The same day that Taylor Guitars was inducted into the International Green Industry Hall of Fame − recognized for a corporate lifetime of sustainable efforts − the company announced its latest foray into environmental progressiveness with a new line of redesigned guitars using urban trees otherwise destined for end of life.
Late last month (Sept. 29), El Cajon-based Taylor Guitars introduced its redesigned 500 Series, featuring Urban Ironbark, a brand-new tonewood that debuts as the back and sides of two of its popular 500 series models of guitars.
The tonewood is a first for the guitar-making industry and joins Urban Ash as the second tonewood in the Taylor’s product line to come from its urban sourcing initiative, in collaboration with West Coast Arborists, Inc., of Anaheim.
The Urban Ironbark announcement happened just as the company, long committed to being socially and environmentally responsible, was honored with eight others at the Ninth Annual International Green Industry Hall of Fame Induction ceremony.
The International Green Industry Hall of Fame promotes excellence in ecological sustainability worldwide. Its mission includes recognizing individuals and organizations for outstanding achievements in the green industry, honoring those deserving for being ecological pioneers and visionaries.
“It’s kind of cool that news about our second guitar with the urban wood initiative comes out on the same day we get inducted into the Hall of Fame − there is something good there,” said Scott Paul, Taylor Guitars’ director of natural resource sustainability.
Paul said sustainability is inclusive of many parts, such as the use of renewable sources and efficiency − “doing more with less, which Taylor Guitars has always been about.”
Sustainability also isn’t a one-and-done effort, Paul said, a thought also echoed by Taylor Guitars co-founder Bob Taylor during his induction speech.
“There’s a saying that’s been around for years,” Paul said, “and that is that ‘Sustainability is a journey, not a destination.’”
Looking Sound Toward the Future with Employee-Owners
Taylor, who said he made his first guitar at age 17 and started the business with Kurt Listug two years later, said he is certain that the efforts the company has put in to play over the years and the ways the company hones and tunes its efforts today will continue well into the future.
Employee-owned since 2020, which he called “one of our crowning sustainability marks,” Taylor said that “everyone who works here has (sustainability) running through their veins.”
“We can make good decisions today and we all know it’s going to be something good in the future,” he said. “I’m proud we have a succession play. I feel highly confident that our employee-owners are going to continue these initiatives that we started, and it makes me feel really wonderful about where we are and where we’re going.”
The board of directors of IGIHOF selected Taylor for its continued efforts and achievements in ecological sustainability.
“Taylor Guitars has set a particular high bar in its industry for being successful in its business while also going above and beyond to protect our planet for future generations,” said Sam Geil, chair of the board for the International Green Industry Hall of Fame. “They have much to be proud of and it is an honor to shine a spotlight on their accomplishments.”
Taylor Guitars was honored along with Asilia Africa, Climate Action 100+, Good Planet Innovation, JetBlue, Dr. Thomas Lovejoy, Understanding Ag and World Centric.
Taylor joins a wide variety of previous inductees that include the Honda Motor Company, Patagonia, the San Francisco Giants, Canadian triathlete Brendan Brazier, actor Ed Begley Jr., and Len Hering, a retired Rear Admiral from the U.S. Navy who was honored when he was Executive Director of the non-profit Center for Sustainable Energy in San Diego.
Taylor Guitars is the global leader in the building of premium acoustic guitars and also takes its environmental footprint to heart.
The company, founded in 1974, has been honored myriad times over the decades for its forest management practices, ecological stewardship and ethical sourcing for its products. The company is forward thinking in its efforts, including a continual push to refine its guitar making to reduce waste at the Taylor Guitars factory, and via its major recycling efforts companywide.
Taylor also has flagship wood gathering initiatives in Cameroon and Hawaii, where it sources wood for its guitars ethically and efficiently.
In Cameroon, Taylor owns an ebony mill with a local partner where it strives for better working conditions for local laborers and also plants trees as part of its work there. In Hawaii, the company’s partners harvest dead, dying and malformed trees to make guitars and plant new koa trees. In 2018, Taylor bought a 565-acre tract on the Big Island which will be reforested with koa and other native species of trees.
Closer to home, “urban Ironbark” is more commonly known as red ironbark eucalyptus and is one of more than 700 eucalyptus species found around the world.
Taylor’s partnership with West Coast Arborists allows access to select urban trees from municipalities’ managed public tree population in Southern California. Tree that municipalities mark for designated removal after reaching the end of their life cycle or posing a safety risk to the community can now have a second chance.
Typically, those end-of-life trees are converted into firewood or mulch but Taylor’s innovative partnership with WCA will allow the selected trees to get a chance at a new life as a musical instrument.
“Sustainability is a never-ending journey,” Taylor said. “And you know (how people) say, ‘If you think you’re humble then you’re not’? I can apply that same thing to sustainability. We never will be sustainable. It’s a journey we’re on, a path to sustainability all the time.”
He said he urged marketing departments of companies to hold back on calling themselves “sustainable.”
“Because it sort of infers that you’ve arrived, and there’s nothing more you can do,” Taylor said. “There’s always something more that we can do.”
FOUNDERS: Bob Taylor and Kurt Listug
HEADQUARTERS: El Cajon
BUSINESS: Guitar manufacturing
REVENUE: $148 million (FY ’21)
NOTABLE: Taylor Guitars became 100% employee-owned through an Employee Stock Ownership Plan in 2020.