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Nature of Business Radio

Mitch Jackson: Pushing (and moving) the envelope

<p>A conversation with the man at FedEx pushing energy-efficient trucks, planes and, yes, envelopes.</p>

I had a great conversation this week on Nature of Business with Mitch Jackson, vice president of environmental affairs and sustainability at FedEx. Jackson, a 25-year veteran of the company and avid blogger, is responsible for setting FedEx’s sustainability strategy and serving as chief visionary for this strategy, all under the umbrella of minimizing environmental impact while increasing customer service. It’s a big job and it’s also clear that he is getting it done.

Take fleet management. We talked about how the company is altering its routing efficiencies to reduce the number of vehicles on the road. FedEx is replacing or downsizing vehicle size so they can travel more miles on less fuel. For instance, the company uses smaller vehicles for longer-distance routes that typically deliver fewer packages, and larger ones for urban settings where more deliveries take place. FedEx is also looking at more fuel-efficient vehicles such as hybrids and electric vehicles, ostensibly hedging its bets for the future to find solutions that are going to work. Reduce, replace and revolutionize. It’s a global approach.

Then there is EarthSmart, FedEx’s commitment to minimize its environmental impact while encouraging environmental responsibility and innovation. It is essentially a platform to communicate both internally and externally. 

One exemplar program is its carbon neutral envelope shipping. Every FedEx envelope delivery is carbon offset at no extra charge to the consumer. That’s impressive. And there are programs to inform and engage team members about sustainability as well as to provide outreach, including its philanthropic and volunteer programs.

I particularly enjoyed hearing about their Start the Shift campaign. The goal of this program, as Jackson points out, is to open minds regarding what is possible given that 70 percent of the oil consumed in the United States goes to transportation. FedEx partnered with the Environmental Defense Fund and Eaton Corp. to make hybrid electric commercial trucks a reality.

Another partnership Jackson noted and seemed particularly excited about relates to FedEx’s commitment to obtaining 30 percent of jet fuel from alternative and bio-based sources by 2030. It is partnering with a well-known nongovernmental organization to tackle the scaling issue of biofuels and alternative sources.

What really hit home for me was the amount of information FedEx is sharing in the industry, such as conducting workshops to provide information to other fleets on how hybrid electrics are working and encouraging others to do the same.

There is certainly the challenge, as Jackson points out, of maintaining the momentum of all these programs. But FedEx seems to be moving the industry at a faster pace — or, perhaps more appropriately said, moving the envelope.

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