fuel.
But we've taken it even one step further: directing our philanthropic resources toward the effort to create new and better alternatives.
Earlier this year, my father and his wife, Susan, donated $25 million to the Donald Danforth Plant Science Center, one of the foremost plant research centers in the U.S. This donation creates the Enterprise Rent-A-Car Institute for Renewable Fuels. The institute will expand scientific research in the area of plant-based renewable biofuels. In future years, these fuels will help reduce the amount of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere and the current dependency on finite fossil fuels.
Support Causes That Touch Our Employees
While we look for ways to address those parts of the world our business affects, we place a high value on using our philanthropy to benefit causes that touch our employees and earn their active involvement. Our workforce is made up of enthusiastic employees who are passionate about our business. And they are just as passionate about being personally involved in a wide variety of community organizations.
That is why a major focus of our foundation giving is to support those local causes that our employees support with their time, talent, and resources. The vast majority of our foundation's individual gifts are made in response to requests from Enterprise employees or family members—gifts that average $2,500 to $5,000. These gifts, though relatively small, can make a big difference to the local organizations that receive them.
Just as important, we've become great believers in the notion that an interactive relationship with employees—listening to their thoughts about philanthropy—can make our contributions more meaningful. I know from my conversations with our employees, this giving approach also builds employee loyalty and a sense of pride in a community. It's clear that they feel good about working for a company that wants to help them make a difference for a philanthropic organization.
And while it has become commonplace to match employee contributions, we would reiterate how valuable this can be to encourage further giving. That's why the Enterprise Rent-A-Car Foundation provides a 50% match to the millions of dollars that Enterprise employees pledge annually to United Way organizations throughout the U.S.
Of course, our giving goes to a variety of other causes and organizations as well. We support university scholarship programs and additional educational efforts. We provide support to the National Urban League and other organizations that strengthen and empower our communities. We have made major donations to the Red Cross and Salvation Army in the wake of disasters—from the September 11 tragedy to the Southeast Asia tsunami to Hurricane Katrina.
Each company must develop its own giving strategy based on its individual needs and issues. For Enterprise, striking the balance between the parts of the communities touched by our business and those causes in our communities that touch and engage our employees is a good place to start.