Mar 16, 2021

FedEx pledges ambitious goal of carbon-neutrality by 2040

FedEx
carbonneutral
Sustainability
Yale
Bizclik Editor
3 min
To achieve carbon-neutral operations by 2040, FedEx is investing US$2 billion in vehicle electrification, sustainable energy, and carbon sequestration
To achieve carbon-neutral operations by 2040, FedEx is investing US$2 billion in vehicle electrification, sustainable energy, and carbon sequestration...

FedEx Corp., home of the world’s largest cargo airline, has announced an ambitious goal to achieve carbon–neutral operations globally by 2040.  

This latest commitment builds on the company's sustainable efforts which to date have contributed to a 40% reduction in CO2 emissions intensity across the organisation, even while package volume increased 99%. 

To achieve this ambitious goal, FedEx is assigning more than US$2 billion of initial investment in three key areas: vehicle electrification, sustainable energy, and carbon sequestration. 

This also includes a pledge of US$100 million to Yale University to help establish the Yale Center for Natural Carbon Capture, which will speed up the pace of research methods of carbon sequestration at scale, with an initial focus on helping to offset greenhouse gas emissions equivalent to current airline emissions.   

According to Frederick W. Smith, Chairman and CEO, FedEx Corp., this goal "builds on our longstanding commitment to sustainability throughout our operations, while at the same time investing in long-term, transformational solutions for FedEx and our entire industry". 

Key steps in achieving carbon neutrality

FedEx has outlined the main steps it will be taking in order to achieve its goal of carbon-neutral operations by 2040. 

  • Vehicle Electrification By 2040, the entire FedEx parcel pickup and delivery (PUD) fleet will be zero–emission electric vehicles, achieved via phased programs to replace existing vehicles. So for example, by 2025, 50% of FedEx Express global PUD vehicle purchases will be electric, rising to 100% of all purchases by 2030.  
  • Sustainable Customer Solutions FedEx will work with customers to offer end-to-end sustainability for their supply chains through carbon–neutral shipping offerings and sustainable packaging solutions.  
  • Sustainable Fuels FedEx will continue to invest in alternative fuels to reduce aircraft and vehicle emissions.  
  • Fuel Conservation and Aircraft Modernization FedEx will build on its successful FedEx Fuel Sense initiatives designed to reduce fuel consumption in its aircraft. Since 2012, such initiatives have saved a combined 1.43 billion gallons of jet fuel and avoided over 13.5 million metric tons of carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions. 
  • Facilities FedEx will continue efforts to make its more than 5,000 facilities worldwide more sustainable through continued investments in efficient facilities, renewable energy, and other energy management programs.  
  • Natural Carbon Sequestration FedEx funding will help to establish the Yale Center for Natural Carbon Capture to support applied research into natural carbon sequestration solutions.  

Supporting research in carbon capture

The path toward sustainability requires new strategies for removing and storing Earth’s excess carbon. The Yale Center for Natural Carbon Capture will catalyze interdisciplinary research across the natural sciences and engineering in an effort to accelerate this work.  

Center researchers will develop methods that build on natural carbon storage systems, including biological ecosystems and the geological carbon cycle, improving, where possible, how quickly carbon can be absorbed, how much can be contained, and how long it can be stored. Through these efforts, Yale scientists aim to create a portfolio of carbon removal strategies that have impacts on a global scale.  

Building upon initial successes in the aviation sector, the center will broaden its scope to address additional global sources of emissions – publishing and sharing its findings so that businesses, industries, and governments can benefit from work that will accelerate the adoption and implementation of natural carbon capture strategies around the world. 

