How did a company like FedEx Corp. set its strategic direction for sustainability? That was the task given to D. Mitchell Jackson, FedEx staff vice president for environmental affairs and sustainability, when he took the post in 2007.

Staff members suggested reducing fuel usage. Jackson responded, “That's a tactic, not a strategy.” He found the answer in what FedEx does every day. “We deliver eight million packages, but more than that, we connect the world, allowing customers to do business in 220 countries and territories.” Its sustainability strategy, therefore, was to “connect the world responsibly and resourcefully.”

Jackson, a mechanical engineer by training, spoke at the American Society of Civil Engineers' annual conference in Memphis on Oct. 19-22. The theme of the conference was “Sustainable Infrastructure: Civil Engineering Solutions.”

FedEx has also gone beyond mere compliance, calling for cleaner, more efficient delivery vehicles and fuel-efficiency standards. Its practice is to “reduce, replace and revolutionize,” Jackson said—reduce the energy needs of equipment, replace older equipment for more energy-efficient models and search for “frugal innovations” in technology.

Regarding ASCE's involvement in sustainability, Andrew W. Herrmann, a principal at Hardesty and Hanover who became the new ASCE president at the conference, pointed to the group's involvement in a coalition to develop a sustainability rating system for infrastructure. ASCE is working with the American Council of Engineering Companies and the American Public Works Association on the rating system, which “is coming out in January,” Herrmann said.

ASCE also initiated a coalition with six other associations to address the public's perception of infrastructure needs from more than just one civil-engineering perspective. The group met once this past April and agreed to work together. Herrmann says he plans to invite additional associations to participate to have “an even larger voice” to help explain “how infrastructure affects people's lives.”