Enterprise embraces the environment

From its products to its partnerships, the rental-car giant takes its "green" responsibilities to heart

From its products to its partnerships, the rental-car giant takes its "green" responsibilities to heart

Enterprise Rent-A-Car's VP of PR Pat Farrell vividly recalls the moment being green became a priority for the company.

It was two-and-a-half years ago, when company chairman and CEO Andy Taylor told him he wanted the company to start addressing, in a "very proactive" way, the "environmental impact of our business on society."

The company was also approaching two significant milestones - its 50th anniversary in 2007 and reaching the 1 million car mark. The way Farrell sees it, Enterprise was becoming one of, if not the, top companies in the industry. Taylor wanted it to act the part.

"Andy was convinced that we needed to start conducting ourselves like an industry leader and have well-informed positions on a variety of issues," Farrell says. "And one of them was the area of stewardship. The best form of stewardship is to understand what aspects of your business touch society and then to involve yourself deeply in those."

For Enterprise, that means getting involved in environment-related issues, specifically those related to "emissions from engines in the transportation sector. That's where we decided [to] play most aggressively."

Farrell says there are a number of levels to the company's current green initiatives.

"I would describe it as an environmental platform being built one responsible plank at a time," he notes. "Today, we have four planks down and have more planned."

Those four platforms include a variety of activities ranging from tree planting to funding alternative-fuel development. Most visible will be efforts to address the makeup of its current fleet, making it as environmentally friendly and fuel-efficient as possible.

Farrell says there is a "strong desire" on the company's part to responsibly and economically employ alternative technologies.

"We have 4,000 gas-electric hybrids in our fleet," Farrell says. "We would have many more if you could get them from the manufacturer. Supply and demand curve have not equaled out. As they do, you will see more of those cars in our fleet."

The company also has 41,000 flex-fuel vehicles in its fleet, but due to the lack of flex- fuel pumping stations in the US, it can only fuel about 2,000 of them on a regular basis.

To remedy that, Enterprise is partnering with General Motors and VeraSun. If a gas-station owner agrees to put an E85 pump at his station and is within a "reasonable distance" of one of Enterprise's 7,000 locations, "then we'll agree to place a large number of E85 flex-fuel vehicles at our branch and commit to fueling them on a regular basis at that station," Farrell says.

To date, Enterprise has done this at locations in Cincinnati, Dayton, OH, Columbus, OH, and Washington, DC. Farrell says there soon may be a location in Atlanta, too.

Through its Enterprise Rent-A-Car's 50 million tree pledge, the company will plant 1 million trees a year for the next half-century in the national forests of the countries it operates in. Its charitable arm, the Enterprise Rent-A-Car Foundation, is partnering with The National Arbor Day Foundation and the Forest Service on this effort.

The Taylor family also donated $25 million to create the Enterprise Rent-A-Car Institute for Renewable Fuel Development. The company has partnered with The Danforth Plant Science Center on this endeavor.

These are just the building blocks of what Farrell envisions as a major environmental platform. "This is not the end of it. We have more initiatives that will be rolled out later this year," he says. "To [succeed] for the next 50 years and beyond, we need cars and fuel that are acceptable to society."

So when it speaks of sustainability, Enterprise is referring not only to the continued development of the planet, but the sustainability and long-term health of its business and industry as well.

"As far as we're concerned, environmental stewardship is one of the key areas we need to address to ensure that," Farrell says.

Enterprise's 75,000 employees don't regularly educate consumers on the company's environmental initiatives. But the communication is taking place on the macro level with PR efforts, assisted by Fleishman-Hillard, TV, and print ads.

Holly Campbell, AVP of marketing communications, says Enterprise just launched a 29-week print effort in USA Today that will highlight a variety of things, including the environmental platform.

But she says getting educational collateral into the branches will happen soon.

"The branches are all excited to get their hands on this material so they can speak to it," she says. "That's a whole other platform we're working on and [it] should be rolling out to our groups shortly."

At a glance

Company: Enterprise Rent-A-Car

Chairman and CEO: Andrew Taylor

President and Vice Chairman: Donald Ross

Headquarters: St. Louis

Revenues and Latest Earnings: Revenue, nearly $10 billion

Competitors: Hertz, Avis/Budget, Dollar-Thrifty

PR/Marketing Budget: Undisclosed

Key Trade Titles: Auto Rental News, Automotive Fleet, Travel News, Travel Agent, Collision Weekly, Insurance Age

Marcomms Team: Pat Farrell, VP comms; Steve Smith, CMO; Christy Conrad, AVP of PR; Holly Campbell, AVP of marcomms

Marketing Services Agencies: PR agency: Fleishman-Hillard; Ad agency: Avrett, Free, Ginsberg

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