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green@work : Magazine : Between Blue & Yellow : Sept/Oct2003

Between Blue and Yellow
Citizen Brown

by Katie Sosnowchik

 

With 2002 revenues of $31.3 billion, UPS is certainly a corporate force to reckon with. But what I find most intriguing is the story behind those dollars and cents figures—the one that tells about the company’s global reach, a brand that is one of the most seen and recognized worldwide. Did you know, for example, that during the course of a year UPS touches the doorstep of 98 percent of the homes in America and reaches customers in more than 200 countries? That 80 percent of the world’s population can be reached by UPS in 48 hours or less? Did you know that in 2002, UPS delivered 3.4 billion packages and documents?

Who says one company can’t make a difference?

When thinking about the potential for change that UPS brings to the global environmental movement, I can’t help but be reminded of a quote attributed to The Body Shop’s Anita Roddick, who said: “If you think you’re too small to have an impact, try going to bed with a mosquito.”

Okay, so UPS may be a little bigger than your average mosquito, but the description is apt. Because when UPS decides it wants to do something positive for the community—be it in social reform in a particular neighborhood or environmental stewardship on a national level— its impact is felt far and wide.

UPS is a prime example of a company whose business model necessarily makes the business case for sustainable development. Though it has recently expanded into many new business segments, its primary business remains getting things from Point A to Point B. To make a profit, it must do so with maximum efficiency. What that means, among other things, is using less fuel, optimizing delivery routes and using less virgin materials in its packaging.

Additionally, to maintain its leadership position in the field, it must continually look for the “next best thing” to maximize efficiencies already achieved. That means exploring alternative fuel options, innovative packaging materials and improved distribution methods. All things that, in the end, positively impact the environment.

“We have realized, because of our size and because of our scale and scope, we can try new things—things that are not just good for the environment, but good for our business, too,” explains UPS chairman and CEO Michael Eskew in this issue’s cover story. “It’s got to make sense for the business; we have to be able to think that, maybe not next week and maybe not next year, but in the long-term, this is the thing that’s going to make us a better company and a better corporate citizen.”

UPS defines the great American success story. It’s a legend that thousands of entrepreneurs dream of: a $100 loan back in 1907 that has since translated into a multi-billion-dollar global operation. The fact that it conducts business ever mindful of its social responsibility makes it a goal especially relevant in our contemporary business climate, where we need companies like UPS to maintain vigilance over the footprint it is leaving on the world.

Thank goodness Brown is green.


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