Q&A With Mitch Jackson, FedEx Expert on Sustainability
As part an ongoing series exploring the links between connectivity and innovation, our FedEx Access team spoke with Mitch Jackson, vice president of Environmental Affairs and Sustainability for FedEx. Jackson spearheaded the implementation of FedEx hybrid-electric vehicles, among the first in the commercial marketplace.
Access: How would you describe the relationship between increased global connectivity and innovation?
MITCH JACKSON: I believe that global connectivity and innovation go hand in hand. If you think about it, attempts at globalization have been ongoing for centuries. Books like A Splendid Exchange: How Trade Shaped the World (Grove Press) and Bound Together: How Traders, Preachers, Adventurers, and Warriors Shaped Globalization (Yale University Press) illustrate many of these efforts. What makes our current efforts different is the state of technology used for global connectivity — providing better efficiencies, speed and information. Innovation is clearly a driving force for these changes.
Access: What are the biggest impediments to innovation?
MJ: There are quite a few. I have referred to innovation as “applied inspiration.” Focusing on this, one impediment that comes to mind is inertia. Something will continue in its current trajectory until an external force is applied. Innovation can be that applied force, but it takes action to apply it. Sometimes organizations simply fail to take the actions required to change what’s possible.
Another is the fear of change itself. Think about the old adage, the light at the end of the tunnel is the headlight of an oncoming train. That’s a fear of change.
And, in some ways, I think innovation can also be impeded by thinking that a solution must be the ideal one for a problem, rather than a needed step in the right direction. I’ve used the phrase “enlightened serendipity” to state that we are sometimes enlightened enough to know we have to innovate or change, with a general goal in mind — and serendipitous enough to have it sometimes succeed. But failing to act can also lead to failing to improve.
Access: So then how does innovation link to the idea of sustainability?
MJ: I think they should be inextricably linked. In fact, innovation is one of four building blocks we use for our sustainability program at FedEx, along with performance, transparency and leadership. I believe innovation and leadership are the two most important from a standpoint of influence on society, as this model demonstrates.