ESG: Behind the Scenes at Merchants Fleet

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Written By: Eric Goldfisher, Content Manager

Environmental, Social, and Governance (ESG)

Merchants Fleet has the mission of enabling the movement of people, goods, and services freely and responsibly. As the fastest-growing fleet management company in North America, there is a lot going on behind the scenes to make it all happen.

Take a walk through the halls of our Hooksett, NH, or Rosemont, IL offices and you’ll meet the people leading the charge at Merchants. Every department plays a role in pushing Merchants to be a cutting-edge fleet services and technology provider. Whether your fleet needs to acquire vehicles, remarket them, or any of the fleet management in between, Merchants is true end-to-end source for your fleet and mobility needs.

While ESG has always been at the core of what we do at Merchants, it wasn’t until sustainability expert Ted Lague joined as Director of ESG that we built a dedicated team. Ted took the time to sit down with me recently and share what the ESG team does to help Merchants Fleet, our employees, and our clients.

Q: How long have you been working at Merchants Fleet? 
A: I first started working for Merchants in December of 2021. That puts us at right around 10 months.
Q: What about Merchants led you to make the move from your previous roles in corporate sustainability and as a founder of your own environmental company? 
A: It was the opportunity to marry up two of my passions; positively impacting the natural environment + society and working in the transportation industry. I’ve always been a car nerd; I saved up all my money and bought my first car at 12 years old and have every issue of Car & Driver dating back to 1978…much to my wife’s dismay. But what’s especially exciting about Merchants is the opportunity to accelerate these two passions. Pun fully intended. For instance, roughly one in five vehicles on the road belongs to a fleet, and approximately 29% of emissions in the US can be attributed to the transportation sector… that positions Merchants to do an enormous amount of good for our planet. When I started my previous company, MONA Environmental, I built it around solving specific problems facing our planet and society, and in many ways am now using the same formula here at Merchants.
Q: You’re the first person hired to directly manage ESG at Merchants. What role do you and your team play in our organization’s ecosystem?   
A: So, you’re saying I’m a big deal? Said no one of me ever…[laughs] What role do we play in Merchants ecosystem? The ethos I’m instilling at Merchants is this: Merchants does well by doing good for our planet, our people, and our communities. So, in short, my team is ensuring Merchants continues to do well by doing good. Typically, we focus on the non-financial metrics such as carbon emissions, energy generation, diversity, equity, inclusion, and philanthropic giving. Done right, this non-financial lens aligns to our stakeholders’ values and in turn benefits Merchants’ long-term value and, you guessed it…financial success and wellness. The magic of it all is if you DO GOOD and listen to the demands of your stakeholders, success will ultimately follow. How many times has someone said: “I want to purchase something from that company because they put profit first?” Now how many times have you heard someone say: “I want to purchase something from that company because they put the planet and people first?” I know what company I’d rather work with and for. Well, that’s my Ted Talk for the day, I’m here all week folks. Wait there’s more interview questions!?
Q: What does your team do day-to-day to support Merchants employees and Merchants Clients?  
A: Besides cracking the best jokes in town at the expense of myself? Well, employees and clients are two big stakeholders of ours.Thinking about our people (I.e., employees) – we try to engage employees in their work and align their daily tasks with a purpose that is both motivational and impactful, such as reducing global carbon emissions. Additionally, we work closely with HR on programs that create work environments that are diverse and inclusive. We want Merchants to be a place where ALL our people feel comfortable and motivated to do good for the world and Merchants, day after day. Clients dovetail into that, since we empower employees to share our value and the meaning behind ESG with our clients, and in turn support their internal initiatives. Frankly, clients are driving a big part of the demand for ESG right now. We are being asked by clients to not only see their companies as stakeholders, but the world as a stakeholder as well.
Q: With so much experience in sustainability and innovation, can you tell me about a time where the ESG team delivered innovation to Merchants and its clients?  
A: I’d say one of the coolest things I’ve done has been challenging our employees to build ESG into their lives with the ESG Giveaway. We are incentivizing employees to give back to their communities through volunteering, recognizing their peers, and submitting an innovative ideas to benefit our planet, communities and people – with two $12,000 prizes. Giving everyone a voice to speak and let their innovations be heard has been amazing, and we have already added quite a few of their ideas to our 2023 business plan, which will ultimately benefit our clients as well. To date, we’ve had over 500 hours of volunteering submissions, and 1,400+ peer-to-peer celebrations, with over 53% of the company participating in the challenge.
Q: You haven’t quite hit your first year in fleet, but what’s your favorite fleet story so far? 
A: It’s hard to narrow it down, but honestly the most rewarding one has been seeing the submissions from what our people have done to give back to the community through the ESG giveaway. Flipping through the catalog of pictures submitted (a requirement of the volunteering submission), you can’t help but feel the goodness from our people. It’s wonderful knowing that they are people you work with, too – I’m very proud of our people.
Q: As the face of ESG at Merchants, what do you want the other departments in Merchants to know about your team? 
A: We’re here to support them in any way we can to push our ESG agenda forward. More importantly, ESG covers all facets of the company. Everyone in Merchants has a part to play in ESG and making an impact on our people, people and communities. If any employee isn’t sure how to take action, my door is always open to have a conversation. The more people that take part, the better for our company, clients and world alike.
Q: You’ve had many great roles in building environmental awareness and sustainability, how is Merchants continuing this trend for you in your career?  
A: I’m brand new to the fleet industry, and in many ways the path that led me here, was driven by the impact I can make. I thankfully discovered early on what my values were, and I’ve tried to build a career around those values, to bring them to life. As I progress in my career, inspiring others to do the same has come into greater focus, and that aspect in particular has been especially rewarding. When you can do something that day after day brings value to your values, while helping others to do the same…that’s where you find eternal fountain of joy, baby.
Q: What would you say is your favorite part about working at Merchants Fleet? 
A: So far, my favorite part aside from the impact, is the freedom to be me, and really just bring my whole self to work. My best work is done in tandem with a good laugh, and by having the freedom to be me, I have the luxury of having those laughs on the regular.
Q: What’s your favorite local area restaurant in the Hooksett or Manchester areas?  
A: The Foundry is a great farm-to-table in Manchester. Their brunch is always top notch.
Q: What is your favorite movie of all time? 
A: I’m a big fan of National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation especially as eggnog season quickly approaches, but my number one has to be Into the Wild.
Q: Merchants is big on fur babies. Do you have any pets to add our to the growing list? Any sports teams you’re rooting for? 
A: As an ESG loving gearhead, my favorite sport right now has to Extreme E. It doesn’t hurt that I got to spend a couple of days with Emma Gilmour recently (McLaren’s first female driver), and that she is a pretty awesome human being.

See more about Merchants’ commitment to ESG and read our ESG report on our Corporate Sustainability page.

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