Putting its stamp on sustainability

FedEx's drive for a more environmentally aware workforce is proving that high level communication and a competitive edge internally can significantly improve the efficiency of a business' operations.

Earlier this year, FedEx launched its Eco-drive campaign in the EMEA region (Europe, Middle East, Indian Subcontinent and Africa), which aims to improve fuel efficiency by changing the daily driving habits of thousands of FedEx Express couriers.

This push for behavioural change within the organisation is essential to the success of the company’s longevity, says managing director of UK FedEx Express Operations, William Martin.

“You need to find a way of changing people’s views and build awareness internally, and we do that through a number of initiatives,” says Martin.

The Eco-drive program has created excitement at FedEx Express by “empowering its team members” with the knowledge and skill set to drive in a more environmentally sustainable fashion.

“Whilst you can put people in the classroom and tell them what the absolute minimum standard we must achieve is and what we need to do, it’s more about bringing interest to them and we do that through our initiatives including the eco-drive program,” says Martin.

An essential part of the drive is to effectively communicate the company’s initiatives to the frontline team.

“We use something that we call ‘flash for you’ which is basically a newsflash where we send out our latest initiatives, which then get briefed to all our team members” says Martin.

“We also have steering committees where we are trying to benchmark and drive different initiatives,” he adds.

Involving people in the route planning is also a major part of engaging team members with the company’s strategy to reduce fuel and carbon emissions.

“Bearing in mind the number of parcels we pick up and deliver, planning our route efficiently not only drives down costs but has a significant impact on the use of the vehicle – in other words reducing miles and fuel used” he says.

“Team members can get quite excited about how they can play a part and how they can reduce miles per stop by 5% for example. It gives them something real they can go for and then can translate that directly into fuel savings” adds Martin.

Enthusiasm and a healthy competitive push is encouraging drivers to reconsider their driving habits, especially with the introduction of telematics technology.

“We use the telematics industry, which to most of us is SATNAVs, which enable us to find our way but those technologies are advancing all the time and we not only know where all our vehicles are positioned, we can actually, with the engine management systems, look at the drivers behaviours and see how well they’re driving those vehicles,” says Martin.

And through improved acceleration, deceleration and limitation of top speeds drivers can find themselves reducing their fuel by 5-6% through some very basic but important skill changes.

“Again the drivers become quite competitive as they want to outperform their colleagues in saving fuel, so we have quite a lot of assessment and training in that area,” says Martin.

However, fuel efficiency is not the only area FedEx is focusing, it is also looking to encourage behavioural change around waste.

“Whilst the very strict regulations such as waste to landfill and the recording of that information and having disposal licenses is, to a lot of people, very dull, you can make it very real to your frontline team members.

“Even some of the more fun initiatives that whilst may seem dated in recycling, it’s not actually about recycling, its actually about minimising raw materials at source,” says Martin.

“Quite a lot of people are quite used to printing documentation out and trying to change that behaviour of viewing more online takes time,” he adds.

Integrating the responsibilities of the business into daily operations is a key focus for the company and although behavioural change is no ‘quick win’ process, the benefits are evident to see, as FedEx has achieved a 16.6% increase in average fuel efficiency of its FedEx Express vehicle fleet since 2005.

William Martin is the managing director of UK Operations FedEx Express Europe, Middle East, Indian Subcontinent & Africa

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