Saving Energy, Water and Time by Keeping Our Air Fleet Clean – FedEx

Keeping a fleet of vehicles clean is a necessary, but important task for businesses whose calling card is their livery and the condition of which reflects directly on the brand – good or bad. But when your fleet includes aircraft, the task takes on a whole new level of complexity.

After all, it’s hardly possible to call into the local car wash with a 767.

Maintaining the cleanliness of planes is imperative because a film of dirt may mask cracks or cause fittings to wear excessively. And during the winter months, the de-icing process attracts more dirt to the fuselage and so the colder it gets, the more cleaning is required, which of course comes at a cost, to both the bottom line and to the environment.

That’s why FedEx Express has introduced a new, more eco-friendly fuselage cleaning procedure for the 13 aircraft serving Europe from its Roissy-Charles De Gaulle hub in Paris, France. Using a ‘moist-cleaning’ method that does not leave water on the tarmac developed and implemented by a local company (UDDS), the new procedure drives a number of benefits:

  • Energy saving: the cleaner the fuselage, the more aerodynamic the aircraft, reducing fuel consumption. Crews can also manually clean aircraft where they park, saving on towing vehicle fuel and the electricity to power automated washing equipment.
  • Water saving: the eco-friendly process uses 100 times less water than with conventional methods. In real terms this means 100 litres of water are used and disposed of instead of 10,000.
  • Time saving: maintenance can be carried out at the same time as cleaning, meaning aircraft are grounded for a shorter period of time.

We think this a great example of aligning citizenship goals with business goals to create the greatest impact – a ‘win-win’ situation for FedEx and for the environment.

To learn more about FedEx sustainability efforts, visit

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Materiality Case Study: FedEx

Materiality Case Study: FedEx

In 2014, FedEx undertook a robust materiality analysis to help the company refine its global citizenship strategy and ensure that it is addressing areas of maximum impact. The outcomes of the analysis have helped FedEx to reaffirm, evaluate and prioritize its top material issues at each operating company, as well as across the enterprise. In addition to informing and helping refine its strategy, materiality will help FedEx continue to enhance the relevance of its reporting in the future.

To conduct a truly objective assessment, FedEx worked with an external business and sustainability advisory firm to create a highly customized methodology tailored to the company’s unique structure. The company greatly values the perspectives of its stakeholders and worked to ensure that they were part of the process. FedEx’s assessment comprised:

  • A series of discussions with key external stakeholders representing nongovernmental organizations, academics and media, as well as its customers and business partners who were asked both prompted and unprompted questions about their views of environmental, social and ethical issues that represent the greatest risks and opportunities for FedEx.
  • Internal stakeholder engagement with executives.
  • Workshops at each operating company with cross-functional subject matter experts.
  • An employee survey.
  • A final enterprise-level workshop to refine and confirm the materiality results.


The company’s materiality assessment confirmed that its greatest impacts, opportunities and challenges are directly related to its operations. The matrix seen here illustrates a wide range of different issues the company faces that are critical to its global citizenship. Performing well on these issues means creating efficiencies and encouraging innovation in its operations and service offerings while upholding the Purple Promise.

As the company expected, its top issues focus on operations, safety and ethics. When FedEx team members are knowledgeable, safe and trustworthy, they are able to focus on delivering the Purple Promise to customers.


FedEx views materiality as an iterative process that must be periodically reviewed and refined as its business and the marketplace evolve. In 2015, the company plans to increase its issues-based stakeholder engagement in its analysis. It also plans to again review its goals and metrics around its top material issues to ensure that it is constantly measuring, managing and moving possibilities in its global citizenship progress.

[This case study originally appeared in GEMI’s Quick Guide on Materiality]. 

fedex materiality

FedEx Enterprise Materiality Matrix (FY14)

Case Study: Fleet Portfolio

Case Study: FedEx – Fleet Portfolio

For more than a decade, FedEx has evaluated the right vehicle portfolio for each of its operating companies. In doing this, the company follows a three-tiered approach to improve vehicle fuel efficiency – Reduce, Replace, and Revolutionize – which allows it to help develop vehicle technologies while making the best use of the conventional vehicles.

