The worldwide delivery service UPS today revealed what it says are aggressive greenhouse gas emissions reduction targets and future additions of more alternative fuel and advanced technology vehicles to its global fleet. The company discusses the goals in its latest corporate sustainability report, which also outlines the logistics giant’s efforts to generate 25 percent of its electricity from renewables. The company has also embarked on an initiative to reduce emissions from its worldwide ground operations 12 percent by 2025. UPS says these goals were developed using methodologies developed by organizations partnering on the Science Based Targets global initiative.
Those are quite ambitious initiatives for UPS, which says as of last year, clean energy accounts for only 0.2 percent of its electricity consumption. The company’s quest to incorporate vehicles not fueled by gasoline or diesel within its fleet may be an easier goal to attain. The company claims that 19.6 percent of its ground fuel will be derived from sources other than fossil fuels, and seeks to boost that ratio to 40 percent by 2025. When it comes to UPS’s fleet, the $60 billion company hopes to boost the total number of new vehicles running on alternative fuels to 25 percent, which would be a healthy increase from its current estimate of 16 percent.
UPS’s recent investments indicate that the company is on track to meet these goals. Earlier this year, UPS revealed that it would boost its onsite solar power generation capacity five-fold across eight of its U.S. facilities at the cost of $18 million. As of its latest sustainability report, UPS has yet to share how the company could leapfrog from generating less than 1 percent of its power requirements to one-quarter of its electricity needs in eight years.
But it is the potential transformation of its global delivery fleet where UPS generates the most excitement. Two years ago, the company announced it would aim to drive a collective one billion miles via advanced technology vehicles and renewable sources of fuels by sometime this year; the company’s “rolling laboratory” of 7,200 alternative fuel vehicles attained that goal last summer. The company’s constant experimentation with various fuels most recently included the testing of a hydrogen fuel cell-powered truck.
As is the case with many companies, UPS future fuel and emissions savings may come from innovations that did not seem possible only a few years ago. Emissions generated by its air fleet represent a stubborn hurdle for many transportation companies, but UPS says it is investing in software and updated aircraft that will help the company chip away at its carbon footprint. UPS, as is the case with airlines, has little choice but to pin its hopes on more efficient airplanes, as the promise of biofuels shows little promise in scaling up across the global aviation sector.
Another challenge for the transportation and logistics sectors is that “last mile” of delivery, when goods finally are delivered to end consumers. In its most recent sustainability report, UPS floated the idea of using a person’s exact GPS location, rather than a physical street address, to hand over that package. Could you soon receive that coveted package when you’re at the local Starbucks while “Brown” is dropping off goods at adjacent stores? That may seem farfetched, but the point is that UPS appears to be open about finding new ways to boost overall efficiency by going beyond the conventional fossil fuels vs. renewables debate.
Watch for UPS to surprise us in the next few years. The company has a long history of not only announcing, but delivering, on its sustainability goals, and is spending aggressively on that front. To date, the company says it has invested more than $750 million on alternative fuels and advanced technologies infrastructure since 2009.
Image credit: kenjonbro/Flickr
Leon Kaye has written for 3p since 2010 and become executive editor in 2018. His previous work includes writing for the Guardian as well as other online and print publications. In addition, he's worked in sales executive roles within technology and financial research companies, as well as for a public relations firm, for which he consulted with one of the globe’s leading sustainability initiatives. Currently living in Central California, he’s traveled to 70-plus countries and has lived and worked in South Korea, the United Arab Emirates and Uruguay.
Leon’s an alum of Fresno State, the University of Maryland, Baltimore County and the University of Southern California's Marshall Business School. He enjoys traveling abroad as well as exploring California’s Central Coast and the Sierra Nevadas.