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Enterprise Rent-a-Car Opens Green Branches in Atlanta

0711_c_erace85182.JPGWhen I sat down with Enterprise Rent-a-Car’s VP of Corporate Responsibility and Communications Pat Farrell, and Christine Conrad, VP of Public Relations, in January, both spent a fair amount of time talking about the company’s large fleet of greener vehicles: hybrids, flex-fuel vehicles, and higher-mileage cars. As a couple of commenters noted on those posts, though, finding the greener car you want may be a challenge. Enterprise’s Dan Miller, general manager for Atlanta, also heard these concerns from their customers (particularly corporate accounts), so he decided to do something about it. Now, Atlanta residents wanting to rent either a hybrid or higher-mileage (28 mpg or higher) vehicle from the company know where to go: one of the area’s four “green” branches.

Each of these branches carries stocks about 100 cars, and about 60% of the vehicles at each branch consist of greener vehicles. In a short call last week, Pat (and colleague Lisa Martini) told me that these branches are not focusing on flex-fuel vehicles, as the fueling infrastructure in Atlanta doesn’t support their widespread use. He also noted that Miller’s decision was based on “the need for green in Atlanta” because of the high amounts of traffic congestion, as well as customer demand for the vehicles. He stressed throughout the call, though, that this was a “grassroots” decision: Enterprise sees itself as a “confederation of local operations (owner Andy Taylor’s phrase), and Miller’s decision reflects any local managers ability to manage his/her fleet to meet local needs. He expects that other regional managers will be watching developments in Atlanta closely.

While I had Pat and Lisa on the phone, I also asked about WeCar, the first car-sharing program in the St. Louis area. Pat told me that WeCar is largely an experiment for the company: “Car sharing is still in its infancy, and there are a lot of people still trying to figure out how it will work, and if it’s scalable. But there’s definitely a demand for it, and this is our offering.” Enterprise has also partnered with Google to offer employees plug-in hybrids for sharing if they don’t bring a car to work at the company campus, and sees this kind of employee benefit model as one among many potential ways that car sharing could evolve.

Finally, Enterprise announced its third-year plans for its 50 million tree pledge. This year’s million tress will be planted in the following locations:

  • Huron-Manistee National Forest, Michigan – 445,000 trees, to be planted in May
  • Flathead National Forest, Montana – 160,000 trees, planted late May/early June
  • Deschutes National Forest, Oregon – 160,000 trees, planted in April
  • Forests in Southeastern Manitoba, Canada – 100,000 trees, planted in April
  • Plumas National Forest, California – 85,000 trees, planted in May
  • Black Forest/ Baden-Wurttemberg, Germany – 50,000 trees, planted this fall

In both of our discussions, Pat has stressed Enterprise’s desire to both succeed financially and to serve as good corporate citizens. It’s fair to be skeptical about CSR claims… but it’s also great to see a company figuring out that green can contribute to their bottom line (and not just in terms of marketing strategy). Given their nature of business, Enterprise may ultimately only be able to offset a percentage of the pollution caused by their vehicles… but that’s a positive direction nonetheless. Let’s hope that these ideas don’t just spread within Enterprise’s “confederation,” but through the industry…