Five Minutes with: Toyota's General Manager of Environmental Sustainability

 The first Prius was available for sale December 1997. (Photo: Toyota)

The first Prius was available for sale December 1997. (Photo: Toyota)

Toyota created a whole new category when it introduced the Prius more than 20 years ago (can you believe it has been that long?). With Earth Day in our rear view mirror, we circled around for a one-to-one interview with Toyota's Kevin Butt, general manager, Environmental Sustainability, to better understand how Toyota is making a positive impact in North America and around the world. 

 Kevin Butt, Toyota North America  (Photo: Toyota)

Kevin Butt, Toyota North America  (Photo: Toyota)

THRILLS & WHEELS: What is Toyota doing to help educate the next generation about the importance of ecological responsibility?

KB: This is a passion point for me. We know that communicating the importance of sustainability is key, so back in 2015 we launched our Toyota Challenge 2050, which lays out our corporate goals in six key areas. We leverage the Challenge 2050 goals to educate our 368,000 associates worldwide and we ask each of our associates to become champions for the activities at work, in their communities, and at home in their personal lives. We also partner with organizations that share our goal of educating and engaging the next generation, and our communities.

For example, Toyota is the National Presenting Partner for the Wyland National Mayor’s Challenge For Water Conservation, which engaged leaders and residents across 4,800 cities in the water wise campaign. And I am happy to serve on the National Environmental Education Foundation (NEEF) board, which seeks to educate citizens of all ages about the importance of the environment and how they can actively support and assure sustainability. Toyota has been the national corporate sponsor for National Public Lands Day with NEEF since 1999. It’s the nation’s largest single-day volunteer activity for public lands. In 2017, more than 1,800 Toyota team members joined over 170,000 fellow community citizens at over 2,100 sites nationwide to support projects that restore and protect public lands.

THRILLS & WHEELS: Do you think more automotive manufacturers could team up to achieve more to move the needle on environmental protections?  

KB: Toyota has been working with not only other automakers, but NGOs, government and our suppliers to make impactful change. One example is the California Fuel Cell Partnership, which is leading the way in the development and advancement of Fuel Cell Electric Vehicle (FCEV), such as our Mirai FCEV and infrastructure development.  

We are also working in cooperation with various global organizations to connect environmental activities to the world through the use of nature and biodiversity conservation grants. Toyota aims to spearhead projects that will rapidly push society in a forward direction and extend global environmental activities by creating new value. We were the first car company to sign a five-year Global Corporate Partnership agreement with WWF (World Wildlife Fund), providing grants and support to the Living Asian Forest Project. These are just a few of the activities that we are engaged in globally.

 The new Mirai. Fun fact: The Mirai was the first hydrogen fuel cell vehicle to pace a NASCAR race at the Toyota Owners 400 at Richmond, US. (Photo: Toyota)

The new Mirai. Fun fact: The Mirai was the first hydrogen fuel cell vehicle to pace a NASCAR race at the Toyota Owners 400 at Richmond, US. (Photo: Toyota)

THRILLS & WHEELS: In terms of the driving experience, how does it feel to drive an electric car or hybrid compared to an all-gasoline engine? What will be next? 

KB: That’s a great question because I think there is a perception out there that battery electric, hybrids and fuel cell electric vehicles are slow and 100% focused on fuel efficiency. That is definitely a benefit, but I would encourage your readers to go out and drive some of the new products because not only are they great on fuel economy, but they’re also fun to drive. Electrified vehicles have more torque than their gasoline variant counterparts and therefore are more fun to drive. For example, we just launched our all-new RAV4 Hybrid XSE which has more horsepower, torque and acceleration than the gas version.


Want to know more about what Toyota is doing to improve its impact on the environment? Read their page here. 

 

Kristin Shaw