Does your organization have a sustainability officer on staff? The last time I counted, there were 19 of these filled management positions at US-based vehicle manufacturers; nine at automotive supplier companies; 16 at transportation companies (including fleet management, cargo transport, and delivery companies); and 12 in the energy sector (and that includes NPOs and research centers). Not all of them have the word “sustainability” in their job titles. They’re typically responsible for carrying out environmental and energy efficiency initiatives for their organizations; it tends to cover the end result of the entity (such as manufacturing clean, fuel efficient vehicles) and internal processes such as energy efficiency, recycling, and waste management. Sustainability has to do with what gets handed over to future generations.
Brian Matuszewski is one of the few sustainability officers, so far, in fleet management. He serves as manager – strategic consulting, sustainable strategies at ARI, one of the top fleet management companies based in the US. Matuszewski spoke to me last week about his duties at the company – and what it’s like to be among the growing movement of management professionals focused on sustainability issues. ARI’s clientele includes fleets in the corporate, government, and NPO sectors. The Cornell University graduate previously served at the US Environmental Protection Agency, as an analyst at P&L in Mexico City, and joined ARI earlier this year.
He’s primarily focused on supporting clients’ efforts to operate sustainable fleets with alternative fuel vehicles, fuel efficiency, and research and consulting services. Fleet managers are interested in implementing organizational targets to reduce carbon and greenhouse gas emissions, supporting their country’s energy independence, and maximizing operational efficiencies and cost reductions. Matuszewski starts out by assessing fleet data and working with clients on integrating what makes the most sense for them.
Along with green vehicle acquisition decisions, Matuszewski said that ARI’s Environmental Management System helps clients monitor energy efficiency, manage waste going to landfills, implement recycling programs, and track baseline data globally. These days, fleet managers wear a lot of hats – their duties go way beyond fleet management; ARI assists fleets in reducing emissions and increasing efficiency in different facets of fleet management duties. Some fleet managers are working closely with sustainability managers within their organizations. “Fleet managers are getting some pressure from sustainability officers – buy more hybrids, etc.,” Matuszewski said. “The fleet manager’s job is a lot more comprehensive.”
European fleets are dealing with taxation on emissions, and in the US, several government and large corporate fleets are implementing sustainability initiatives – generally designed to meet carbon emissions targets. Smog emissions are not a priority for fleets these days due to advanced technologies that are commonplace in new vehicles; reducing CO2 emissions is a top priority for a growing number of fleets. Diesel powertrains are being tracked, too, and a lot of that is being dealt with effectively by regulatory compliance including diesel being sold now at fueling stations that “combust fuel in a clean way,” Matuszewski said.
As for alternative fuel vehicles, that varies fleet by fleet – plug-in electric vehicles, hybrids, natural gas vehicles, propane autogas, and biodiesel are being looked at. “Alternative fuels are not the only way to go green,” he said. “They’re optimizing fuel efficiency, and gasoline and diesel engine vehicles can be pretty clean.” At the end of the day, fleet managers have to meet their organization’s goals when making fleet vehicle acquisitions. “Whether you believe in global warming or not, you need to make a strong business case,” Matuszewski said.
You may notice that quite a few Millennials (along with Baby Boomers and Gen Xers) can get pretty fascinated and passionate about sustainability – and might end up choosing to travel down that career path, as did Matuszewski. “At the university setting, it’s become a hot topic and not a fad,” he said. The terminology now includes cleantech, clean transportation, and sustainability. Whether it be students majoring in engineering, architecture, public policy, or business management, a lot more of them are adding it to their degrees and are becoming active in campus in organizations such as Net Impact. “A lot of people coming from college see it happening and feel good about it,” he said. It makes a lot of sense to them – in creating economic growth and innovation. It was a hot topic at Cornell University while he attended, and he’s been seeing a lot of topical conferences taking place across the country.
Matuszewski also emphasized that automakers are not getting enough credit for embracing sustainability. For example, Ford’s Rouge plant now utilizes a zero emissions building, and soybeans are being used inside Ford vehicle interiors, he said. Fleets are going in that direction, too, and are making a solid contribution to sustainability through the volume of vehicles they’re purchasing, setting up onsite alternative fueling, and are part of building the infrastructure. ARI works with clients to extract and analyze data and “customize sustainable solutions,” he said.