We recently sat down with Crystal Lassiter, Senior Director, Global Sustainability and Environmental Affairs at UPS to discuss the challenges she’s excited to tackle in her new role.
Read more to discover the innovative solutions UPS is developing to drastically reduce carbon emissions, why community service is so deeply embedded in the company, and which two states Crystal has yet to visit.
What inspires and drives you to work on sustainability?
CL: Prior to working on Global Sustainability and Environmental Affairs, I spent the past 20 or so years at UPS focusing on the maintenance or project management side of plant engineering. During this time, I interacted with sustainability on a per-project basis, whether it be LEED construction, planning energy-efficiency modifications, or alternative fuel station installations. I’m excited about this new role because it allows me to have a new perspective on our sustainability work.
This role has already led to a lot of self-reflection, such as reconsidering my diet and the emissions related to meat consumption. It’s already evident that working in sustainability requires one to “walk the talk”—you can’t just leave your work at the office.
What project are you most excited about right now?
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CL: I’m most interested in the converging issues of urban population growth and the rise of e-commerce. Both of these issues create challenges in our cities that we can already see, including noise pollution, poor air quality and more traffic congestion. Currently, over half of the global population lives in urban areas, and this is only expected to increase.
According to The Road to Sustainable Urban Logistics, a study based on research we conducted with GreenBiz, 95 percent of companies surveyed are concerned about the impact of urbanization on business growth and sustainability. However, only 47 percent feel prepared to address these business challenges. UPS is helping to address these issues by working with cities, customers and other stakeholders. We’ve found that there is no one-size-fits-all solution, as each city has its unique challenges in limiting emissions and improving quality of life for residents.
Our sustainability goals reflect UPS’s work in this area. By 2025, we plan to reduce our greenhouse gas emissions 12% across our global ground operations, even as the business grows and volume increases. To help us get there, we’ve set three targets to advance the use of renewable energy throughout our operations.
By 2025, 25 percent of our total electricity will come from renewable sources, a significant increase from less than 1 percent in 2016. We also plan to purchase 40 percent of our ground fuel from sources other than traditional gas and diesel by 2025, nearly doubling our use of alternative fuels in 2016. And by 2020, a quarter of our annual vehicle purchases will be alternative fuel or advanced technology vehicles – up from 16 percent in 2016.
We’ve already done some interesting work to address urban logistics issues, while also reducing GHG emissions. Through a partnership with the City of Hamburg, we developed a solution to the “no-” and “low-emissions” zones throughout the city. Because vehicles have limited access in these areas during certain times of the day, we had to come up with creative solutions to deliver packages. This led to the development of our eBike, an electrically-assisted tricycle that can be used in dense urban areas. We’re continuing to roll out the eBike and other city logistics solutions, most recently in Munich and Dublin.
Penny Naas, VP and Managing Director of Public Affairs and Sustainability at UPS, will share how UPS has developed solutions for urban logistics at SB’17 Copenhagen. Get in touch with us if you want to collaborate!
If you had unlimited time and resources, what type of work would you want to collaborate with fellow SB Members on?
CL: I’d like to address the challenges of growing e-commerce and solutions that help reconcile consumer expectations for on-demand delivery with the environmental impacts of e-commerce.
The number of people living in cities is expected to skyrocket. With that comes new challenges, like increased traffic congestion and pollution. When consumers want packages delivered as quickly as possible, that will only exacerbate those challenges. This dichotomy between consumers’ increased demand for more sustainable offerings and increased demand for on-demand delivery where and when they want it is an important issue for UPS.
I’d like to work with members to collaborate on solutions to reconcile the growing expectation for rapid delivery with the environmental impacts caused by increased e-commerce and urbanization. It would be invaluable to tap the cross-sector expertise of the network to address these issues.
Can you share something about yourself that would surprise us? Any hidden talents?
CL: I love to travel, not that that's much of a surprise! However, what some people might find surprising is that I’ve travelled to all but two of the United States – Wyoming and Montana.
I go on about four trips every year with friends and family, sometimes alone. My goal now is to visit those two remaining states by 2019.
One of the things I appreciate from travelling is that I’m able to develop my own opinions and knowledge of various parts of the world, rather than relying on what I see through media.
Why is your participation in the SB Member Network important?
CL: SB does a great job connecting people and companies. In addition to what we gain from the content Sustainable Brands publishes or features at conferences, it’s so valuable to be able to hear from other companies outside of our industry or region.
This allows us to keep our finger on the pulse of critical sustainability issues and what’s important to UPS’s customers and stakeholders around the world. The sustainability issues we're all facing are too big for any one organization to tackle alone, and Sustainable Brands helps us stay abreast of issues and find ways to collaborate on shared solutions.
It's very powerful to work with peers who share solutions and lessons learned across companies and industries. Meeting my peers at conferences and member meetings has been valuable in that it allows us to share solutions and build direct relationships. This typically leads to other ways we can work together and support each other’s work.
What do you work on in your free time?
CL: During my free time, I volunteer for an organization, Our House, that I was introduced to by a UPS colleague. This organization provides housing for mothers or homeless families with newborns. They allow families to stay at the center and also provide medical treatment, education, and work programs for parents. Given my background in engineering, I participate on their Facilities Committee.
I’m grateful that UPS supports employee volunteerism and encourages us to give back to our communities. On September 28th, we kicked off our 15th annual Global Volunteer Month. During the month of October, UPSers around the world will contribute 335,000 volunteer hours to 240 community service events in their local communities.
UPS’s commitment to community service stems from our founder, Jim Casey, who was very involved in giving back to the community. I’ve been at UPS for 21 years now, and every year, even before the annual Volunteer Month began, I’ve done some type of volunteer work with the company.
Aside from the established volunteer month, UPS provides immediate and long-term humanitarian support, particularly for the very recent hurricanes throughout the Caribbean and southeastern U.S. We’re able to provide our logistics technologies to support emergency aid, partnering with global relief organizations.
Anything else you'd like to share with fellow SB Members?
CL: I look forward to collaborating with other members on solutions – together, we’re better.