ISTANBUL, Turkey - Efforts to save the Mediterranean monk seal, fruit trees native to Poland and an 18th century castle in Hungary appear to have little relation to Ford Motor Co.
That is, until you talk to William Clay Ford Jr., a staunch environmentalist and great-grandson of Henry Ford. The three projects were the top winners of the 15th annual Henry Ford European Conservation Awards presented here this month.
They were selected from a record 2,000 entries.
Ford is chairman of the foundation that runs the annual competition and gives $500,000 in prize money to conservation projects in more than 30 European countries and Israel.
The conservation awards are part of Ford Motor's goal to become the world's most environmentally conscious automotive company. 'If we were only to continue to give prizes and awards and did not have our internal actions back that up, they would lose meaning and call into question our commitment to the environment,' said Ford.
'That doesn't mean that we can sign up to anything any government wants to lay on us,' he added. 'There are market forces at work, and it's a delicate balance. It's one that we will face for the rest of my lifetime, but I'd rather err on the side of the environment.'
The awards were expanded to Brazil last year, and eventually they could become 'grand awards' that are global, said Ford. Each year, the foundation names a winner in each country that participates. They compete for the top three prizes. The top cash prize is $60,000.
This year's first prize went to the Foca Pilot Project in Turkey dedicated to saving the monk seal, Europe's most threatened mammal.
The second prize of $45,000 was awarded to a Polish residence for the homeless, rehabilitated drug addicts and released prisoners. In exchange for food and shelter, the residents are renovating parklands and a historical manor and working to save endangered animals and fruit trees.
The third prize of $30,000 went to the Nadasdy castle in Hungary, an abandoned 18th-century manor that is being restored to house an academy for cultural and environmental issues.