UPS has reduced per-piece greenhouse gas emissions despite an increase in business volume.
This story first appeared in The Guardian.
"Companies that don't participate in sustainability will become inherently unsustainable."
Since 1987, when the World Commission on Environment and Development coined the term "sustainable development," the concept of sustainability has infiltrated everything from building design to transportation. Whether it's recycling paper and bottles at a household level or reducing carbon emissions of global corporations, the central ambition remains the same: to "meet the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs."
And as society's needs have grown, so too have people's expectations of how the world's businesses should behave, says Rhonda Clark, chief sustainability officer at UPS: "We can't maintain our business in the future without being responsible and taking into consideration the impacts of our operations. Companies that don't participate in sustainability will become inherently unsustainable."
For UPS, the key has been to integrate sustainability throughout the business.
"Sustainability now informs every investment decision," says Chief Financial Officer Kurt Kuehn. "We know we will continue to invest in our fleet, so we ask how we can do that in a way that is better for the environment, our customers and the bottom line."
UPS has published sustainability reports since 2003, improving the quality of content and level of transparency every year, and it was one of the first U.S.-based companies to report to GRI G4 comprehensive standards in its latest Sustainability Report. The report highlights UPS's progress in 2013 toward its sustainability goals and outlines commitments for the future. One key achievement is the reduction in per-piece greenhouse gas emissions despite an increase in business volume – due in part to its expanded fleet of alternative fuel and advanced technology vehicles.
During 2013, the business also planted more than 1.3 million trees as part of its Global Forestry Initiative and provided $7.5 million in humanitarian relief across 46 countries, helping to build resilient communities through logistics expertise and employee volunteer efforts.
Clark says setting targets is crucial. "Any company can set out to be more efficient, but only when you put a stake in the ground can you hold yourself accountable to stakeholders," she explains. "It demonstrates that the company is committed enough to set a goal, make it public and follow through on the commitments."
In 2013, UPS reached its 2016 goal to reduce carbon intensity from transportation by 10 percent three years early. The company has now raised the bar and set a new goal – to reduce carbon intensity by 20 percent by 2020.
Committed to More™
Sustainability often leads to scaling back. But for UPS, it is the opposite; it's about doing more. UPS's approach to sustainability is focused on the four pillars of environmental responsibility, economic enhancement, empowered people and connected communities.
UPS leverages its logistics expertise, transportation assets and the skills and passions of employees to drive sustainability. "Through delivering packages more efficiently, we can do more for our customers, more for our environment and more for communities around the world," says Clark.
Delivering efficiencies for customers
UPS extends its commitment to sustainability to help customers drive efficiencies while creating better environmental outcomes. Using a third-party verified carbon emissions calculator, UPS carries out a carbon impact analysis to assess customers' impact on the climate. They can then offset the carbon impact of deliveries through UPS carbon neutral shipping.
Visit ups.com/sustainability to read UPS's 2013 Corporate Sustainability Report and to learn more about Committed to More™.