Ontario fleet finds a new way to go green

by Ron Stang

WINDSOR, Ont. — The largest expedited freight company in Ontario, which has long been an advocate for the environment, has teamed up with a couple of forestry groups in a program called Book a Load, Plant a Tree.

“Choose Thompson to execute your next expedite shipment and, in recognition of your trust, a three-year-old tree sapling (native species only) will be planted each Spring,” the company tells potential customers on its Web site.

Thompson Emergency Freight Systems, with a fleet of 100 trucks – including tractor-trailers, straight trucks and non-commercial vans – and with services largely in Ontario and Quebec, the US Midwest and as far south as Texas, has had a history of community and environmental commitment.

The company, with headquarters in suburban Tecumseh and a secure yard in Milton, has been a member of the SmartWay Transport Partnership, started in 2003 by environmental groups and the EPA. The partnership aims to track and reduce emissions and the use of fuel from the industrial movement of goods.

Last year Thompson celebrated its 30th anniversary.

Spokesman and recruiting manager Mark Bortolorri said company founder and president Michael Ouellette wanted to do something in recognition of that milestone, and so contacted Forests Ontario, a non-profit group that oversees a huge variety of rural and urban natural reclamation sites through tree planting activities.

“He said, ‘Why don’t we plant a tree for a company that books a load with us’?” Bortolotti said. “It’s not the most environmentally friendly industry, and after 30 years of running the highways we’ve certainly made our carbon footprint felt, so this was a little way to give back.”

Thompson has a huge customer base and many loyal customers who have readily embraced this effort. These include many in the US, resulting in the company partnering with a second organization, The Greening of Detroit, which plants trees in inner-city Detroit neighbourhoods.

“We have a lot of American customers and frankly they were asking ‘What about us’?” Bortolorri said.

The Book a Load campaign started last September and so far has raised more than $5,800, the equivalent of 2,000 planted trees.

“The customers really support it,” Bortolotti said. “They’re calling us direct instead of calling third parties and shopping it around.” 

Thompson’s busy fleet offers just-in-time delivery, and has long been driven by the automotive and southern Ontario manufacturing industries.

“But there are other companies, too, like aerospace, anything where it’s time-sensitive and you need a vehicle to pick it up and deliver it tout suite,” Bortolotti said.

Forests Ontario CEO Rob Keen said other corporations have also donated to the organization but believes this is the first transportation company to do so.

“They wanted to give back to the environment, as it were, and do some good social responsibility activities so they felt that tree planting was a good thing to make a contribution towards,” he said.

Forests Ontario works with partners to plant trees, and has a goal of 50 million plantings by 2025.

Partners include conservation authorities, forestry consultants, local stewardship councils, nurseries and First Nations. The agencies in turn work with landowners to determine proper planting sites.

“The contributions Thompson is providing are going more towards larger-scale tree planting,” Keen said. “But when we’re working with corporations, quite often, if they want to do their own tree plantings or contribute through a community tree planting effort, we can have those discussions as well.”

The Greening of Detroit is a similar, if smaller scale, group focused directly on the Motor City.

It reclaims as green spaces former vacant lots, of which Detroit’s inner city abounds. It also trains unemployed young people and adults for jobs in agriculture and landscaping.

“We really admire the corporations such as Thompson that are really looking for an opportunity to be a part of Detroit’s revitalization,” director of development Monica Tabares said.

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