FedEx at Forty: Home Is Where the Heart Is

From local efforts to global endeavors, FedEx believes in making the world a better place.

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FedExCares Week volunteers gather at Hopelink Place in Seattle.

Examples of FedEx’s hands-on involvement in disasters range from stationing trucks and shipping supplies to collecting coats and physically volunteering for events like super-storm Sandy, Hurricane Katrina, the Japanese tsunami, the events of 9/11, the earthquake in Haiti, and more. Other efforts include shipping medical supplies to more than 1,000 health centers and free clinics a year, building crates and shipping supplies for First Robotics, delivering water-purifying equipment for Water Missions, and transporting animals for the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation. FedEx also works closely with Direct Relief International to organize the distribution of unsold medications from large pharmaceutical companies to areas of need. “With employees in 220 countries and territories, disasters affect the communities of team members, and it’s just as important to reach out and let them know FedEx cares,” says Parul Bajaj, senior communications specialist, FedEx global media relations.

“We look for areas where we have skill sets that can expand [a non-profit’s] reach,” says Conner. “Giving them a check is great, but that’s just part of it. We get things to where they need to be to provide the greatest good, and sometimes that’s moving things, sometimes it’s collecting things, sometimes it’s providing our employees for extra feet on the ground.”

For example, when FedEx moved sea turtles from the Gulf of Mexico after the oil spill, all hands were on deck, from custom critical-drivers taking turtles to Florida’s Atlantic coast, to team members in the package lab designing boxes to cradle the turtle eggs. “There are a lot of skills that we can add along the way that you might not think of,” says Conner.

Due to the nature of its business, FedEx has expertise in the areas of road safety, fuel consumption, and freight logistics, and its creative teams have used this knowledge for the greater good on a local and global scale. For example, programs include “Walk This Way,” which is focused on children walking to and from school safely, solar lighting innovations, alternative fuel sources, and road infrastructure aid in other countries.

“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.”

While its global citizenship endeavors are considerable, it stands to reason that its world headquarter city would get some extra attention. “We do work very hard to maintain a balance,” says Conner. “As important as Memphis is to us, we’re still a global company. Our overarching goal is to make sure FedEx is a force for good around the globe.”

That means extra emphasis is given to support global citizenship efforts that overlap with local efforts. Examples of this include the shipment of the pandas from China for the Memphis Zoo, involvement with Teach for America and other organizations, and FedEx Cares Week with more than 3,000 volunteers globally and nearly 400 volunteers in Memphis.

One major way that global efforts impact Memphis is through FedEx’s partnership with the United Way of the Mid-South. With the key focus areas of education, income, and health, United Way is a force for change in the Mid-South community, which makes it a perfect “match” for FedEx’s skill set.

FedEx has been the region’s top supporter of United Way’s efforts for years, and in the 2012 campaign alone, contributed over $5 million in corporate and employee gifts, the highest amount of any other donors. In addition to financial generosity, volunteers from FedEx give of their personal time and skills in hundreds of ways every year. “In 2012-13, a team of FedEx volunteers supported United Way’s ‘Team Read’ effort at Winridge Elementary School, tutoring and teaching local students with literacy and comprehension skills,” says Dave Skorupa, vice president of communications for United Way of the Mid-South.

“Memphis is different, as are the other headquarters cities such as Pittsburgh and Dallas, because we veer away from the three set platforms here more than we usually do,” continues Conner. “Normally the first thing we ask [of a request for assistance] is, ‘Does it fit within one of our three outreach buckets?’ but we’re more flexible in Memphis because we understand that the environment of a headquarter city is important. For example Shelby Farms would be under the environment pillar but it’s also quality of life. Education and arts are also a big area of opportunity in Memphis because we want a good workforce and it’s important for people who move here; it’s important to have the kind of vibrant community needed to support our workforce.”

This is where support for organizations such as Ballet Memphis and Memphis Botanic Garden come into play. For a company to thrive, the community has to thrive, and Fed-Ex is committed to the growth and success of Memphis. Every aspect that ensures quality of life for the team members is as relevant and important to success as a corporation.

The short list of local partners for FedEx as a whole includes United Way, Youth Villages, Memphis Tomorrow, Le Bonheur Children’s Hospital’s FedEx Family House, Memphis City Schools Foundation, The Orpheum, and specifics such as a classroom at Wooddale High School that qualifies as a certified aviation experience, and helping MIFA design routes for Meals on Wheels to deliver food.

“[Because of our partnerships] we are able to connect people with the best ways to give back,” says Bajaj. “Our efforts span pretty much anything that’s happening in Memphis. FedEx is involved somehow.” Aside from corporate partnerships, FedEx team members are actively involved in virtually every organization the Mid-South offers, providing hands-on service and lending their expertise as board members, trustees, and volunteers in areas of their own interest.

To enhance its citizenship efforts, was created with both internal and external viewing capabilities. Anyone can access the “Learn,” “Volunteer,” and “Share Your Story” features, but team members have access to added features. For example, team members can search a database by location or key word for independent volunteer opportunities that better fit their interests. This employee-match system maximizes volunteer efforts because team members can choose exactly which projects they’d be best suited for and even involve family and friends. FedEx can also track the interests to use for future partnerships and recognition certificates for the most volunteer hours. These incentives help team members feel valued and a part of the larger footprint by being recognized for their independent volunteer efforts in conjunction with FedEx.

Whether it’s providing in-kind shipments of aquatic animals or helping other countries with more energy-efficient vehicles, FedEx’s Memphis footprint really is local and global. By partnering with organizations that might not seem like an obvious match at first glance, FedEx has created a better quality of life for the Memphis community and the world.

“As hokey as it sounds, FedEx really is a company with heart,” says Conner. “It doesn’t sounds sexy; it’s logistics. But it’s amazing what FedEx does. I still get goosebumps after this long.”

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