‘Being socially responsible transcends mere donations’

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Jacques Creeten, Vice-President, India, FedEx.
Jacques Creeten, Vice-President, India, FedEx.

D. Murali

C. Ramesh

FedEx, the logistics company that is most famous in India for its courier services, has been active on the corporate social responsibility (CSR) front too. Speaking to The New Manager on the various initiatives in this domain, Jacques Creeten, Vice-President, India, FedEx, said that in addition to corporate philanthropy and employee volunteerism, the company has developed strategic relationships with charitable organisations with the same ethics and values. Excerpts from the interview:

Do you have measures to evaluate the efficacy of CSR activities?

CSR is about making a difference in chosen issues. We believe that the success of our initiatives lies in bringing about changes in people’s lives in the community we live and work in. If the initiative does that, it is meaningful.

For example, the recently concluded employee-led ORBIS free eye testing camps at Mumbai not only helped in the identification of many children with potential eye problems, it also drew the attention of the Maharashtra legislature to the issue of eye problems in children.

During these camps, our employees tested, along with doctors of Lotus Eye Hospital, over 5,000 children across Mumbai and referred around 300 for further screening/treatment to Lotus. Later, 154 patients were examined and 32 received surgical treatment on board the ORBIS Flying Eye Hospital (FEH) and at Lotus. We regard such measures as proof of effective CSR, as they make a real difference to people and community.

Is there a budget, in terms of hours and money?

We believe that being socially responsible transcends mere donations. It is a mindset, an attitude. It is about having a sense of responsibility, a commitment that must permeate everything one does. We promote this among our employees.

Are employees required to engage in such activities in addition to or during working hours? Are they compensated?

All participation by employees in socially responsible activities is completely voluntary. However, we acknowledge the good work done by the employees in open forums so that they are motivated to participate in future initiatives.

FedEx encourages socially responsible behaviour by recognising sterling efforts by employees through a Humanitarian Award for those who go beyond the call of duty in contributing to society.

The free eye testing camps, for instance, had employees right in the forefront – from identifying the camp location, interacting with the authorities concerned, getting trained for conducting preliminary eye check-ups, putting together the logistics for the camp and finally, holding the camp itself.

The time spent on the activity, during and beyond work hours, depends on the requirement of the project and the employees’ initiative.

At FedEx, we believe in making the environment conducive and flexible so that employees can participate in such activities.

Our employees are our brand ambassadors and represent the company’s philosophies to the fullest. We have always received an overwhelming response of participation and enthusiasm for all our projects across levels.

Is there a tussle between CSR and profits?

FedEx believes in identifying with our people in every market that we operate in by understanding their issues. We strive to give back to the society in which we exist by making our contribution in every possible way in helping address these concerns. We have been associated with various organisations, across the world, which are doing wonderful work in helping the society become a better place.

How do you screen the beneficiaries? For instance, who will benefit from the FEH initiative?

FedEx has been associated with ORBIS for the past 20 years. Being the leading sponsor of the ORBIS FEH, we donate critically needed aircraft maintenance and provide recurrent training for ORBIS volunteer pilots, who include several FedEx employees. In addition, FedEx ships medical supplies to ORBIS programme sites overnight at no cost.

The goal of the FEH programme in Mumbai was to enhance the skills of the local ophthalmic community so that they are better equipped to treat and prevent eye diseases prevalent among the Indian population.

How does FedEx ensure that its operations are not eco-unfriendly?

FedEx and subsidiaries recognise that effective environmental management is one of the most important corporate priorities. We are committed to protecting and respecting the environment by making operations as efficient as possible.

We focus on evaluation of environmental impacts of packaging products, operations and facilities with a commitment to efficient use of natural resources to minimise waste generation through efforts that include recycling, innovation and prevention of pollution.

We also stress on use of innovative technologies to minimise atmospheric emissions and noise and participate in the development of sound environmental policy within the transportation and business sectors. Besides transportation, FedEx also focuses efforts on minimising the environmental impact of packaging through use of recycled and recyclable material.

What measures have been taken to cut emissions?

The company is active in the area of promoting cleaner air by reducing emissions and cutting depletion of natural resources through efficient route planning and use of clean and alternative fuelled vehicles, wherever possible.

FedEx has used bio diesel in the Washington DC area since 2005. We also use Electric Hybrids and 93 such vehicles are operating in locales in the US and Japan.

With regard to planes, FedEx plans to replace the B727 model aircraft with the Boeing 757 model to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by improved fuel-burn efficiencies in new aircraft.

It has 20 per cent greater payload, but it also uses 36 per cent less fuel.

Besides, the company is working with industry experts to develop and test hydraulic hybrid technology for use in package vans.

(This article was published in the Business Line print edition dated September 3, 2007)
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