St. Louis-based Enterprise Rent-a-Car announced last week they will add nearly 5000 gas/electric hybrid cars to it nationwide rental fleet and designate 80 locations as “hybrid branches” – centers with a high concentration of hybrid vehicles available. These branches will be located in 24 major markets across the country including 10 of the nation’s busiest airports.
This latest addition doubles the number of hybrid vehicles available in what is already the nation’s largest fleet of fuel efficient rental cars. Along with its sister companies Alamo and National, Enterprise fields nearly 450,000 cars in their combined fleet that achieve 28 mpg or better, 230,000 cars get 32 mpg or better, and 425,000 cars have earned the Environmental Protection Agency’s SmartWay certification.
For $1.25 per rental, customers can opt to offset their vehicle emissions for a charge of $1.25 per rental. The fee helps fund certified offset projects with TerraPass. Through their charitable fund, Enterprise will match customer donations dollar-for-dollar up to $1 million annually.
Enterprise also actively supports alternative fuel research through the Enterprise Rent-A-Car Institute for Renewable Fuels at the Donald Danforth Plant Science Center (I had the opportunity last October to chat with Dr. Richard Sayre, the Institute’s newly-named director ). An overview of this and other environmental sustainability programs in which Enterprise is involved is explained on their website KeystoGreen.com.
So does all this make Enterprise green – or is it just greenwash?
“We are not environmentalists”
To be sure, Enterprise is not an environmental advocacy organization – they rent cars. As Pat Farrell, Enterprise’s vice president for corporate responsibility, told me in an interview last September, “We are not environmentalists.”
Earlier last year, Sustainablog editor Jeff McIntire-Strasburg wrote a series of posts on Enterprise’s “greener” business model. Through our respective interviews with Farrell, Jeff and I came, I think, to the same conclusion, best summed up in answering the question “is it green or greenwash?” – of which the answer is: neither.
Farrell emphasizes that the philosophy behind the company’s efforts toward corporate social responsibility rests in the conviction that doing well for the planet, to the extent that a rental car company can, is what their customers increasingly expect and demand. It is reflected in their large, and growing, hybrid and fuel efficient fleet, their efforts in alternative fuel research, and their work supporting tree planting with the U.S. Forest Service and the Arbor Day Foundation. Ultimately, these efforts are in the best interest of Enterprise’s long-term bottom line.
Enterprise was not founded as a triple-bottom-line company with a mission to save the world. But it’s just as important that “old school” companies like Enterprise understand how their operations impact the world and to do what they can to make it a better, more sustainable one for future generations.
That’s the best insurance for any company’s sustainability.