For more than four decades, World Environment Day has symbolized the need for global action to protect our planet. At UPS, we are constantly working on ways to operate in a more sustainable manner and help our customers achieve their sustainability goals. World Environment Day is symbolic of our commitment to balance the risks associated with change and the need for innovative solutions to better serve our customers.
We recognize and embrace our unique opportunity to tackle some of the world’s most pressing environmental challenges. As UPS delivers 18 million packages each day, we are collaborating with businesses, customers and cities across the globe. We minimize our environmental impact through sustainable, interconnected systems built on vast amounts of data and technology, and by working together to reimagine what is possible.
We Can’t Go It Alone
Sustainability has always been an integral part of UPS’s business model. However, with the world increasingly feeling the effects of climate change and pressures from population growth, it is apparent that we must work together to address these challenges. I have witnessed firsthand how our company’s public-private partnerships are turning sustainability risks into opportunities for growth, learning and innovation. Through these collaborations, we are finding the equilibrium between the pace of change that is right for business and the pace of change that is right for society.
To reduce our fleets’ emissions in Europe and deliver on our commitment to the European Union’s Freight Electric Vehicles in Urban Europe (FREVUE) project, we are in the process of deploying 68 electric vehicles in London. While this has not only helped us advance our goal toward an all-electric fleet in central London by 2017, it also required us to work closely with the local power network provider to secure the infrastructure needed to support our alternative fleets’ recharging requirements. Through the project in London, we became both a logistics provider to our customers and energy provider to our own fleet. Partnerships like this help us develop insights into how – and when – sustainable solutions can scale.
The challenges we face in delivering solutions in urban environments do not center solely on our fleets’ emissions; we also proactively form relationships with the cities in which we operate to address challenges associated with congestion. Recently, we worked closely with the city of Hamburg to introduce electrically-assisted tricycles, or Cargo Cruisers, into our fleet. Each day, packages for delivery are brought into the city in large containers and Cargo Cruisers then travel through the city completing the deliveries, therefore reducing traffic and improving air quality. With Hamburg’s focus on expanding pedestrian-friendly environments, this was a mutually beneficial opportunity for UPS and Hamburg to test the Cargo Cruiser program. With the successes experienced so far, we are expanding this project to Frankfurt and also beginning to work closely with some other cities on similar concepts. As a result, the communities where we deliver and pick up shipments will experience benefits such as an increased capacity for green spaces and pedestrian areas, better air quality and less traffic.
Creating an Interconnected System to Drive Lasting Impact
In addition to forming mutually beneficial collaborations, UPS sees the potential to use network thinking and big data capabilities to help scale sustainable solutions and create lasting impact. For example, our electric vehicles can form part of an energy network or ‘smart grid’ that would determine when best to draw power from the grid in order to ensure that the vehicles not only leave fully charged in the morning, but also that demand on the grid is flattened to avoid costly ‘spikes.’ Our vehicles could even feed power back into the grid at times when it is necessary to support others.
In today’s world, sustainable solutions are becoming an imperative. At UPS, one of the biggest challenges we face is balancing the risks and requirements of driving innovations, while moving forward at a pace that is right for society. It is through our collaborations and the support of our interconnected systems that we are able to create solutions that are built to ensure lasting impact. As World Environment Day comes to an end, I encourage all companies to take a closer look at their business networks to identify like-minded partners who can help drive sustainable impact forward, and take meaningful action toward protecting our environment.
Peter Harris is the director of sustainability for UPS