FedEx Blog

FedEx Blog

A Sustaining Tale

January 10, 2013

Triumph over the tasks encountered
Be an assertive protagonist to meet the challenge
Use ingenuity for problems that arise
Then, tell the story

Performance, Leadership, Innovation and Transparency are the building blocks of Practical Environmentalism, which I define as strategic and transformational environmental stewardship that adds tangible value in the effort to be more responsible. I have written about this concept quite a bit in the past since it is the fundamental foundation that we employ in focusing upon our sustainability program. One of these earlier pieces is the following:

Chapter 1:
But, why are these building blocks so important? Skeptics might say that there is nothing special about the concepts of performance, leadership, innovation and transparency as it relates to sustainability. They might say that this could be applied to any aspect of business. They might emphatically declare that these foundational elements, in fact, should be used in other aspects of business. They might go further and state that they are currently used in the day-to-day aspects of business. And, my response – yes, exactly right. They are aspects of good business in general. They are employed by responsible, future-focused firms now. They are not specific to sustainability – nor should they be. They are foundational elements of trustworthy business. Period.

  • Companies perform in order to better serve their customers, provide returns to their shareholders and reward their team members.
  • Companies often take leadership positions in issues that they are impacting or in which they have a presence – sometimes through associations, sometimes individually.
  • Firms innovate in order to stay relevant, profitable and competitive in this increasingly global marketplace.
  • And, they provide information, such as financial information and guidance. Publicly-traded firms also hold shareholder meetings.

None of four building blocks are specific to sustainability. And, yet, all of them relate to sustainability. And, that should be by design.One of the goals of sustainability professionals is to integrate their sustainability programs into the organizations for whom they work. Integrate and influence. Rather than convert. They’re different. So, if one is seeking to integrate sustainability into an organization, the foundational elements for the program should be based on something that also works for the other aspects of responsible business. These four building blocks do this holistically. They comprise and tell the story.

Chapter 2:
But, just as other aspects of a company’s business is never about its transparency – telling its story – alone, neither should it be a company’s sustainability sole focus. This, too, is a trap, but a very enticing trap since this is almost always how companies are rated and recognized, and from where one hears the sirens’ song.

But, I cannot help but think about it within the context of Milton Friedman’s view that the sole social responsibility of business is to increase its profits, or an environmentalist’s solitary focus upon the environment to the exclusion of profit, or other isolated approaches. They are silos. They are rigid constructs. They are only partially told tales. They limit possibilities. They limit imagination. They do not inspire or hold our interest for the narrative. They weaken the plot. And, as a result, I believe they lessen the achievements.

Take action. Lead, where appropriate. Change what’s possible along the journey. And, only then, write it down. Otherwise, what story is there to tell?


There are other blog posts that relate to this at the FedEx Blog. Here are a select few:

Follow Mitch on Twitter here


    Ray Nabinger says:

    This integration of business, efficiency, economy/ecology and sustainability is exactly one of the main topics of Amory Lovins latest work – “Reinventing Fire” – Bold Business Solutions for the New Energy Era. Very intriguing reading………..

    k.krishnamurthy says:

    informative article, normally we experience these things in our day to day routine job but have not co related the facts, now this article has given a dimension to focus practical experience with the above theory.

    MayLyn says:

    After reading this story all of this information is going to help my eBay I Sold It business so much! Thank you Mitch for posting and sharing this with us. This story is such an isperation and will help me in so many ways to improve my eBay business!

    John Hollingsworth says:

    Please explain how we are exploring energy efficient alternatives to our jet aircraft , expecially the md11 and b777. We are currently a domestic/flag carrier using every avaiable technique for efficieny that physics and faa rules allow., ie , no alternate fuel, specialized cruise profiles for efficieny etc..efficient route development for efficieny etc etc…this process has been ongoing for years….so please explain to us how we can fly and utilize our aircraft in long haul international operations using your process so we can be efficient beyond our current operating practices which are based on physical restrictions , faa rules etc…
    It is great to be efficient and work smart. I find your
    practical environmentalism interesting and would like to know more, especially with regard to aircraft operations and efficieny, exploring energy efficient alternatives to aircraft operations. Im all ears!!!

    FedEx says:

    Our current environmental goals include reducing aircraft emissions intensity 30 percent by 2020, on an emissions per available-ton-mile basis, from a baseline year of 2005— this represents an increase in our global aircraft emissions intensity goal by 50 percent from the original target established in 2008. Evaluating processes and making smart decisions is the wise way to do business. This is achieved by both aircraft replacement (B777, B767 and B757) and operational changes through a program called Fuel Sense. Together, more than 30 Fuel Sense programs, along with the aircraft replacement, have helped us to cut our annual carbon emissions intensity by 13.8 percent and save more than three million gallons of jet fuel each month. Fuel programs focus on weight reduction, ground operations, flight efficiencies, aircraft efficiencies, and complex event processing (i.e., balancing business needs with fuel savings). In addition, we also have a long-term goal to get 30 percent of our jet fuel from alternative fuels by the year 2030.

    Amy Longsworth says:

    Great piece, Mitch. I especially like the line about how the siloed approach “weakens the plot.” And therein lies the challenge of all CSOs — the work is like water. Transparent, adaptable, taking the shape of whatever container you put it in, and essential to the healthy function of an organism (or enterprise). But can you isolate it and try to make it stand on its own? No…it runs off the table. Amy

Post a Comment

You may also like: