A Sustainability Success Story!

Pratt_Gayle New

Gayle Pratt

Director of Global Fleet Services, Ecolab

Con­grat­u­la­tions! We were delight­ed when we learned that you had been select­ed as one of NAFA’s Sus­tain­able Fleet Award win­ners. Tell us about the sub­stance of the award.

NAFA’s Sus­tain­abil­i­ty Award is a very impor­tant achieve­ment for Eco­lab because it rec­og­nizes our efforts to devel­op an inno­v­a­tive and effec­tive pro­gram for our fleet. We are proud to accept this award and recog­ni­tion.

Sus­tain­abil­i­ty prin­ci­ples are core to Ecolab’s busi­ness oper­a­tions and to what we pro­vide our cus­tomers.  In 2008, we devel­oped a com­pre­hen­sive fleet sus­tain­abil­i­ty ini­tia­tive aimed at not only reduc­ing our green­house gas emis­sions (GHG), but also improv­ing over­all fleet oper­a­tions by adopt­ing eco-dri­ving prac­tices and focus­ing on safe­ty.  We antic­i­pat­ed addi­tion­al ben­e­fits includ­ing improved dri­ver aware­ness and per­for­mance, a reduc­tion in ener­gy costs and pro­tec­tion against ener­gy price shocks in the future.  We also felt it would help our cus­tomers see us as a respon­si­ble and for­ward-look­ing cor­po­rate cit­i­zen.

What were the steps Eco­lab took to devel­op the sus­tain­abil­i­ty pro­gram?

In 2009, Ecolab’s lead­er­ship coun­cil com­mit­ted to reduce U.S. oper­a­tional green­house gas emis­sions by 20 per­cent per dol­lar sales by 2012 from a base year of 2006. Eco­lab chose to report green­house gas emis­sions reduc­tion per­for­mance via an inten­si­ty mea­sure, based on Net U.S. Sales ($M).  This approach allows the com­pa­ny to con­tin­ue to grow, yet remain focused on ener­gy effi­cien­cy.   We launched a com­pre­hen­sive fleet sus­tain­abil­i­ty pro­gram, estab­lish­ing a project char­ter and assem­bling a cross-func­tion­al team from the thir­teen oper­a­tional divi­sions, envi­ron­men­tal health and safe­ty, the fleet leas­ing sup­pli­er and cor­po­rate com­mu­ni­ca­tions.   Since 2008, the team has incor­po­rat­ed sus­tain­abil­i­ty prin­ci­ples into a revised fleet pol­i­cy, changed vehi­cle mod­els, mea­sured and man­aged the fleet sus­tain­abil­i­ty pro­gram to meet busi­ness and sus­tain­abil­i­ty goals.  Dri­vers at all lev­els of the com­pa­ny also par­tic­i­pate in sur­veys, eco-dri­ver aware­ness and safe­ty train­ing, and con­tin­u­ous feed­back via a fleet web por­tal.  We also pro­vid­ed tools for each busi­ness to fore­cast and deter­mine how to opti­mize their fleet to improve their results.

Ecolab’s U.S. fleet has more than 7,000 vehi­cles includ­ing car­go vans and trucks specif­i­cal­ly upfit­ted to car­ry prod­uct, parts and deliv­er ser­vices to cus­tomers, as well as pas­sen­ger vans, small util­i­ty vehi­cles and sedans deliv­er­ing parts, sales and ser­vice to clients.

Our plans includ­ed right-siz­ing the fleet and redefin­ing vehi­cle busi­ness require­ments.  We revised fleet poli­cies to acquire more fuel effi­cient vehi­cles, focus­ing on procur­ing EPA-cer­ti­fied Smart­Way vehi­cles.  Then we moved from large to inter­me­di­ate, to small vehi­cles; from 8- to 6-, to 4-cylin­der engines in fleet vehi­cles. We selec­tive­ly added hybrid vehi­cle choic­es to the fleet and con­tin­ued acquir­ing flex fuel trucks and vans. We added diesel vehi­cles to the ser­vice fleet where size and car­go capac­i­ty was dif­fi­cult to com­pro­mise.  We pilot­ed vehi­cle changes 6 months to a year, pri­or to full roll out of changes for a busi­ness.

We also changed designs mov­ing from all steel upfit­ting to lighter weight alu­minum and com­pos­ite mate­ri­als in most ser­vice vehi­cle appli­ca­tions.  We changed ser­vice super­vi­sor trucks to small­er, 4-cylin­der util­i­ty vehi­cles.  All 4-wheel dri­ve vehi­cles were replaced by front wheel dri­ve 4-cylin­der vehi­cles except for posi­tions fre­quent­ly dri­ving in moun­tain­ous ter­rain.

We lever­aged the GPS results from one of our divi­sions, using their best prac­tices to engage oth­er divi­sions in enhanc­ing route man­age­ment, reduc­ing idle time and expand­ing ser­vice to clients.

The Eco-dri­ver train­ing pro­vid­ed lessons for col­li­sion-free, envi­ron­men­tal­ly-respon­si­ble dri­ving. Dri­vers learned that con­trol­ling speed, antic­i­pat­ing traf­fic and accel­er­at­ing and decel­er­at­ing smooth­ly real­ly do save fuel.  Safer and smarter dri­ving habits helped reduce Ecolab’s col­li­sion rate per mil­lion miles dri­ven last year by 10 per­cent from 2006.

What effect has Ecolab’s sus­tain­abil­i­ty poli­cies had on its oper­at­ing units in the U.S. and inter­na­tion­al­ly?

 Since 2006 this pro­gram has enabled our U.S. fleet to achieve:

  • A 22 per­cent reduc­tion in GHG emis­sions, nor­mal­ized to sales
  • An 18 per­cent improve­ment in aver­age miles per gal­lon (MPG) per vehi­cle
  • A 12 per­cent absolute reduc­tion in GHG  emis­sions
  • An eight per­cent reduc­tion in fuel con­sumed (1.4 mil­lion gal­lons) while the num­ber of vehi­cles grew one per­cent and total miles dri­ven increased near­ly nine per­cent.

Our pro­gram not only reduced U.S. green­house gas emis­sions, it also decreased our depen­den­cy on petro­le­um-based fuels by improv­ing fleet miles per gal­lon 18 per­cent to-date.  Based on 2011 fuel prices, we avoid­ed $3.1 mil­lion in fuel costs last year.

We took what we learned in the U.S. and in 2010 imple­ment­ed fleet sus­tain­abil­i­ty plans and poli­cies in oth­er regions of the world. We expect to achieve a 15% reduc­tion in GHG emis­sions in those areas by 2015.

No won­der you got the award!

 I am real­ly proud of not just my team which is the admin­is­tra­tion, the man­age­ment, and the pro­cure­ment side, but the busi­ness units.  A cou­ple of busi­ness­es that real­ly stand out in my mind are the ear­ly adaptors….our pest elim­i­na­tion divi­sion with pro­gres­sive lead­er­ship.  I am proud of their abil­i­ty and will­ing­ness to change vehi­cle require­ments to reduce fuel and embrace route man­age­ment. Anoth­er busi­ness, equip­ment care, changed from 1 ton to ½ ton car­go vans and moved to diesel engines. Those changes have had a huge impact low­er­ing fuel con­sump­tion in those busi­ness­es. Some of the changes have made them even more suc­cess­ful, giv­ing them the abil­i­ty to expand and ser­vice more cus­tomers, with the same size fleet.  It has been great.

What do you think it is with­in you that has made you so suc­cess­ful? What is that dri­ve?

 I am a con­tin­u­ous learn­er, and like to apply what I learn to each assign­ment. I have had the oppor­tu­ni­ty to facil­i­tate change in fleet oper­a­tions for sev­er­al dif­fer­ent com­pa­nies in the Mid­west, the West Coast, East Coast and back.  And I’ve even been able to have a career that spans from a small fleet to a large fleet, to a truck­ing, light duty and gov­ern­ment fleet.  All of these fleets were very com­pli­cat­ed with a vari­ety of vehi­cles and upfit­ting.  I am real­ly for­tu­nate right now to be in a role, where we merged with anoth­er 4.5 bil­lion dol­lar com­pa­ny, and our fleet in the glob­al envi­ron­ment is almost dou­bling over night.  I get ener­gized, by these kinds of new chal­lenges. It is nev­er the same in the indus­try we are in. For me, the most reward­ing is to col­lab­o­rate with the busi­ness­es and bring val­ue to facil­i­tate a change that will help their busi­ness suc­ceed.

How do you like to inter­act with your sup­pli­ers? What do you need from them to make your job eas­i­er and to make it clear­er what you expect from them?

 A col­lab­o­ra­tive approach is the best, most­ly because what I know today may not be as up-to-date as what our sup­pli­ers know. I see the world from only my busi­ness prospec­tive. They have so much more that they can bring to the table whether it is ideas, cost sav­ings or strate­gies that they have seen deployed. And there is just a much bet­ter rela­tion­ship when you are able to be upfront, truth­ful, fac­tu­al about every­thing. That is what I expect from a sup­pli­er, as well as a pro­fes­sion­al busi­ness rela­tion­ship. One that brings val­ue to both, but chal­lenges both of us, because what we might be doing today may not be the right approach down the road. I am look­ing for inno­v­a­tive ideas, look­ing for sup­pli­ers to bring solu­tions, and be a part of the solu­tion.


Gayle Pratt is direc­tor of glob­al fleet ser­vices, at Eco­lab, head­quar­tered in Saint Paul, MN.  Since 2004, she has been respon­si­ble for the strate­gic man­age­ment, direc­tion, imple­men­ta­tion, and over­sight of fleet oper­a­tions in more than 70 coun­tries.

Gayle’s career includes 30 years in trans­porta­tion and fleet man­age­ment ser­vices in pub­lic, pri­vate and com­mer­cial fleet oper­a­tions  She is an active mem­ber of NAFA and has served the Asso­ci­a­tion on the board of trustees for more than a decade.






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