This story is from the 2019 Access Magazine: Innovation for All. Explore more from this issue
Fred Smith

With Innovation, the Possibilities Are Endless

Frederick W. Smith, chairman and CEO, FedEx Corp., shares why it’s important to ensure innovation flows from all, to all.

Fred Smith

In a world driven by the latest tech gadget or app, it’s easy to forget that innovation is not just IT-based. Innovation is for everyone, and it comes from everyone. The urge to innovate runs deep in human nature, and often benefits the entire world.

Innovation is for everyone, and it comes from everyone.

Frederick W. Smith
Chairman and CEO, FedEx Corp.

This issue of Access examines the idea of innovation for all. We looked far and wide — from a farmers’ market in Afghanistan to a Patagonia facility in Nevada — at ways the new is made more accessible to more people.

Of particular focus in this issue is innovation that pertains to 1) jobs and new ways to work; 2) quality of life, especially in areas such as education and transportation; and 3) thoughtful humanitarian solutions to big social issues worldwide.

Let me highlight a few examples from this issue that illustrate those themes.

  • A group of American veterans founded a company called Rumi Spice based on the saffron grown by an Afghan farmer one of the vets had met while on active duty. By directly sourcing the spice from farmers, who had been cut off from international trade for 30 years, the company offered higher-quality saffron to the world and increased demand for it. Imports of saffron from Afghanistan to the U.S. have jumped 700 percent.
  • An educational program called Global Citizen Year gives 18-year-olds the chance to spend a year in a country and culture vastly different from their own. The participants seek out local issues. They listen and learn. They work on solutions with the community. The ultimate goal is to grow new leaders with broader perspectives on social change.
  • The country of Chile has turned itself around — from a debt-ridden dictatorship to one of Latin America’s strongest economies. It happened as a result of people and organizations embracing what they call “inclusive innovation.” Now Chile is capturing the creativity of so many of its entrepreneurial citizens and making it available to industries, environmental initiatives, and its citizens at large.


How many cities our team members have provided safety expertise and hands-on support to more than 1 million children

At FedEx, we believe that connections make us stronger. That’s why our mission is to connect people and possibilities, and through our vast networks we share the rich innovations that flow from such connections.

We seek new ideas everywhere — from our team members and our customers, and within communities we serve. Their inspirations lead FedEx to create new solutions that improve society. Here are a few ways we’re taking the lead in jobs, quality of life, and social issues.

  • Aviation is facing a major pilot shortage due to pilot retirement, industry-wide fleet expansion, and the rising cost of pilot education. FedEx is initiating a new, industry-leading pilot development program to ensure a steady stream of pilots for us and the industry at large. We’re assisting two of our feeder operators with the recruitment and retention of pilots, and we’ve partnered with several universities to attract students to aviation through scholarships and other benefits. Feeder operators will hire entry-level pilots directly from these programs. In essence, we’re not waiting for universities to supply us with pilots — we’re building our own pipeline.
  • According to the World Health Organization, children account for 21 percent of all traffic-related deaths worldwide. With safety a core value of FedEx since its beginning, we are laser-focused on reducing road fatalities among kids. That’s why we’ve invested more than $3 million in safety initiatives and have committed $10 million to Safe Kids Worldwide over several years. And our team members have provided safety expertise and hands-on support to more than a million children in 711 cities around the world.
  • An educational issue many countries face is the need to train young people for Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) jobs. In the U.S., a third of the unemployment rate is due to the gap between skills and open jobs. At FedEx, we recognize the importance of STEM education and are focused on developing the next generation of leaders, particularly among underserved populations. Externally we support organizations such as the National Urban League, Teach for America, and other outreach efforts. Internally, our Employment Pathways program helps train various groups, including women, veterans, and people of color, for in-demand tech and logistics jobs. We also link them to employment through credential programs, even if they choose not to go the traditional college route. It’s all about opening doors for more people and possibilities.

Connecting is what FedEx does every day. We know this ensures innovation flows from all, to all. It’s one of the best ways to open the world to new talent, new ideas, new products … and new solutions for positive social development. As you’ve seen, this issue of Access shows you how innovation for all can come to life.

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