Taking a Holistic Approach to Sustainability with Hertz’s Joy Lehman
March 27, 2015
JOHN SHEGERIAN: Welcome back to Green is Good, and we’re so honored to have with us today Joy Lehman. She’s the Global Sustainability Manager for the Hertz Corporation. Welcome to Green is Good, Joy. JOY LEHMAN: Thanks. Happy to be here. JOHN SHEGERIAN: Hey, Joy, before we get talking about all the cool things you’re doing in terms of global sustainability at Hertz, why don’t you first share with our listeners the Joy Lehman story? How did you even get to this point, where you became the Global Sustainability Manager? What was your journey leading up to this new role that you have here? JOY LEHMAN: Well, it’s interesting. My journey actually started probably when I was about 10 years old. I was the weird kid from Kansas who wanted to be a vegetarian and thankfully, my parents, with all their generosity, let me go with it, thinking it was going to be a phase. Very long phase that still continues to today, but that really got me interested in learning more about the environment and the different health benefits and really shaped my education and where I wanted to go in my career. When I went to university, I studied life sciences, environmental science, and then moved to New York City. Innately, I was just a city girl that started out in Kansas. I worked a couple years in the city, more in the pharmaceutical realm, but then decided I really wanted to make the shift towards sustainability, and did my graduate work in sustainability in Australia. On top of being the weird vegetarian kid, I’m also a big traveler. So, when I decided to take a couple years off to go to grad school, I couldn’t think of a better place to do it than Australia. Being a rather unique environment, they were a little bit more progressive a few years ago around sustainability, so they had some great programs to choose from. JOHN SHEGERIAN: That is so interesting. It’s so funny you say that. We have a lot of guests from around the world on this show. We’ve never had a guest from Australia, and I was going to ask you, are they very forward thinking and progressive when it comes to sustainability? That’s so interesting to learn that they are. JOY LEHMAN: Yeah. It’s a weird climate there. They don’t have a lot of water. How they’re positioned in the world and what they have to deal with on a day-to-day basis has really pushed both individuals and from a policy perspective to really manage their natural resources. It’s created a different sort of culture, when you actually are concerned about are we going to have drinking water every day? JOHN SHEGERIAN: That does change your mindset. For our listeners out there that want to check out all the great things Joy’s doing in terms of global sustainability, you can go to www.hertz.com. I’m on their website right now, Joy. You’ve been at Hertz now three plus years. Can you explain what is your role? Every company is so culturally and DNA different when it comes to sustainability and global sustainability. What is your exact role and mission in terms of Global Sustainability Manager at Hertz? JOY LEHMAN: I have a really fun job, at least in my mind. What I do on a day-to-day basis is I develop a sustainability strategy to really help our organization embed sustainability best practices, environmental performance, efficiency, cost savings, all those great things tied to sustainability across our global operations and our fleet. That really enables me to work with every department. I’m definitely kind of a one-stop shop. If you need to find someone at Hertz, I probably know them because we work in every aspect of our business, to really try and move the needle forward in sustainability. JOHN SHEGERIAN: That is so interesting. With regards to that, what are some of your current sustainability initiatives? Give our listeners a little example of some of the initiatives you’ve thought of and you’re starting to implement throughout the Hertz platforms. JOY LEHMAN: Hertz takes a holistic approach to sustainability. We looked at our operations and said, “Where can we create the most amount of impact, both from a sustainability perspective, but also from a business perspective?” We’ve got two sides of the coin for us. One, we have a lot of buildings and rental locations, so we have aggressively pursued greening all of our buildings, especially around new construction and using LEED certification, that’s a green building certification, for our large construction projects. Then using those best practices across all of our smaller construction practices. We also are investing in solar production, so many of our larger facilities generate solar energy. And then just kind of the general operational best practices around waste reduction, recycling everything from used oil to bottles and cans, to IT equipment. I think one of the more interesting things we implemented last year was a waterless car wash solution. We obviously have quite a few cars in our fleet, and we and our customers want them shiny and clean. So, that does use quite a bit of water. Our automated car washes recycle about 80% of the water, but in our smaller locations where we have a bit more time, we use a waterless solution, which basically is just a small amount of spray that we spray on, and then it’s wiped down and it’s completely green, nontoxic. So, it’s a great solution that’s very effective for our business bottom line, but it also is saving basically millions of gallons of water a year by moving towards this. JOHN SHEGERIAN: Wow. I’m on your website, and I’m actually right now looking. For our listeners