Dear Public Sector: FAIL

By Brandon Tidwell

My eight year-old niece has adopted a new term: fail. It’s a definitive way to tell someone they didn’t measure up, they didn’t come through, or they simply missed the mark. As I’ve considered the most pressing sustainability issues of our time, businesses and non-profits are leading the way. Woefully absent is government policy that facilitates the shift our economy needs to advance and grow. Simply put, fail.

Last night, the Net Impact Conference opened with a panel discussion on the future of sustainable business, imagining our economy in 2020. As panelists from Ford, Verizon and BSR shared their perspectives, I had a pressing question: What is the role of the U.S. government in creating an environment to support businesses becoming more sustainable? FedEx has been advocating multiple times before Congress on this issue, as the key to advancing electric vehicles for delivery fleets is inextricably linked to the development of a smart grid infrastructure. Instead, the federal government is absent in its leadership role to establish sound energy policy, invest in infrastructure, or create the innovation agenda driving the future sustainable products and services we need to make our economy competitive in the long-term.

Ford’s Susan Cischke, VP at Ford Motor Company, pointed to the government’s failure to establish a proper energy pricing, reducing the incentive for consumers to buy more fuel-efficient vehicles. Businesses are looking for ways to reduce their energy use and find alternatives, ranging from solar panels to Bloom Box technology. It’s difficult, though, to plan capital investments that use alternative energy when the market continues to reward fossil fuels. Whether it’s a carbon-tax or carbon trading, the U.S. government must establish a more consistent environment for companies to effectively plan for a more sustainable business environment.

Even more critical is the energy infrastructure we need to maximize current production and to create the platforms for the future. Additionally, transportation and planning infrastructure make an impact on mobility, the buildings we construct and the economic opportunities available to communities. Trillions of dollars are needed in the U.S. alone to maintain, let alone improve the highways, sewers, water treatment, and information systems we need to thrive. Today, though, government is more concerned about spending on programs for today rather than investing in tomorrow.  I’m all for more efficient government and less spending, but knowing our history, railways, highways and airports have built our nation into an economic powerhouse. If we fail to invest, we’ll find ourselves behind China, Brazil and other emerging economies who are investing in infrastructure.

Building a sustainable business takes commitment and innovation. The onus is ultimately on consumers and business leaders. However, government must create the systems and policies that will allow them to build their future in a mindful way. Instead, it appears that leadership has chosen to abdicate its vital role in helping create the sustainable businesses climate for tomorrow. Unfortunately, our choices today will clearly impact the future of our nation’s prosperity and health. I hope the government will pay attention to its performance to date and make a focused effort to put the U.S. back into a role of global leadership.


Brandon Tidwell is Global Citizenship program advisor at FedEx. In 2011, Brandon starts his Executive MBA at UNC’s Kenan-Flagler Business School. Brandon has his Masters in Social Work from Baylor University and a certificate in Philanthropy from NYU. He is also the 2010 recipient of Net Impact’s Force for Change Award.

By the way, this is Brandon’s personal contribution to Triple Pundit and only contains his own views, thoughts and opinions. It is not endorsed by FedEx nor does it constitute an official communication of FedEx.

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3 responses

  1. Brandon:

    It’s apparent that North Carolina sold you a bill of goods with your MBA. If you think sustainability is just about energy, you woefully wrong.

    Yes, government has failed to pass a comprehensive energy policy, but the private sector has failed miserably regarding the biodiversity crisis with the exception of Patagonia, Interface Carpets and maybe Walmart.

    You want to see three platforms for the future, go check these websites out:, and These are three cross-sector behavior change campaigns to help citizens adopt sustainable behaviors and become part of the solution to the global biodiversity crisis. My question to you is what is Fed Ex’s role in helping the government to address the biodiversity crisis. Certainly, not by shipping prohibited plants and animals across states lines. Let me also add that it is easy to blame, but you vote don’t you? You have the ability as an individual to become more active in seeking sustainable solutions, don’t you? Some things to think about.

    1. Great thougths Joe. No bill of goods from NC, as I’ve yet to start.

      Actually, I don’t disagree at all with your questions. Sustainability is significantly broad and systematic. However, I was simply wanting to bring attention to two issues, infrastructure and energy policy and their impact on business planning.

      Business, government and NGOs all have a responsibility. At times, businesses fail. Non-profits fail. And then, sometimes governments fail. The intent was to bring attention to these matters.

      I vote and vote based on these issues. I am seeking sustainable solutions through the scope of my role at work, at home and in my community. However, I realize, too, the more systematic issues that are a hindrance to all of us.

      Finally, regarding biodiversity, I have had thechance to understand the importance of this work through Conservation International. FedEx is working with them in China on a reforestation project in China, investing in local jobs and the surivival of the giant panda.

      Thanks for the dialogue.

      Brandon Tidwell

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