AT UPS, OUR EXPERTS DESIGN PACKAGING TO
PROTECT SHIPMENTS — AND THE ENVIRONMENT
s the aphorism goes, seeing is believing. But it’s fair to say
that sometimes we believe things that we don’t really see.
For instance, some say packaging for transportation always increases a product’s carbon footprint and is bad for the environment.
“That’s one of the biggest and most common misconceptions about
transport packaging,” says Arnold Barlow, manager of sustainability
solutions for UPS. If anything, he says, packaging used in shipping
often contributes the least to harmful emissions, and through various
efforts UPS is working to reduce them even more.
Using the laptop as an example, Barlow says slightly more than
56 percent of all carbon or carbon equivalents related to assembly
and shipment of the computer is in manufacturing. Another 35 percent or so occurs through power consumption by the consumer.
Packaging and transportation accounts for only 8 percent.
Good packaging minimizes environmental impact, Barlow
says, and there are three ways UPS is working to make it even
better. Here’s how:
• First, packaging protects shipments from damage. Broken
items may need to be returned, repaired or destroyed.
Replacement items may need to be shipped. All of which adds to
the carbon output. UPS is committed to avoiding that by helping
customers develop responsible packaging.
• Second, UPS knows that gauging the right amount of packaging material is critical. Excess packaging not only wastes resources,
it increases cube size. In the aggregate, more planes, trucks or railcars—and fuel to power them—will be required when packages are
bigger than they need to be. That’s bad for the environment and for
the shipper’s pocketbook. “It costs your transportation provider
more money, and they’re going to charge you as well,” says Barlow.
• Third, UPS has found that selection of appropriate packag-
ing materials is imperative. “We collect data on the lifecycle
metrics of materials, on greenhouse gases and toxins, on
biodegradability and recyclability of materials,” Barlow says.
“Then an algorithm pulls it all together, so we know which mate-
rial will be better than another.”
The UPS Package Design and Test Lab is in Chicago. There,
engineers apply their expert knowledge to creating packaging solu-
tions in the most environmentally sound and cost-effective way.
Environmental protection is important to a number of stakeholders. UPS is responsive to them all, beginning with its customers—
and their customers—who demand that providers build sustainability into their services. Other stakeholders include a company’s shareholders. More and more they insist that the companies in which
they invest are environmentally responsible. Nongovernmental
organizations are highly important stakeholders, whether they are
entities with worldwide clout or an individual blogging about a
company’s sustainability initiatives. Finally, employees are stake-
holders as well. “They are citizens and consumers,” Barlow says.
“They care about what their company is doing.”
All stakeholders are watching, says Barlow. “That can affect
brand reputation, and we believe it can affect sales.” By some
metrics, top companies that exhibit sound environmental stew-
ardship are twice as profitable as those who don’t. “Is that
because sustainability initiatives cause increased sales, or is it that
companies that are attentive to such things tend to be well man-
aged in all other areas as well?” Barlow asks.
That’s hard to know, but one thing can be seen quite clearly.
UPS is committed to helping companies improve their packaging.
That, you can believe.