The New Climate for Ever-Evolving Technology: Q&A with Patrick Browne, Director, Sustainability, UPS

December 11, 2019
  • John Hodges

    Former Vice President, BSR

Artificial intelligence. Autonomous vehicles. Sustainable fuel technologies. New and disruptive technologies are being adopted across all industries, making nearly every company—from agriculture to logistics—a tech company. This development is just one factor contributing to ‘the New Climate for Business,’ the theme of the BSR Conference 2019, which took place in San Jose, California last month. At the conference, UPS Director of Sustainability Patrick Browne joined us to share how UPS, as a logistics company, is adapting to the new climate of ever-evolving technology.

I had a chance to connect with Patrick to dive deeper into the types of new technologies UPS has deployed, the impact they have had so far, and plans to further integrate tech into their sustainability strategy for 2020 and beyond.

How is new technology playing a role in UPS sustainability efforts?

UPS is using innovative approaches to leverage new and disruptive technologies for an environmental benefit. Skyrocketing e-commerce is increasing demand for logistics and delivery services. The challenge for UPS is to meet this need and grow our business without significantly growing our carbon footprint.

We use a range of technologies to help improve the efficiency of our operations. For example, investments in ORION, our groundbreaking route optimization software, helps UPS determine the most efficient delivery route each day. ORION is essential to reducing emissions by minimizing UPS’s total miles driven. In the United States alone, ORION enables us to avoid 100 million miles and 10 million gallons of fuel each year—translating into 100,000 tons of emissions.

Why is it important to leverage new technology in addressing UPS’ energy use?

Our business sits at the intersection of disruptive trends, such as rapid urbanization and e-commerce growth, and associated challenges, such as congestion and climate change. At UPS, we’re embracing these trends and innovating to shape a future in which more people prosper, enterprises run more efficiently, and resources are conserved for future generations.

New technology allows UPS to stay on the cutting edge of sustainability. We’re investing in a range of technologies that could help reduce the environmental impact of last mile delivery, address urban congestion, and optimize daily routes. These shared value initiatives are good for the environment, our customers, and our bottom line.

What new, upcoming technologies is UPS looking into to achieve sustainability goals?

UPS is committed to developing and deploying technologies that improve service and enable more efficient operations of our global logistics network. In August, we announced a minority investment in autonomous driving company TuSimple, which is testing self-driving tractor trailers on a route in Arizona to determine whether the vehicles can improve service and efficiency in the UPS network.

We have long believed autonomous technologies would play an important role in the UPS Global Smart Logistics Network and the company’s transformation. We estimate that autonomous trucks will reduce fuel consumption and carbon emissions by 15 percent. The reduction of fuel consumption leads to a reduction in millions of metric tons of greenhouse gases (GHG). We are eager to determine how new technologies like this will help us increase efficiencies and reduce emissions.

What sustainability challenges require collaboration across industries/systemic responses? How is UPS engaging with partners on these issues?

Addressing global threats like climate change requires UPS—and all actors—to collaborate within the value chain and across industries. At UPS, collaboration is within our DNA. One great example is our Rolling Lab—our fleet of more than 10,000 alternative fuel and advanced technology vehicles. Our involvement with BSR’s Future of Fuels working group has helped accelerate our work in this area.

Another example is related to sustainable e-commerce solutions and final-mile deliveries, especially in dense urban areas. Cities are growing more crowded every day, and people are becoming more reliant on deliveries of everyday goods directly to their doorstep. This convenience creates impacts people may not think about—more miles, more fuel, more emissions. So we’re working with customers, cities, vehicle manufacturers, and other partners to create innovative last-mile delivery solutions. We now have around 30 projects underway in cities around the world. To stay up to date on UPS’s sustainability initiatives, you can subscribe to the UPS Horizons newsletter.

Let’s talk about how BSR can help you to transform your business and achieve your sustainability goals.

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