Let's sit down for a moment and think back to 1988. Have a clear picture yet? Neither did we, at first, so here's a refresher. Back then, environmentalists were likened to extremists. Their viewpoints were thought to be so far-fetched and disconnected from popular views that they were outsiders, even weirdos. In some ways, Bill Ford fit into that group of crazy environmentalists. Not a major problem, unless you're hired as the director of Ford Motor Company – then it's a huge complication.
Back then, cars and saving the environment were not often spoken of in the same sentence. Gasoline was cheap and global warming wasn't the catch phrase of the decade. So, when Bill Ford took over as director, others suggested ordered him to change his ways, fast. As Ford said to the Detroit Free Press, "I was told to stop associating with any known or suspected environmentalist." Sounds like environmentalists were akin to drug lords or terrorists back then.

Now, most individuals recently hired to a top spot at Ford would take the advice and listen. But Mr. Ford did not. "I was told that I had to grow up and realize that all environmentalists were crazy," he said, and didn't let the criticism take control of his actions. His ideas were met with resistance from within the company and critics outside of Ford, but he pushed on.

For years, many of his grand ideas remained only dreams until environmental groups like the Sierra Club lit his fuse. The Sierra Club called him out for directing a company that produced some of biggest gas gulping vehicles of the time, which was true. Vehicles like the Excursion and Expedition were as environmentally un-friendly as they come. They targeted Mr. Ford, knowing that he was an environmentalist at heart.

As the story goes, Ford worked on a $2 billion renovation of the River Rouge plant that turned it from a dirty, dirty place to one of the most eco-friendly production facilities in the world. The company also committed to making the Escape and Fusion hybrid, followed by converting an SUV plant over to produce efficient cars, to creating a renewable energy park and, now, focusing on two upcoming electric vehicles and countless other green projects. The environmentalist in him has finally come full circle.

You better believe that whoever made those comments back in 1988 is eating their words today. Bill Ford's crazy visionary ideas led to the Detroit Free Press honoring him as one of sixteen Michigan Green Leaders this Earth Day. Twenty-two years after being told to lay his environmental dreams to rest, he's being honored. About time.

[Source: Detroit Free Press]


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