Through the creation of the Yale Center for Natural Carbon Capture, "we aim to develop measurable carbon capture strategies to help offset carbon emissions globally", says Dr. Indy Burke, the Carl W. Knobloch, Jr. Dean of the Yale School of the Environment

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Jun 4, 2021

Charting the rise of the chief sustainability officer

chiefsustainabilityofficer
cso
Sustainability
ESG
Kate Birch
4 min
Fortune 500 companies hired more chief sustainability officers in 2020 than in the previous three years combined. Business Chief charts the rise of the CSO

There has been a dramatic increase in the hiring of the chief sustainability officer (CSO) role among Fortune 500 companies, with demand for CSOs growing 228% in corporate America over the last decade, according to the latest report from CSO recruitment firm the Weinreb Group.

There were more first-time CSOs recruited by Fortune 500 companies in 2020 than the previous three years combined, with numbers of CSOs in corporate America soaring from just 29 in 2011 to 95 today, demonstrating the importance corporations are placing not just on reducing their environmental impacts, but also in supporting issues of social justice.

Businesses are increasingly under pressure to assume more responsible practices with customers, regulators and investors demanding increased transparency of business ESG performance.

And the past year in particular has been seen great upheaval, with increased new attention brought to “social justice, climate change, and an ever-widening political divide”, according to Ellen Weinreb, founder and CEO of the Weinreb Group, which has tracked the rising role of CSOs over the past decade.

CSO role is expanding and shifting

But it’s not just the number of CSOs that have changed, sustainability teams are getting bigger, with the average team size increasing from five professionals in 2011 to 15 today, according to the report. 

This is in part due to the fact that the CSO role has expanded beyond simply ‘sustainability’ to incorporate social justice too. Sustainability isn’t exclusively about the environment anymore. The role has also come to incorporate social justice, especially with the rapid growth of, and increased attention on, environmental, social, and governance, or ESG.

And many roles recently have been renamed as such with Head of ESG or ESG Officer becoming increasingly prominent.

Women make up over half of CSO roles

What's also changed over the last decade is the percentage of women holding the title of Chief Sustainability Officer.

A decade ago, in 2011, the majority of CSO roles were held by men (72%), with just 10 of the 29 then CSO roles held by women. A decade on, in 2021, the percentage of women in CSO roles has almost doubled, now accounting for more than half (54%) of CSO positions.

However, according to the report ‘The Chief Sustainability Officer 10 Years Later’, despite the movement toward gender balance within the role and its expanded focus on social justice, in particular, in 2021 the CSO position remains overwhelmingly ‘white’.

Probably not surprising considering there are just three black CEOs at Fortune 500 firms.

How the chief sustainability officer role has grown

The first-ever named chief sustainability officer in a US publicly traded company was Linda Fisher for Dupont, who joined the chemical giant in 2004 as CSO, just at the time when innovative companies were looking at sustainability as a driver for business growth. Joining from the Environmental Protection Agency where she spent 13 years, Fisher was a corporate sustainability trailblazer, spending more than a decade as CSO here, and leading DuPont’s efforts to establish its first set of market-facing sustainability goals.

By 2006, a slew of firms had joined the CSO movement, including Mastercard, Nissan and Microsoft; and Kellogg’s became the first firm to replace a CSO with Dianne Holdorf taking over from Celeste Clarke. And by 2011, a decade ago, Coca-Cola, Verizon, AT&T and P&G had appointed their first CSOs.

In fact, it was in 2011 when Virginie Helias invented her idea of the perfect CSO job – to make sustainable consumption not only possible, but ‘irresistible’ – and pitched it P&G’s then CEO. A decade later, in 2021, and Helias is still in the job she first created.

The majority of CSOs have been internal hires, such as Peter Graf of SAP, who joined the software giant in 1996, and served as EVP for Marketing before being named CSO in 2009. The same is true at UPS, whose first-ever CSO, Scott Wicker, started at the package delivery giant 34 years before being named CSO in 2011. Increasingly, however, external hires are being made with organisations increasingly searching for more high-profile leading voices in the ESG forum.

In February 2021, JP Morgan hired former British high-profile Labour politician Chuka Umunna while just last month hotel chain Accor hired high-profile French politician Brune Poirson, who has previously championed the anti-waste law within the French government and was secretary of state for the environmental transition for three years.  

 

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