By the end of this year, a quarter of all the vehicles UPS purchases annually will be powered by alternative fuel or advanced technology, according to Peter Harris, director of sustainability for the transportation and logistics giant. And though that’s just one measure of the company’s far-reaching efforts to promote a sustainable supply chain, it’s an important milestone that speaks to the growing importance of environmentally friendly business practices in the broader industry.
Harris talked about UPS’ company-wide sustainability efforts in an educational session at the Council of Supply Chain Management Professionals’ (CSCMP) Annual Conference Monday afternoon. Titled “Sustainability and Supply Chain,” the session was presented by the Wall Street Journal and hosted by Robert Welch, the Journal’s vice president of enterprise media and partnerships.
In a question-and-answer format, Harris and Welch covered UPS’ sustainability efforts across its transportation and facilities operations, pointing to investments in electric vehicle technology, alternative fuels, robotics, and packaging operations, among other areas. Some highlights:
Governmental changes are helping the firm make a dent in its effort to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by encouraging more walking and cycling in cities across Europe. In many places, Harris said, UPS is using walkers and cyclists to handle a large portion of last-mile deliveries, reducing the number of vehicles in operation.
The company continues to invest in alternative fuels, particularly renewable natural gas (RNG). Earlier this spring, UPS agreed to a multi-year purchase of RNG that will reduce greenhouse gas emissions from its ground fleet by more than 1 million metric tons, for instance.
The company will continue to expand its investment in electric vehicles, Harris said, saying that electrification is “the biggest single technology shift we are engaged in right now and will be for the medium-term future.”
Packaging is taking center stage as well. A partnership with right-sized packaging firm Packsize is helping to reduce the company’s use of cardboard and helping it save space in vehicles. The company also has a packaging design and testing lab aimed at developing an eco-friendly packaging program.