Partnership Between Environmental Defense Fund and FedEx Continues to Bear Low-Emission Fruit
Posted Sep 22 2008 10:21am
New Approaches to Old Problems
Nearly a decade has passed since the Environmental Defense Fund, one of my
favorite American charities, began its broad effort to reform the courier and
freight industry. Contributing significantly to air pollution, smog and global
warming, the hundreds of thousands of vehicles in use every day around the world
to deliver goods on demand constitute a superb opportunity to engage the problem
head on and collaborate with the courier and shipping services to help them
improve their bottom lines and embrace sustainability at the same time.
While United Parcel Service, UPS, has engaged in its own laudable innovations
with respect to hybrid-electric delivery vans, hydrogen fuel and enhanced route
planning to reduce engine idling, Federal Express, FedEx, has been the true
Roughly 5 years ago, FedEx agreed to a revolutionary partnership with the
Environmental Defense Fund with a very simple goal: prove that hybrid-electric
engines can work in the heavy-duty, stop-and-go daily operations of a typical
FedEx delivery van just as well as dirty old diesel systems which FedEx uses
every day. To call the initiative a success is an understatement!
Having surpassed the impressive milestone of 2 million miles traveled, the FedEx
hybrid-electric operating model has proved itself day after day and the shipping
leader is on track to have 170 of the rugged yet low-emission vehicles on the
road by the end of this calendar year, operating in more than a dozen North
American cities with a parallel program in western Europe ramping up.
I commend the leadership of FedEx for having an open mind about low-emission
delivery vehicles at a time when petroleum diesel fuel cost less than $2 per
gallon but this success story hardly ends with the impressive achievements of
2008. You see, the personnel structure of FedEx is tightly integrated. It is one
of the reasons that the company consistently wins awards as one of the most
admired employers in the world.
When delivery drivers who participated in the proving process for the
hybrid-electric vans learned that they wouldn’t have to change their daily
practices one iota yet would consume roughly half the volume of fuel per day
that they had on the standard vehicle, they rejoiced and sent a clear message up
through the management chain that they wanted to see FedEx embrace low-emission
business practices wherever possible.
People Power Impresses Corporate Power Structure
The clamoring from the labor base of the company for a greater corporate posture
toward environmental sustainability has led not only to the expansion of the
hybrid-electric delivery van fleet but two other key innovations as well.
That’s right. FedEx is on track not only to have well over 100 diesel-electric
delivery vans on the road but the shipping leader also has begun an important
initiative to utilize hybrid-electric gasoline vehicles in North America. Long
considered standard in Europe, the inclusion of a specially-designed hybrid gas
model for the North American marketplace will give FedEx another distinction and
competitive edge. For this reason, when I need to ship documents and parcels of
high importance, FedEx is the only service I use.
Reducing fuel consumption, while vital, is only one side of the savings which
FedEx has embraced. It also is a leader in covering the rooftop of no fewer than
two of its freight sorting facilities with photovoltaic arrays. Oh yes, FedEx
now has the largest corporate installation of solar generating capacity in the
state of California with no plans to stop there.
Naturally, if we really wish to stave off the worst impacts of global warming,
everyone must pitch in and do more. FedEx and its rivals have a long way to go.
Nevertheless, the year 2008 has shown that it not only is possible but
profitable for leading service providers from around the world to go green and
as a consumer of such services, you can help commend companies such as FedEx for
acting responsibly by voting with your wallet. I do and exhort you to follow my