FedEx at Forty: Home Is Where the Heart Is
From local efforts to global endeavors, FedEx believes in making the world a better place.
Employees at World Headquarters in Memphis load a truck with relief supplies bound for FedEx employees affected by Hurricane Katrina.
photograph courtesy FedEx
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Among many claims to fame, Memphis is recognized as the birthplace of rock-and-roll and the home of the blues. In recent years, we’ve also gained recognition as the site of the FedEx World Headquarters. But while the company’s brand coverage is indeed substantial, spanning everything from the FedExForum to the FedEx Institute of Technology, its citizenship efforts, both in Memphis and globally, are undeniable.
“It’s hard to separate FedEx from Memphis because everyone here is so invested in the community,” says Cindy Conner, director of citizenship and reputation. “The community is so much a part of what we are, and we want to be a good neighbor. We want to be a good employer. We want people to want us here. We want people to understand what we do, and we want to be able to give back. We try to invest in the communities that we live and work in.”
Conner has been with FedEx Communications for 27 years, and says she has “the best job in the world. My teams tell all the stories of all the great things that FedEx is doing around the world. We talk a lot about FedEx as a global thought leader in terms of global access, connecting people, providing possibilities for people in business and linking countries. The other part, which is a big part of reputation, is citizenship, which includes philanthropic partnerships, volunteer efforts, grant proposals, and program development. It really is the good news, and there’s a lot of it.”
With a list of roughly 200 current philanthropic partners ranging from multiyear commitments and in-kind agreements to specific project-based allotments, FedEx’s citizenship efforts are extensive. The annual goal is to budget 1 percent or more of the total pre-tax profit toward citizenship, and it has yet to miss that target.
With a company as large and as far-reaching as FedEx, it’s remarkable that it never seems to miss a step, even when it comes to the area of natural disasters, which don’t exactly give much advance warning. And while it might seem like a difficult task to climb the corporate ladder for monetary approvals in the aftermath of a catastrophe, FedEx seems to operate with ease.
“We’re committed to making a difference. The senior leadership of this company is amazing, particularly in the area of disaster relief situations where something comes fast,” says Conner. “We plan ahead, we think ahead, but when something hits we move fast [and get things approved quickly].”
Keeping citizenship in the forefront, FedEx has chosen three focuses for this year’s 40th anniversary celebration — service, recognition, and innovation. A major component of celebrating the anniversary is a Global Month of Service during the month of April. As part of this event, FedEx will recognize team member efforts in the community throughout April by awarding 40 $1,000 grants to the nonprofit organization of the team’s choice. FedEx team members will be participating in service activities around the globe as well as in the greater Memphis area.
In addition to the three focuses of the anniversary, the global company has three outreach “pillars” to better organize their citizenship efforts — disaster relief, sustainability, and child and pedestrian road safety.
“We try to be very strategic about the money we have,” says Conner. “We developed the three [outreach] pillars because they were a good match for the skills FedEx can bring to a nonprofit partner; what we look for are areas where we can provide not just a check but unique skills and unique support. For instance, that’s why disaster relief is obvious. It’s not just what we do on the disaster side, it’s what we do on the operations side helping get people’s lives back to normal.”
Moving packages to their destinations while dealing with uncertain weather and unusable roads is what this company has spent 40 years perfecting. “One big issue with taking on disaster relief as a pillar is that we don’t want it to appear that we’re taking advantage of a crisis. We take it very seriously. We’re not just there when the cameras are rolling. We make a commitment, and we stick with it,” says Conner.
The task of organizing and approving these projects is not taken lightly either. The FedEx Corporate Contributions Council, made up of senior management representatives, meets quarterly to outline and approve each request.
“Obviously there’s much more need than we can fill, and that’s one of the challenges about this job,” says Conner. “When I took this job, the woman before me said there will be very few requests that come to you that are bad requests, but we can’t do them all. We really feel a responsibility to put our money where it can do the greatest good for the community and use the skill set that we have. So, we’re looking for that match.”