  • Reduce – optimizing routes and driving more efficiently to reduce miles on the road and vehicle emissions.
  • Replace – upgrading the vehicle fleet with more efficient, advanced technology diesel vehicles.
  • Revolutionize – utilizing alternative fuel vehicles, investing in the development of cleaner technologies and advocating for fuel-efficiency and greenhouse gas standards.

The Revolutionize component allows the company to engage in a variety of cross-sector and public-private collaborations to identify and pilot new technologies to improve fuel efficiency. In the past, FedEx has worked with the Environmental Defense Fund to engineer the first commercially-viable hybrid-electric vehicles for company and commercial use. This led to FedEx calling for the first-ever fuel efficiency and greenhouse gas standards for conventional commercial vehicles in the U.S. and subsequently, the passing of the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007, which legislated fuel efficiency and greenhouse gas regulations for medium- and heavy-duty vehicles.

Today, the company is working with manufacturers to further advance the industry. Beyond vehicle testing, technological innovations include making hybrid and electric drivetrains more affordable and scalable, improving the fuel economy of conventional internal-combustion-engine vehicles and developing an infrastructure for vehicle electrification. Pilot programs include liquefied natural gas Class 8 trucks at FedEx Freight, hydraulic hybrid pick-up and delivery vehicles at FedEx Ground, and hydrogen fuel-cell baggage tow tractors at FedEx Express, along with other projects and technologies.

This case study originally appeared in The GEMI Quick Guide on Renewable and Alternative Energy.

Image: FedEx plugged is an all-electric pickup and delivery van. Source:  March 2, 2014

Case Study: FedEx Fuel Sense

Case Study: FedEx Fuel Sense

Fuel efficiency is a priority at FedEx. The FedEx Express aviation fuel management team strives to reduce fuel use and emissions while maintaining company standards regarding quality, customer service and safety.  Team members who work with FedEx aircraft adopt a fuel-efficient mindset and search out innovative ways to help the company save fuel. Over 40 different programs fall under the company’s Fuel Sense initiative.

The program’s mantra is straightforward: be the drop. This mindset and call to action reminds team members that one person, one action and one drop does make a difference. As a result, the company has saved 334 million gallons of jet fuel since launching the Fuel Sense initiative in 2007. This mindset also gives team members permission to believe that no idea is too small. Ideas can appear simple and logical, such as shutting down one engine while taxiing an aircraft between the ramp and the runway, or highly complex, such as developing new computer technology to optimize aircraft speed during travel.

FedEx relies on the insight and expertise of flight crews, dispatchers, aircraft mechanics, ramp personnel, engineers and analysts to identify opportunities on the ground and in the air. Teams evaluate the ideas, then planning and deployment across the network begins.

FedEx has learned several lessons as a result of undertaking this initiative, including:

  • Set common cross-divisional goals and language. This approach helped the Fuel Sense team enlist a large number of team members with various backgrounds and experience. This led to fuel-saving efforts that reached far deeper into the organization than if only a few managers had tried to solve the problem on their own.
  • Incremental wins open minds. The Fuel Sense initiative faced early resistance because the program challenged time-honored practices, such as always carrying de-icing fuel – even in good weather. A process was put in place, through a collaborative effort, to carry de-icing fuel only when ice was forecast. These early wins encouraged more team members to be a part of the solution.
  • Measure, monitor and promote savings. The team developed a simple report to monitor all initiatives. Key performance indicators help the team set goals, stay focused and maintain support from upper management. The Fuel Sense initiative now has champions at every level of the company.

[This case study was featured in the GEMI Quick Guide for Engaging Employees in Sustainability.]