UPS 2009 Sustainability Report Focuses on Environmental Achievements

This week UPS released its 2009 Sustainability Report.  The report, which follows the Global Reporting Initiative guidelines, is divided into four main sections:  community, environment, the market, and labor issues.  The century-old package delivery and logistics company has issued sustainability reports since 2003, and its most recent report demonstrates that UPS is doing what it can to drive change in its business sector.

What resonates throughout the entire report is the emphasis the firm has placed on what it can do to minimize its effects on the environment.  Such moves prove to be challenging tasks, given that delivering goods is a fuel-intensive industry.  Whatever one’s take on buying local vs. global may be, the brown trucks will not go away anytime soon, as internet commerce increases while more budding entrepreneurs ditch the office (if the office didn’t ditch them) and try to build a living from making and shipping products from home or a tiny storefront.

Some of UPS’ largest accomplishments include:

  • The company added almost 250 new vehicles running on compressed natural gas, joining a fleet of almost 2000 alternative fuel vehicles.
  • Conscious of the effects of its air fleet, UPS is engaged in a strategy of investing in comparatively young, quiet, and fuel-efficient jets that are cleaner than those of its competitors.
  • While conscious of the debate over biofuels’ effects on the environment, UPS signed memoranda of understanding with two potential aviation biofuel developers.
  • Disclosing more information about its greenhouse gas emissions, reporting scope 1, and 2 emissions for the first time, including nitrogen dioxide, methane, and hydrofluorocarbons.  Some scope 3 emissions are also included in the report.
  • An optional carbon offset service for all packages shipped within the United States, the first in its industry to roll out such a program.

UPS also disclosed how it is working with local communities.  The company committed over US$1.6 billion to small and diverse businesses, donated over US$97 million to charities despite a difficult economic year, and its philanthropic foundation increased its focus on humanitarian aid by offering financial support, logistics expertise, and transportation to non-profit organizations.

Finally, the report is transparent in documenting the improvements that UPS has yet to accomplish.  Inspectors penalized the company over environmental issues at the rate of 1%, a sharp increase from the year before, and other metrics such as water and energy consumption fell short when measured versus revenue—but succeeded when those goals are compared to per 1000 packages sent.  Overall UPS met and exceeded key performance metrics that management had set for the company.

A full report and parsed sections are available on the UPS Sustainability Portal.

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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