How UPS leveraged its Eco-Responsible Packaging Program

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Challenge: To satisfy the needs of its increasingly eco-conscious customers, United Parcel Service of America began working on ways to reduce the climate impact of its transportation services while still getting customer packages from point A to B. Before 2009, UPS didn't offer an option for sustainable packaging, let alone quantify for customers the lessened environmental impact of a UPS solution.

Solution: In April 2010, UPS executives launched its Eco Responsible Packaging Program. Because packaging is one of the top environmental concerns among UPS users—in segments like high-tech—UPS executives felt their best bet would be to focus on materials.

“Customers are often skeptical about programs like offsets and carbon calculation, so it is critical to have credibility,” said Scott Wicker, VP-sustainability and corporate plant engineering at UPS. “UPS carbon neutral shipping has been verified by Société Générale de Surveillance (SGS), an inspection, testing and verification company.”

In October, UPS started offering a carbon neutral shipping option and launched a separate micro site for it with the help of interactive agency T3, Austin, Texas. This new UPS shipping service, which costs as little as five cents extra per package, offsets the carbon dioxide associated with the packages it transports and reassures UPS customers wanting to “go green” that UPS can handle the task.

UPS didn't stop there. Wicker said the neutralization process is also certified by the CarbonNeutral Co. and is within SGS' Greenhouse Gas protocol. This process is supplemented by a UPS proprietary system that captures real-time shipment data and the means used to transport the goods—by plane, truck, etc. UPS also pledged on its Web site to match all carbon offsets purchased for the first $1 million through 2010.

“We recognize that we are our customers supply chains and, in order for them to calculate their own impact, they need to work with us to figure out how to measure that impact credibly and accurately,” Wicker said. “We're a global company, and we recognize our impact. … Being a responsible company is part of our culture.”

UPS didn't waste time marketing both initiatives, launching separate microsites for each.

In addition, Wicker was asked to speak as one of several panelists at the New York Stock Exchange's inaugural Earth Day event on April 22, an invitation that identified UPS as a company that values eco-friendly initiatives and is ahead of the curve.

Results: While UPS wouldn't release sales figures, Wicker said they have received “very positive” feedback from customers. By introducing sustainable methods and shifting its focus to the environment, UPS marketing teams have been able to hone a congruent marketing message to better tell their story to their clients. The Eco-Responsible Packaging Program has put the engineering, automotive, marketing, communications and international partners of UPS in the same room and unified them on the message of “sustainable.” “We believe in using our resources wisely and responsibility. It's a part of our business strategy,” Wicker said.

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