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Delivering a greener future

Delivering packages is one thing. But delivering a five-month organic farming course to 200 school kids can make for heavy lifting.

Thankfully for FedEx Express (FedEx), which recently achieved this goal through its "We Deliver Green! Classroom" programme, much of the heavy lifting came from within.

Over 40 FedEx employees voluntarily carried out the initiative. In doing so, they not only enriched the lives of the participating youths, but also their own - thereby reaffirming the carrier's status as a community-conscious employer of choice.

"At the end of the day our employees and customers want to know they are doing business with a company that cares about local communities," says Julia Khong, FedEx's corporate communications manager for Asia-Pacific.

Khong, whose team oversees all of the company's corporate social responsibility efforts in the region, developed the programme in collaboration with the Jane Goodall Institute (JGI), a global organisation committed to inspiring young people to care for animals and the environment.

Like JGI, FedEx was also looking to raise environmental awareness among children. The carrier was specifically interested in teaching them about sustainable-living practices, a move that would tie in with its continuing bid to cut the emissions and fuel consumption of its operating fleet.

"We wanted to demonstrate ways to reduce pollution through changes in day-to-day behaviour, including the making of more environmentally conscious food choices. What better way to effect change than to raise awareness through schools, which has a cascading effect where children learn through the programmes and then go home to share what they learned with their parents," Khong says.

The programme itself also underwent a cascading effect of sorts. It was first started in Taiwan, where it enjoyed notable success, prompting a decision to launch a second campaign in Hong Kong earlier this year.

JGI oversaw the planning phase of the programme - as it also did with the programme's initial iteration in Taiwan - which involved soliciting participating primary schools and farms, and preparing teaching materials. FedEx supervised the implementation phase, which was made up of three parts.

The first involved several classroom sessions to teach students about the basics of organic-farming techniques. The students then applied this knowledge in the second part, where they were asked to plant their own selection of crops.

Once harvested, the crops were sold off in a FedEx-sponsored organic marketplace during the final phase of the campaign, with both students and FedEx employees serving as fruit and vegetable sellers.

This last part was the most rewarding for FedEx volunteer Peann Tam. "It gave us a sense of achievement, not only to sell the product to the customers, but to have the chance to transfer our knowledge about organic food to them in the process," she says.

Part of the human resources team, Tam also feels that by participating in the initiative employees gained a greater sense of kinship with the company.

"I was representing FedEx. By doing so I came to see that what it was doing was meaningful. It made me feel happy to be part of the firm. The programme helped engage employees and make them love and want to stay with the company more," she says.

Khong, too, speaks of a positive impact on the workforce. "From the feedback, they all felt that they were making a difference by passing positive environmental messages on to the next generation. They were very proud of the programme and the chance to be part of it," she says.

Khong adds that many staff were even willing to sacrifice their personal time. "Some of the work, such as the farming and harvesting, took place during the weekend, which required them to give up their free time. Other activities took place during work hours, requiring the discretion of managers, who were all highly supportive," she says.

That support appears to have paid off, according to JGI programme manager Joyce Lau. "The programme was more successful than we expected," she says, pointing to the large number of participants. "The students liked the course and the parents were very happy when their children brought home fruit and vegetables."

Lau adds that continued partnerships with companies like FedEx will help boost environmental awareness in Hong Kong, an outcome that could bear fruit for the community as a whole.

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