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Practical Environmentalism

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"A house can have integrity, just like a person" - Ayn Rand -  Practical Environmentalism is strategic and transformational environmental stewardship that adds tangible value in the effort to be more responsible. It doesn’t matter if the organization practicing it is a household, a business, a state, regional or national government. For a business, that means it should be economically viable; it should be aligned with the core strategic business objectives; it should have a sense of urgency; it should involve and motivate team members, and it should be responsible to the communities it serves.

This is how FedEx tries to operate. Practical Environmentalism is, and has been, the way we have worked to progress. I have used the expression internally at FedEx. Given the growing interest in the environment, I felt it time to discuss more broadly.

Building blocks for Practical Environmentalism include the following:

  • Leadership
  • Innovation
  • Performance
  • Transparency

I plan to discuss each of these components more broadly in forthcoming posts, and illuminate how FedEx strives to address each of them. But, the plain fact is that we are practicing each and every one of these building blocks. This is not to imply that we don’t have room to improve in this – we certainly do since it is an ongoing process. But, importantly, FedEx is the only company in our industry striving at all four simultaneously.

  • For instance, in Leadership, FedEx was the only transportation company to work for legislation to establish fuel efficiency standards for commercial vehicles. Fortunately, this legislation was passed in late 2007. Even though FedEx requested additional support from other transportation fleets, none was forthcoming through the legislation’s passage.
  • In Innovation, FedEx has worked closely with the Environmental Defense Fund (EDF) and Eaton Corporation to create innovative, clean delivery vans. This work resulted in EDF declaring last year that, “FedEx leadership has helped to make hybrid truck technology a reality…FedEx led the launch that changed the marketplace.” Approximately 100 fleets, including a competitor, have since purchased the very vehicles we had developed.
  • For Performance, in the fall 2008 FedEx established (and is well on its way to accomplishing) its CO2 reduction goal for global aviation operations. This was a first-ever CO2 reduction goal by a U.S. based transportation company. In addition, FedEx also has a goal to improve vehicle fuel efficiency 20% by 2020, and is currently at 14% improvement from the baseline. We are not aware that any other transportation companies have set a goal of this type.
  • In Transparency, it is worth noting that FedEx is the only company in the industry that hosts a Citizenship Blog in addition to a Global Citizenship Report. Why? A report is good for providing data. However, the Citizenship Blog allows us to discuss our actions, and, importantly, to provide context as to why we undertake them.

As I have discussed previously (Yin and Yang), some will say that environmentalism should include any “green” initiatives, with the philosophy that any green program is good for business. We’ve heard it, read it, or, in some cases, said it. Well, to quote the old carnival barker to his unsuccessful patrons at the boardwalk games, “Close, but no cigar.”

Think of Practical Environmentalism as a symbolic house. Environmental performance can be viewed as the house’s foundation. Anything you wish to build must have that solid foundation to last. Then, focusing upon leadership and transparency actually helps frame out the real, three-dimensional walls, including the windows. Simply undertaking environmental initiatives that are excessively expensive, sound good in a press release, are not strategically relevant and do not add value is simply like a two-dimensional façade rather than a real structure. There is nothing behind it, and it’s likely to fall in high, turbulent winds. What about Innovation? It’s like the roof. It allows the house to weather the changing climate over the years, and keeps the residents dry during inclement weather.

I will talk more about these issues in coming posts. Until then, here’s to keeping out the rain.

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About This Blogger

Mitch discusses sustainability, governance and energy management.

Other Posts by Mitch Jackson