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When people talk or think about sustainability, they often consider activities related to becoming more environmentally friendly. And while this is undoubtedly a good start, if we’re going to talk about true, long-term sustainability, we need to look at the bigger picture.
Beyond “going green,” sustainability for UPS means guaranteeing the safety and wellbeing of all our employees. It means making sure everyone in the company is empowered to have their voice and opinions heard. It means optimizing our network to be as smart and efficient as possible; and it means giving back to the people and communities we are proud to serve.
But why do such things separately? UPS has built its reputation on delivering the complete package, and we take exactly the same approach when it comes to sustainability.
Let’s start with what matters most — our people.
Our employees, customers, suppliers and community stakeholders touch all parts of the global economy and come from all walks of life. It’s only right that our approach to sustainability should do the same.
Sustainability is not just about products and solutions, and it’s not just about individuals and small groups; there are changes we need to make as a global community, and UPS is committed to ensuring that UPS staff, customers and the communities we serve are empowered to make long-lasting change.
Internal initiatives such as our business resource groups (BRGs) ensure people from all backgrounds have a voice in this global company. From humble beginnings in 2006, the BRGs have gone global, with chapters across the world supporting groups such as millennials, the LGBT community and women in leadership.
UPS employees also dedicate their time volunteering in the communities in which the company operates. In 2011, we set ourselves the ambitious target of collectively undertaking 20 million hours of volunteer work around the world by the end of 2020 — a target we’re on track to meet.
“UPS has built its reputation on delivering the complete package, and we take exactly the same approach when it comes to sustainability.”
And we make sure we support causes and organizations that share the same values we do, one example being the Redress Design Awards, the world’s largest sustainable fashion design competition. The e-commerce boom has allowed customers to take their offline clothes shopping experience online which, while convenient, raises some very legitimate questions in terms of sustainability for the future.
The organizers of the awards, which UPS has sponsored since 2011, work to educate emerging fashion designers around the world about sustainable design theories and techniques to drive growth toward a circular fashion system.
Fleet vehicles make the majority of UPS’s 21.9 million package and document deliveries every day. With so much of our business globally done on the ground, we know we need to transform the way we operate.
During the past decade, we have invested more than $1 billion in alternative fuel and advanced technology vehicles and infrastructure globally, with more than 10,300 such vehicles in our fleet today. In October, we announced a $450-million investment in alternative fuel technology, which includes the purchase of more than 6,000 natural gas-powered trucks. And in January, we announced a commitment to purchase 10,000 electric vehicles from vehicle manufacturer Arrival.
From our perspective here in Asia Pacific, our region is home to more than a third of the global population. Some 25,000 islands, with and a combined population greater than that of the United States, make up Indonesia and the Philippines alone. So when it comes to logistics, if we are to meet the modern requirements of global trade, air travel is inevitable.
“During the past decade, we have invested more than $1 billion in alternative fuel and advanced technology vehicles and infrastructure globally, with more than 10,300 such vehicles in our fleet today.”
To many, planes are a tough sell within the context of sustainability. But since 2005, UPS Airlines has reduced its carbon intensity by 13 percent through strategies focused on our aircraft fleet and weight, as well as aviation procedures.
And speaking of deliveries by air, when we talk about the logistics industry today, it doesn’t take long before someone brings up the subject of drones.
Drones undoubtedly have the potential to completely change the way our industry works, especially from a sustainability perspective. When UPS Flight Forward received the U.S. government’s first full approval to operate as a drone airline, it marked the latest chapter in a series of innovations that will culminate in less miles driven, less congestion, less emissions and potential life-saving benefits.
Sustainability is a key message pretty much every company on the planet has managed to add to its marketing mix. As a company that prides itself on solving problems, it’s therefore up to us to help our customers achieve their sustainability goals by providing solutions that allow them to keep their customers happy while at the same time minimizing their carbon footprint.
UPS Carbon Neutral enables any company that signs up to offset greenhouse gas emissions from shipments of any size through regenerative projects such as environmental conservation and reforestation, thus achieving carbon neutral shipping.
“In Asia Pacific, we work with more than 200 different pickup and delivery partners to help reduce missed deliveries and return trips, thereby reducing congestion and pollution in dense urban centers.”
Again the benefits of this are multi-faceted, and not just limited to being environmentally friendly in the traditional sense.
Investing in reforestation also cleans water, protects against erosion and mudslides and builds resiliency by creating jobs — yet another example of how we combine the sustainability needs of our customers to support the development of the community.
Finally, we’re not afraid to admit we don’t have all the answers, and where there are gaps in the services we offer, we embrace partnerships with organizations that share our vision.
We’re forming these partnerships all over the world. For example, in Asia Pacific, we work with more than 200 different pickup and delivery partners to help reduce missed deliveries and return trips, thereby reducing congestion and pollution in dense urban centers.
In the U.S., we tap into a huge opportunity in returns and excess inventory by working with Optoro, a reverse logistics solution that minimizes the environmental impact of customers returning their packages. As proven earlier this year on National Returns Day, this trend is more prevalent than ever.
And, after committing to plant 15 million trees by the end of 2020, we are collaborating with environmental organizations in various locations worldwide to make sure we achieve this important goal.
To make the largest difference externally, change often has to begin within our organization. Our people need to trust in the story we’re telling if they are to believe it themselves.
After all, it’s teamwork that makes the dream work.
Longitudes explores and navigates the trends reshaping the global economy and the way we’ll live in the world of tomorrow: logistics, technology, e-commerce, trade and sustainability. Which path will you take?