With reports of U.S. Postal Service (USPS) disruptions reaching a fever pitch, business leaders are finally beginning to speak out and demand a return to normal operations. So far, the only organized group to step up is the nonprofit advocacy organization American Sustainable Business Council (ASBC), but in the long run this group could wield considerable influence through its member network of more than 200,000 businesses.
The ASBC member list is currently dominated by mid-sized and smaller companies in the areas of sustainable consumer products and renewable energy, yet these businesses’ influence over public policy reflects growing public support for sustainable policies. Among the top level “Platinum” members are well known brands including Patagonia and Ben & Jerry's.
Late week, the ASBC began to rally its members in support of the USPS after multiple reports surfaced newly appointed Postmaster General Louis DeJoy has taken steps resulting in substantial delays in mail delivery.
The firestorm of attention forced the U.S. Senate to hold a hearing on August 21, during which DeJoy testified about his actions. He also appeared in front of a House committee yesterday, during which he pushed back hard against accusations that the changes he was overseeing were a plan to sabotage the USPS.
Much of the attention has involved the impact of DeJoy’s reported actions on mail delivery for the November 3 elections. As a protective measure against COVID-19 infection, many more voters than usual are expected to use mail-in ballots.
However, that is not the only impact. DeJoy’s reported actions have also put small businesses at risk.
In the run up to last week’s Senate hearing, ASBC drew attention to the issues at hand by issuing an open letter to the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee.
While noting the potential impact on the November 3 elections, the ASBC letter also points out that the USPS provides a level playing ground for countless small businesses.
The USPS provides “a crucial service to all businesses, ensuring access to fair pricing through all geographic regions in the United States for its courier service,” ASBC explains.
ASBC also notes the disproportionate impact of delivery delays on rural communities.
“As businesses and customers rely heavily on USPS mail service, most especially in ‘last-mile’ service in more rural areas, the ASBC seeks assurance that whichever operational decisions were made that affected service be halted permanently,” the letter urges.
ASBC followed up last week by exhorting its members to sign a petition calling for DeJoy’s actions to be rolled back, and for the USPS to receive full funding.
The petition highlights the impacts on U.S. businesses in the context of the global economy.
“Nearly half the entire planet’s mail flows through the United States Postal Service. Both as a domestic and global courier service, the post office is an impressive and necessary institution and provides a critical service for businesses around the world,” the petition notes.
“The USPS delivers to 160 million residential and business addresses six days a week, with an inclusive pricing model designed to meet the needs of all kinds of business budgets,” it continues, adding that for-profit services through FedEx and UPS are “simply cost prohibitive for many small businesses.”
“The USPS provides every American address with the same equal service with equitable pricing,” the petition emphasizes.
That goes for large companies as well as small businesses. As the petition notes, FedEx piggybacks its deliveries on the postal service’s trucks. Amazon entered into a “last mile” contract with USPS earlier this year, and UPS entered into a similar agreement with the Postal Service that dates back to 2012.
Not incidentally, DeJoy’s stock option holdings in Amazon have also come under scrutiny, in addition to other financial entanglements.
If any three leading corporations are in position to speak up for USPS, they are FedEx, UPS and Amazon.
All three have all been working overtime on their corporate social responsibility profiles on a wide range of issues.
UPS has been focusing on the circular economy for a number of years, partly through a partnership with a zero waste company called Loop. That partnership networks UPS with sustainable brands like Seventh Generation, in addition to legacy brands like Tropicana and Clorox among many others.
UPS is also investing in zero emission technology, as is FedEx.
FedEx was an early adopter of electric trucks, with demonstration projects dating back to 2011. In 2018 the company began stepping up its fleet electrification efforts with bulk orders for vehicles and charging stations.
As for social issues, in 2017 UPS announced “the largest CEO-driven business commitment to advance diversity and inclusion within the workplace.”
Considering their reliance on the USPS and the disproportionate impacts on small businesses and consumers — including veterans who rely on the post office to deliver their medications — the allegations against DeJoy should have Amazon, FedEx UPS and other companies running down the halls of public discourse with their hair on fire.
So far only ASBC members are carrying the torch. Amazon, FedEx, and UPS — and the rest of corporate America — need to step it up and put real action behind their words.
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Image credit: Lynn Wray Dillard/Pixabay
Tina writes frequently for TriplePundit and other websites, with a focus on military, government and corporate sustainability, clean tech research and emerging energy technologies. She is a former Deputy Director of Public Affairs of the New York City Department of Environmental Protection, and author of books and articles on recycling and other conservation themes.
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