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Organizational Change
Engaging Stakeholders in Sustainability:
3 Lessons from UPS

UPS, the world’s largest package delivery company, boasts some of the highest sustainability scores, credentials and rankings brands can earn, including reducing its total GHG emissions while increasing its shipping volume in 2013. How has the company achieved all this? What can others learn from its success so far? SB was recently invited to UPS HQ in Atlanta for the company’s annual Global Forestry Event — and we gained some insights:1. Start with low-hanging fruit

UPS, the world’s largest package delivery company, boasts some of the highest sustainability scores, credentials and rankings brands can earn, including reducing its total GHG emissions while increasing its shipping volume in 2013. How has the company achieved all this? What can others learn from its success so far? SB was recently invited to UPS HQ in Atlanta for the company’s annual Global Forestry Event — and we gained some insights:

1. Start with low-hanging fruit

UPS’s business success is based on time efficiency, so it was easy to find alignment between this and its sustainability goals — less time, less fuel, less cost, less emissions. Simply by translating existing business goals into sustainability goals you can find simple win-wins that departments and external partners can collaborate on. Efficiency savings are an obvious place to start, so get all of your departments involved, find how you can help and translate the successes into sustainability achievements you and your collaborators can celebrate.

UPS has partnered with the Earthwatch Institute since 2011 to produce experiential learning events around the world — from Atlanta and Canada’s boreal forest, to the United Kingdom and Germany. This engagement with key stakeholder groups helps the company gain new perspectives while promoting sustainable business thinking, which is one of its brand strengths. Intrigue, deep learning and networking opportunities often tempt representatives from NGOs, global brands, sustainability consultants, ecologists and UPS employees to attend these small gatherings. Taking part in the Global Forestry event revealed everything from brand needs and employee insights to industry trends and the latest science — all important pieces for a company developing its next sustainable business strategy and looking for collaborators to help implement them.

Decoding effective methods of driving consumer behavior change

Join us for a transformational experience at SB Brand-Led Culture Change — May 8-10 in Minneapolis. This event brings together hundreds of brand leaders eager to delve into radical lifestyle shifts and sustainable consumer behavior change at scale. The trends driving cultural acceleration are already underway, and you can be at the forefront of this transformative movement.

Over 1.5 days at the Global Forestry event we were either discussing sustainability trends over wine, watching scientific presentations, in roundtable discussions, or in the forest researching tree growth. You can put together your own comprehensive focus groups, but making the experience informal, engaging and fun will help ensure you get the most out of your participants — and that they get the most out of the experience, too.

3. The long-term goals are for you — the short-term goals are for the rest

Planting trees is the most evocative initiative of the set, but any overarching sustainability goal will require a combination of methods to fulfill — so when building your own strategy, consider what will impress your family as much as your peers. Obviously it still needs to be smart and well-aligned with your overarching goals, but if you’re going to run several initiatives at once it would be smart to build in a piece of the journey that’s easy to follow. For example: UPS planted 1.3 million trees in 2013; once you grab stakeholders’ attention with such a figure, you can then start talking about the why behind the initiative with richer meaning. Starting with context-based metrics, carbon sequestration or natural capital valuation are more complicated conversation starting points and very likely to result in glazed stares.

Sustainable Brands’ core business value is to inspire, engage and equip brands to prosper by leading the way to a better world. Spending a couple of days with UPS and the stakeholders around the table made me feel at home and hopeful for the future.

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