Dr. Allan Yang Discusses U-Haul Sustainability in China

Dr. Allan Yang’s expertise in sustainability is revered and documented throughout U-Haul. Other parts of the world are now taking note, including his native land.

U-Haul Company’s chief sustainability scientist served Phoenix as a city commissioner and mayoral liaison during his recent trip to Chengdu, China, while participating in the 2015 Global Innovation and Entrepreneurship Fair.

U-Haul sustainability expert Dr. Allan Yang and Chengdu Mayor Tang Liangzhi
U-Haul sustainability expert Dr. Allan Yang and Chengdu Mayor Tang Liangzhi

Speaking in his birth city as part of an expert panel, Allan Yang addressed the need for collaborative efforts between industrial and academic sectors as well as sustainable and responsible business practices such as U-Haul Company’s truck and storage sharing model.

“We think our U-Haul business model is an innovative way to solve transportation issues and address environmental issues,” Yang said.

Yang, a second-term board member for the Phoenix Sister Cities program, was tasked with an additional assignment: deliver a letter from Phoenix Mayor Greg Stanton to Chengdu Mayor Tang Liangzhi.

The letter introduced Phoenix’s representatives at the conference (local businessman Jonathan Cottrell joined Yang) and went on to invite Tang to visit the Valley next year to commemorate the 30th anniversary of Phoenix and Chengdu as sister cities.

“It is my hope that we can strengthen our business ties as our two cities work together to build our sister city relationship,” Stanton wrote.

As an invited panelist, Yang’s trip was paid for by the conference and presented him an opportunity to enjoy some of the things he loves most about his homeland – as well as one thing he doesn’t.

“My least favorite part is the 15-hour time difference,” Yang said. “The first couple of days, during the middle of the day it feels like midnight. You just want to go to bed.

“My favorite part is the food … you get true Chinese food. The conference committee is really nice. The city of Chengdu is beautiful. They have a major central avenue in their downtown like Phoenix; brand new high-rise buildings; very nice landscaping; green everywhere; perfect weather there in November. Transportation is a big issue there because it’s growing so fast. The Wi-Fi in public places is much better there. It’s much faster at the Starbucks there than the Starbucks here. And they serve more tea instead of coffee.”

Phoenix Mayor Greg Stanton's letter to Chengdu Mayor Tang Liangzhi
Phoenix Mayor Greg Stanton’s letter to Chengdu Mayor Tang Liangzhi

Yang offered a unique voice at the conference with his grasp of the culture and the economic challenges that lie ahead, specifically in regards to areas where sustainability is needed. The U-Haul model served as his blueprint.

“The purpose was to help Chengdu with its economic development issues,” Yang said. “One of U-Haul Company’s goals is to reduce the carbon footprint in our communities. When we talk about our adaptive reuse projects – purchasing abandoned buildings in cities and repurposing them as U-Haul stores – that’s how we address our contributions.

Truck rentals are a good concept to help solve sustainability issues in the transportation industry. Truck sharing encourages people to share large-capacity vehicles rather than own one. Our studies found the average annual usage for a large-capacity vehicle owner is 4 percent for shipping and towing large items, and 96 percent for commuting to work and everyday trips can be fulfilled by small passenger cars. In the U.S., it doesn’t make sense. So sharing a rental truck with your community is smart.”

Allan Yang joined U-Haul in 2007. He moved from Chengdu to Beijing when he was 7 and came to the U.S. in 1999. Yang holds a PhD and an MBA from Arizona State University, as well as a Corporate Sustainability and Responsibility certificate from Harvard Business School.

Phoenix has 10 official sister cities: Calgary (Canada), Catania (Italy), Chengdu, Ennis (Ireland), Grenoble (France), Hermosillo (Mexico), Himeji (Japan), Prague (Czech Republic), Ramat-Gan (Israel) and Taipei (Taiwan). The Phoenix Sister Cities program facilitates the Youth Ambassador Exchange Program for high school students and initiates visits from business and political leaders, educators and technical experts, and arts and cultural representatives.

Browse our In the Community section of myuhaulstory.com for stories on how U-Haul is implementing sustainability in your community, like the opening of Lindsay Street Park in Atlanta.

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