The Top Eco-Brands

Transportation: Enterprise

Car Rental Company Plants Trees, Encourages Customers to Offset Their Own Carbon Emissions

By Published on .

Enterprise Rent-a-Car's drive into green land started innocently.

A few years before the family-owned company's 50th anniversary in 2007, Chairman-CEO Andy Taylor challenged his people to come up with ideas of how to mark the occasion, recalls Pat Farrell, VP-corporate communications.
Enterprise Rent-a-Car's green site
Leading the way
  • Hybrids and E85 aplenty
  • Planting 50 million trees in 50 years
  • Grasps how renters look at extended test drives before purchase of greener vehicle
  • Passes out maps of E85 gas stations
Mr. Taylor, son of retired founder Jack Taylor, pointed out to his team that the company's fleet was approaching 1 million vehicles, noting that with such size comes responsibility.

Enterprise's first step was a whopper: a 2006 promise to spend $1 million a year to plant a million trees annually for the next 50 years in tandem with the U.S. Forest Service and the Arbor Day Foundation.

Since then, Enterprise has established a mission. It has added four more planks to its environmental platform since early 2007 and promotes company efforts on its website and at keystogreen.com.

Last year, Enterprise added more fuel-efficient cars, hybrids and flex-fuel models, allowing it to advertise as the "world's most fuel-efficient fleet." Avrett Free Ginsberg, New York, handles, but most of the planks are promoted via PR and events handled by Fleishman-Hillard.

'Staying in step'
Enterprise has seen demand for more-fuel-efficient cars rise, Mr. Farrell says, adding, "The tide has changed, and we are staying in step with the consumer."

Enterprise, which acquired rivals Alamo and National last year, has 440,000 vehicles that average 28 miles a gallon or better on the highway and more than 237,000 that average 32 miles or better across the three brands, Mr. Farrell says. The company has 70,000 flex-fuel vehicles that use E85 or gasoline and expects to double the 5,000 hybrids now in its fleet.

Although some have criticized Enterprise for its involvement with corn-based E85 fuel, the company is "agnostic" about solutions, and "we use our girth to support the technologies that are there," Mr. Farrell says. If biofuel is someday sourced from algae, Enterprise will go that route.

An algae-based biofuel is one area being studied by the Institute for Renewable Fuels, created last year with a $25 million grant from the Taylor family.

The company's Atlanta area operator changed four existing Enterprise sites to "green branches" that offer fleets that are 60% hybrids or fuel-efficient vehicles.

Carbon offsets
In Enterprise's most recent plank, launched in January, the company will match dollar for dollar up to $1 million donations of $1.25 per online car renter to a carbon-offset program. The program, supported purely online, averages about 1,000 donations daily.

Enterprise surpassed Hertz Corp. as the largest rental-car outfit earlier this decade, says Neil Abrams, president of travel specialist Abrams Consulting Group, and the Enterprise brand alone buys close to 800,000 cars a year. He praises the Taylor family for its environmental efforts, noting that as a private company, Enterprise doesn't have to answer to Wall Street. Enterprise's focus on hot topics these days among Americans "does well for their brand," Mr. Abrams says.

Mr. Farrell says the marketer's efforts make sense for society and for business. "There have been very few times in history where what's best for the corporation and society is so perfectly aligned," he says. "The concept of green has gone from benevolence to pragmatic."
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