UPS Plays to Its Strengths

January 20, 2016


UPS is one of the business community's best advocates for how the private sector can help strengthen communities.

[Editor's Note: This article originally appeared on the UPS Longitudes blog.]

Where do you start? and How do you choose? When it comes to a humanitarian response to global crisis and need, those are important questions facing concerned citizens and corporations today. Speaking at the Points of Light conference in Houston on Oct. 20, 2015, David Abney, chief executive officer of UPS, said the answer for UPS to is to “play to our strengths.”

At UPS, we have a pretty good view of the world.

We see it from ground level, where our people work hand in hand with businesses and organizations of all types on a daily basis. We also see it from high above, where UPS aircraft crisscross the skies, globally connecting people with goods and information.

That perspective convinces me of two things. The first is that, as global citizens, we have never been subject to more world-changing forces.

Everything from connecting technology to diminishing resources … from diverging demographics to the unpredictable forces of nature and the well-being of humanity. All of it coming at us from different directions – at mind-blowing speed.

I’m also convinced of one other thing: the degree of complexity and the urgency of these forces demand a concerted response. The job facing concerned global citizens today is simply too big for any of us to tackle on our own.

That’s why, at UPS, we participate in public-private partnerships and why we stress the importance of volunteerism.

Two big questions for UPS – and for many companies:  Where do you start?…and How do you choose?  

Those are particularly tough questions for a company like ours, which does business in 220 countries and territories. With customers and employees living and working in local communities around the world, any natural disaster … any emergency…any issue of global magnitude quickly becomes a local issue for us.

But while our hearts pull us in different directions, we must follow a strategy that focuses our involvement and support to be most effective.

That strategy is summed up in four words: “play to our strengths.”

Playing to our strengths means taking the experience of our people and the power of our logistics network and bringing them together where they intersect with the work of our NGO partners. 

We focus on areas where our volunteer efforts and philanthropy not only make a difference, but also where they align with our vision, which is to “connect a global community through intelligent logistics networks.”

We believe that when we approach sustainability, humanitarian relief and volunteerism from a position of strength, our employees realize the connection between the skills they apply at work and the contributions they make to society. That discover often ignites a new level of engagement.

We’ve seen the results of this type of collaboration on numerous occasions.

Not long ago, one of our customers in Detroit introduced us to the Wayne County prosecutor, a woman named Kym Worthy. The prosecutor’s office had discovered that more than 11,000 sexual assault kits were sitting in police storage units. Some had been there for decades. Utilizing business process reengineering, which is a skill we use every day to improve efficiency in our operation, we took a hard look at how these kits were processed and handled. Our folks recommended a number of ways to improve integrity, credibility and accountability during the chain of custody.

Wayne County now has a more efficient and reliable way to track evidence of these serious crimes. As a result, more cases are moving through the judicial system and more bad guys are going to jail. Thanks to the success of this public-private partnership in Detroit, we will be using the same skills to spread this program to communities across the nation.

Here’s another example:

The UPS Foundation is working with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees and the World Food Programme to transport critical relief shipments to refugees in Greece and along the border of the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia.

More than 160 metric tons of relief supplies – including food, blankets, sleeping mats and solar lanterns – were shipped on flights funded by The UPS Foundation.

In Brussels, UPS volunteers built benches, tables and baby cradles from wooden pallets and transported them in UPS package cars to a nearby refugee camp.

A third example – right here in Houston, UPS volunteers are teaming up with the Houston Independent School District to help students at the Roderick Paige Elementary School become better readers and learn the finer points of etiquette. … They’re also doing some painting and landscaping at the school.

This is part of our global volunteer force that has committed themselves to 20 million hours of volunteer service by the end of the decade.

I announced that commitment at this conference a year ago, and I’m glad to say we’re making steady and significant progress toward that goal.

I admire our UPS volunteers across the globe. They make me proud to be a UPSer!

And I’m proud of the partnerships we have with so many of you here today. Working together, we can accomplish what none of us can achieve alone.