FedEx plans carbon neutral operations by 2040

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by Emily Atkins
FedEx Express is slated to be the first customer of the BrightDrop EV600, and will begin receiving their vehicles later this year. (GM image)

FedEx Corp. plans to achieve carbon neutral operations globally by 2040.   

To help reach this goal,the company will spend more than US$2 billion in three areas: vehicle electrification, sustainable energy, and carbon sequestration.  

As part of this plan, FedEx is spending $100 million to fund the creation of the Yale University Center for Natural Carbon Capture. The centre will research methods of carbon sequestration, with an initial focus on helping to offset greenhouse gas emissions equivalent to current airline emissions.    

The future of our business is tied to the future of the environment,” said Brie Carere, the company’s chief marketing and communications officer, in a media briefing on the announcement. “It is a critical part of our core business strategy.”

FedEx currently operates 200,000 motorized vehicles, 680 aircraft and 5,000 facilities.

Rapid acceleration of electrification

The plan will see the entire FedEx parcel pickup and delivery (PUD) fleet converted to zero-emission electric vehicles by 2040. This will be achieved through procurement of EVs. By 2025, half of FedEx Express global PUD vehicle purchases will be electric. By 2030 all purchases will be EVs.

“This is a rapid acceleration of our electrification efforts,” Carere said. “We are very excited that partners like GM are ready with fleet solutions for us, that are cost effective and sustainable. We are at the tipping point and ready to accelerate our commitment.”

Carere was referring to GM’s BrightDrop electric pallet and van program which FedEx has been testing. Drivers were able to handle 25 percent more packages per day when using the pallets. FedEx Express is slated to be the first customer of the EV600 van, receiving the vehicles later this year.

“FedEx’s announcement to fully electrify its fleet signals our economy is moving toward zero-emission transportation,” said Joe Britton, executive director of the Zero Emission Transportation Association in a statement. “FedEx has made clear that vehicle electrification is the future.”

Another key piece of the plan is updating the aircraft fleet by building on its FedEx Fuel Sense initiatives. Since 2012, the FedEx Fuel Sense and Aircraft Modernization programs have saved a combined 1.43 billion gallons of jet fuel and avoided over 13.5 million metric tons of carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions. Alternative fuels are part of this plan.

“There is no silver bullet for carbon neutrality in aviation,” said Carere. “That’s why we are developing a portfolio of solutions.”

Multi-faceted approach

Other pieces of the plan to meet the 2040 objective include working with customers to offer sustainable, reusable packaging, making facilities more sustainable, renewable energy, and other energy management programs.

Mitch Jackson, chief sustainability officer at FedEx Corp emphasized that in the past fiscal year FedEx avoided more than three million tons of CO2 emissions through its ongoing efforts to improve its environmental impact.

“FedEx has a history of investment in sustainability,” he said. Over the past decade the company has reduced the carbon intensity of its operations by 40 percent, while package volume increased 99 percent during that period.

However, the path toward sustainability requires new strategies for removing and storing Earth’s excess carbon, which is why FedEx is working with Yale University.

Researchers at the Center for Natural Carbon Capture will develop methods that build on natural carbon storage systems, including biological ecosystems and the geological carbon cycle. These will improve 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.   

“While we’ve made great strides in reducing our environmental impact, we have to do more. The long-term health of our industry is directly linked to the health of the planet, but this effort is about more than the bottom line – it’s the right thing to do,” Jackson said. “At FedEx, we are committed to connecting people and possibilities resourcefully and responsibly. The steps we are taking today will contribute a positive impact for generations to come.”