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Ford to give $25 million for environment center

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WASHINGTON — The Ford Motor Co. Fund is donating $25 million to launch a center that will help businesses be kinder to the environment.

The Center for Environmental Leadership in Business will help companies figure out ways to contribute to conservation and reduce their impact on the environment.

The center is a division of Washington-based Conservation International.

Ford chairman William Clay Ford Jr., who has made environmental protection a higher priority at the automaker, will serve on the center's executive board. Other members include leaders of the Natural Resources Defense Council, oil company BP PLC, S.C. Johnson & Son Inc. and other businesses and environmental organizations.

Ford's $25 million grant will be issued over five years.

Each company that uses the center's services will be asked to help cover the cost of their project, including stipends to participating environmental groups.

Once the new business practices are developed, they will be shared with other companies.

The center opened last month, and one of its initial projects is to come up with ways to conserve water at Ford's plant in Sonora, Mexico.

"We're at a crucial point in our ability to address environmental issues," Martin Zimmerman, Ford's vice president of government affairs, said in a statement. "Through our involvement in the Center for Environmental Leadership in Business we intend to act in the interests of both our shareholders and society."