UPS Expands Carbon Offset Program Internationally

Building on its record of innovation in the delivery sector, UPS announced it has expanded its carbon offset program internationally to 35 countries.  In addition to its record of issuing sustainability reports the last seven years, its Smart Pickups program to reduce fuel consumption, and cleaner-burning delivery trucks, UPS offers customers the option to offset their packages’ carbon footprint.

The carbon offset program started as a pilot last fall, giving customers options to pay a flat rate of 5 cents to 75 cents based on the type of transport used to deliver the package and whether it is a domestic or international parcel.  Yesterday, I had the chance to speak with  Rimas Kapeskas, Marketing Director for UPS, and he said that the overwhelmingly positive feedback from customers during the pilot convinced the company to expand the program to almost all of its customers.

For now the international carbon offset option is available in 35 countries in which UPS operates. These markets account for 85% of the company’s business.  Kapeskas explained that while the goal is to expand the program to more countries, for now the option is in countries that have an information technology infrastructure that can support the program.  UPS will target offsets certified to the “Gold Standard,” “Voluntary Carbon Standard” or “Climate Action Reserve,” and the carbon offset process is certified by The CarbonNeutral Company. The calculator is based on the Greenhouse Gas Protocol, the most widely used international standard for carbon accounting and reporting.

Some may ask:  if the price for offsetting a package’s carbon footprint is so nominal, why not just roll the cost into the price of the shipping?  Kapeskas replied:

We’ve found through engaging our customers that people have strong opinions about the environment and sustainability.  Some would say offsets are not the answer, others insist that we only focus on green energy.  We want our customers to know that carbon offsets are just one way companies and their customers can help to mitigate the effects our actions have on the environment.

One such customer is Mercedes Electric Supply, a Florida-based distributer of electrical equipment, including energy efficient fixtures and bulbs, who decided to use UPS’s carbon neutral shipping program. By allowing her customers the option to pay the small carbon offset fee, Mercedes LaPorta, the company’s Cuban-born immigrant female owner, has increased her credibility as a sustainable company owner and operator, giving her a competitive edge as a female entrepreneur in a challenging business environment.

Some of us may dismiss UPS’ efforts, stating that the only option is to buy and sell locally.  But that sentiment ignores the fact that international trade is a huge part of the global economy.  Thanks to services like Amazon and eBay, many people have been able to make a living—often selling used items, mind you—selling used goods or handmade products, providing opportunity that was unthinkable 15 years ago.

Stay tuned: UPS will release its next sustainability report in two weeks.

Based in Fresno, California, Leon Kaye has written for TriplePundit since 2010. He has lived across the U.S., as well as in South Korea, Abu Dhabi and Uruguay. Some of Leon's work can also be found in The Guardian, Sustainable Brands and CleanTechnica. You can follow him on Twitter (@LeonKaye) and Instagram (GreenGoPost).

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