out here, it’s hertz.com. It’s simple. I’m on your living journey sustainability document, and it is fascinating here, some of the things that you guys are working on. I’m going to just throw some things out there. In terms of paper saving, you’re saving paper with regards to recycling. In terms of kilowatts saved, in terms of energy, in terms of recycling in your headquarters. So, this is something that’s really been adopted from a cultural DNA standpoint at Hertz. Greening and sustainability is really right throughout the whole organization from top to bottom. JOY LEHMAN: Yes, it is, and it really needs to be, to be effective. I feel very fortunate to have a very engaged senior management team that sees the value in sustainability and always looks for opportunities to cross that over into other areas of our business. In an organization that’s as large as Hertz, that’s global, we have over 40,000 employees, it’s really important that they all understand where they play a role and what sustainability means to them in their day to day jobs. So, that’s why we really try and communicate the successes we’ve had, but also where there’s opportunity at the individual basis. JOHN SHEGERIAN: Joy, Hertz is a great, great, great rental car company, and you have a lot of competition out there. How do you stack up against not only your direct competition, but even some of the smaller players out there with regards to your sustainability initiatives? Is this something that the whole industry has adopted, or is Hertz leading with regards to sustainability versus your competitors as well? JOY LEHMAN: I would like to say that Hertz is definitely leading the charge in a lot of areas, but sustainability is definitely an area of focus for many of the larger players in the rental industry. I think some of the differentiators for Hertz around sustainability, it really goes down to what’s our product? What are we here to do for our customers and as a corporate organization? That’s to provide mobility solutions. So, where we’re different from our competitors, it’s almost 80% of our fleet gets better than 20 miles per gallon highway, so we have a very fuel-efficient fleet. That’s significantly higher by percentage than our competitors. We really actively try to provide alternative fuel vehicles, high fuel efficiency vehicles, and use innovation and technology to provide mobility solutions for both our leisure customers and also our corporate customers so they have greener travel options. JOHN SHEGERIAN: How about the electric car movement and revolution now? How does that fit in with Hertz’s offering? Is that going to continue to grow? JOY LEHMAN: I think it will continue to grow. A few years ago, there was a lot of hype around electric vehicles, and I think there was a lot of interest in it, and we thought it would be a high area of growth. In certain areas of the U.S. and internationally that’s been true, like around California, so we’ve definitely focused the majority of our EV fleet growth around there. But it’s a longer-term strategy, which is something we will continue to grow and expand, but it’s where we see demand for the most part. But I would say companies like Tesla have done an amazing job of really changing the perceptions around what an electric vehicle is, and making it kind of sexy and cool, and people actually have a bit more interest in it. JOHN SHEGERIAN: With regards to oil recycling, it says on your website that Hertz recycles a lot of the oil that is used in your vehicles. Can you explain how that happens? Is that also another growing trend, recycling more the products that are put out of your cars? JOY LEHMAN: Yes, absolutely. It’s something that we’ve been doing for a while and will continue to grow. Basically, having a fleet of over 500,000 cars, we deal with a lot of automotive waste. It’s our objective to have all of that be recycled and disposed of in the most environmentally sound way possible. All the oil, cleaning solvents, oil filters, and the like are recycled by one national vendor, and they collect all of that. It’s actually then used and refined to create new oil, so it’s an ongoing cycle that, then, we use some of that oil in our vehicles. It’s fantastic, some of the innovative technologies that have really enabled sustainability best practices to move forward. JOHN SHEGERIAN: For our listeners who just joined us, we’re honored to have with us today Joy Lehman. She’s the Global Sustainability Manager for the Hertz Corporation. You can check out all of her and Hertz’s great work at www.hertz.com. Joy, talk a little bit about the future. You’re now, no pun intended, driving the bus and you’re the head of global sustainability at Hertz. Where are you taking it now? Where is the puck going, not just where the puck is today? Where are you driving your company with regards to sustainability? Give us a little glimpse of the future. JOY LEHMAN: For us, I think we’ve done a great job of looking at our operations and making sure that we have sustainability embedded there, but our next big move will be to increase the sustainability offerings around mobility. So, that’s looking at 24/7 access to fuel efficient vehicles that are readily accessible to communities around the world in very short distance and looking to see where we can increase alternative fuel vehicle access, like hybrids and electric vehicles. When you think about a company like Hertz, we rent millions of transactions. Each of those transactions is essentially a test drive for some vehicle, so we’re helping millions of individuals form an opinion about a car. By providing access to the most fuel efficient and innovative vehicles, whether they’re hybrids or electric vehicles, we’re helping to break down those consumer barriers that may exist around preconceived ideas about green cars are slow, they’re not very cool looking. By actually getting people to drive them through a rental experience, we hope to really move the needle towards if people are looking to purchase those cars, they might consider a vehicle they hadn’t previously because they had an experience with Hertz. JOHN SHEGERIAN: That’s awesome. With regards to tires, Hertz is the only car company that has a zero landfill policy with regards to recycling tires? JOY LEHMAN: Yes. That’s something we’re very proud of, to make sure that none of our tires end up in the landfill. Where they do end up is on the roads. New construction for roads typically use recycled tires, but also in playgrounds. The kind of squishy equipment that you’re jumping around on, those quite possibly could be a Hertz car tire. JOHN SHEGERIAN: Joy, since you’re the Global Sustainability Manager, can you share with our listeners a little bit of the cultural differences with regards to sustainability? Hertz is an international brand. You get to travel the world and green Hertz around the world. Talk a little bit about the cultural differences between countries, and the acceptability or adoption of sustainability when it comes to the United States versus Europe versus Asia and other parts of the world where Hertz is at, and how that affects your decision-making and you driving policy and change. JOY LEHMAN: You’re absolutely right. Each country and region of the world has a little bit different perspective on what sustainability is, so we try and factor that into how we prioritize our different programs. Even looking at fleet choices, so if you look at Europe, diesel is readily accepted and the majority of individuals and businesses drive those cars. From a diesel vehicle perspective, they have much higher fuel economy. In the U.S., that’s a little bit harder sell because we’re not quite as accustomed to diesel vehicles. So, we look at those fleet choices, what makes most sense. In the U.S., hybrids are a fantastic choice. In Europe, we focus more on the diesels and moving more into the electric vehicle space. I mentioned Australia being a water-conscious country, so that’s an initiative looking at how we can conserve water and those more pivotal climate change issues that rise up in countries that are actually having to deal with those issues on a more tactical level, and trying to integrate that into our planning. JOHN SHEGERIAN: Gotcha. How do you trade best practices in terms of underneath you, do you have many other sustainability managers across departments and across countries that are constantly brainstorming and sharing new or better practices that they’re learning out in the field and then bringing back to the group, so future sustainability initiatives can be driven from what the team is learning in the field? JOY LEHMAN: We do. We’ve got a great group, the sustainability task force, that I lead and it engages basically with every department. We have international colleagues also involved. We meet, depending on which group we’re meeting with, on a weekly or a monthly basis to look at the programs we have in place and how we can improve them, what needs to change, and really brainstorm those interesting and creative ideas to engage our employees, but also to move the needle forward. JOHN SHEGERIAN: Joy, we’re down to the last two-and-a-half minutes or so. What has been your experience and what does the data show about how engaged your clients are with regards to sustainability? How important is it to them that you continue to make this an important initiative, culturally and from a DNA perspective of Hertz, and continue to message how green and sustainable Hertz is? How important is that to your client base? JOY LEHMAN: That’s a great question because we’re obviously driven by what our consumer needs are. I would say especially in our corporate and business traveler, there is a very high interest on programs that can help drive greener business travel. So, we work with them directly to create programs that can both reduce their carbon emissions per mile, their fuel consumption, and increase their utilization of alternative fuel vehicles that help their employees get that first-hand experience that I discussed in those different vehicles. Especially our larger customers that have hundreds of thousands of employees renting with us, they’re all experiencing that, and we’ve been able to make some pretty good outcomes, 15-16% reduction in carbon in some cases per mile. That then equates to fantastic fuel saving for our customers, so on both sides we’re both very happy. JOHN SHEGERIAN: Got it. Final words, Joy. What are some of your hopes for the future of a green car rental industry? What’s on your mind? JOY LEHMAN: If I had the blue sky, what I would love to see is basically a lower no-emissions vehicle available to anyone within a five-minute walk, and they could access that vehicle at any time. That really enables mobility for travelers around the world to get where they need to go and create the least amount of impact in the process. JOHN SHEGERIAN: I love it. For our listeners out there who want to lease or rent one of Hertz’s great cars, please go to www.hertz.com and learn more of Joy’s great work and her colleagues’ great work with regards to sustainability. It’s hertz.com. Thank you, Joy, for being an inspiring sustainability superstar. You are truly living proof that green is good.