Small Business Solutions & Sustainable Shipping With UPS
Exclusive interview with Rita Wong, Marketing Manager of UPS Hong Kong & Macau
UPS has now been supporting the Redress Design Award for five consecutive years - what are the main reasons UPS continues to be involved in the programme? Any highlights/ favourite moments to share?
We’re thrilled to be part of the Redress Design Award. It has moved quickly having started in 2011 and going completely global last year. It’s now the world’s largest sustainable fashion design competition. So it’s only natural that a global company like ours is pleased to support such an important initiative.
The fashion industry has been one of the key drivers of e-commerce growth in recent years, but as we all get more comfortable buying our clothes online, we need to consider the environmental impact that comes with that. That’s a trend and a consciousness we’re keen to be part of actively promoting.
Sustainability is integral to UPS, across all sectors of our business and we consider it from a holistic point of view. Whether it’s using reusable packaging boxes, optimising our drivers’ delivery routes or cutting carbon emissions through the adoption of advanced technology, it’s an area in which we are always making progress. Constant improvements to sustainability happen just as they do in fashion, and we think it’s great that sustainability is “in” enough and important enough on a global scale as the Redress Design Award’s existence proves.
We also believe that our sustainability efforts go beyond the walls of UPS, which is why we’re proud to sponsor the Redress Design Award. Redress gives emerging designers around the world the opportunity to reimagine the value of textile waste by reinventing it through innovative and creative thinking, helping to raise awareness of the impact we have on the planet and encouraging consumers to make informed and smarter choices. This is a vision UPS shares and truly values.
What advice can you give to emerging fashion designers in the first few years of their brand development as to how they can grow their business sustainably (both environmentally and in terms of business stability)?
With more consumers choosing to buy their clothes online, considering the environmental impact of the business you are trying to create is a good place to start, so it’s important to pay attention to what it is your customers are telling you they want.
Every year, we carry out a study called Pulse of the Online Shopper™ where we take a close look the purchasing habits of e-commerce buyers across the world. This year’s study was launched at the beginning of August and reveals that almost four in ten shoppers can be incentivised in some way to delay shipping to consolidate multiple items into one delivery.
Why is this important from a sustainability standpoint? Well, bundling multiple items into fewer shipments reduces packaging and delivery miles, which cuts fuel use and emissions. But – and I’ll bet that stores will like hearing this – it also encourages your customers to spend more.
What are the biggest trends or shifts that are happening in the logistics world that emerging designers and / or more established fashion brands should be aware of?
The growth in popularity of online shopping means customer expectations are evolving and becoming more refined, and retailers need to be agile enough to stay ahead of the trends. There are two trends that come to mind. The first is something which is often underestimated when getting the e-commerce experience right. The other is about building the experience around the customer’s needs – convenience counts.
So one of the really interesting trends highlighted by the Pulse of the Online Shopper™ study is that there is still room for improvement when it comes to a retailer’s returns policy. Returns are a fact of life, and the findings in this year’s report tell us that almost two thirds of respondents say that how a seller handles returns impacts their overall opinion of that business. Think about that for a second; if you want to get ahead, one way is to get your returns policy right. For those who can give customers what they want on this one, there really is huge opportunity for them to stand out from the crowd. It’s an easy one to overlook and we’ve worked with a lot of companies to help us streamline this.
And the other one about convenience I referred to is quantified in our latest findings. Customers also now expect to receive deliveries on their terms, with 86% valuing the option to be able to choose a delivery location other than their home. In fact the study shows almost half of buyers in Hong Kong prefer to receive their deliveries this way, the highest number globally.
Can you tell us more about the leadership role UPS is taking in terms of sustainable solutions for the supply chain and why this is a strong business focus?
By 2020, 25% of UPS’s annual vehicle purchases will be alternative fuel or advanced technology vehicles, and we’re working toward a set of environmental goals to reduce emissions 12% across our ground fleet and facilities by 2025. Also by 2025, 40% of all ground fuel will come from sources other than conventional gasoline and diesel, and 25% of our total electricity consumption to renewable sources. Those might just sound like numbers to you, but when a company of our size makes goals like that publicly, it’s significant – we take the challenge very, very seriously.
We practice fuel-reduction strategies across our entire fleet of 119,000 ground vehicles, including technology-powered route-planning to reduce fuel and emissions. To date in Hong Kong, we have launched three hybrid vehicles, two electric vehicles and will continue to replace retiring vehicles with eco-conscious alternatives.
Another example is something we touched on before; alternate delivery locations. Hong Kongers are among the fastest adopters of this concept in the world, which is great news from a sustainability perspective. In addition to meeting a customer demand for flexible delivery, by sending multiple packages to fewer locations, we reduce fuel usage, cut carbon emissions and help reduce traffic congestion in heavily urbanised areas.
UPS has invested heavily in providing Hong Kong’s largest selection of service lockers, and we currently have over 900 located across the territory. This means our customers can receive their packages at a time and a place that is – here comes that word again – convenient to them. That’s a win-win-win: for the customer, who gets their package on the first delivery try; for the UPS driver, who doesn’t have to make a second attempt the next day; and for the environment, with reduced emissions.
What exactly does carbon neutral shipping mean?
As a company that moves three percent of the global GDP through its network every business day, UPS recognises the need to provide more sustainable solutions for our customers so that we can continue to bring our emissions down to the lowest possible levels.
One option our customers have is to join our carbon-neutral scheme, which offers businesses the opportunity to offset the emissions produced by a shipment through regenerative projects such as environmental conservation and reforestation, thus achieving carbon neutral shipping.
One way we achieve this is through the Global Forestry Initiative, which plants, protects, and preserves trees in urban and rural areas around the world. We are currently on track to meet our goal of planting 15 million trees by the end of 2020.
Preserving the world’s forests is critical to reducing carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, combating climate change, and protecting ecosystems. Investing in reforestation also cleans water, protects against erosion and mudslides, and builds resiliency by creating jobs.
Any exciting developments coming from UPS to share?
In July 2019, UPS announced that it has applied to the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) for certification to operate commercial drone flights in the UPS network under a subsidiary business called UPS Flight Forward, Inc. This puts UPS on track to have one of the first fully-certified, revenue- generating drone operations in the United States, and follows the announcement in March 2019 of our new logistics service delivering medical samples via unmanned drones to a hospital in North Carolina.
The addition of drone transport provides an option to avoid roadway delays and lower carbon emissions and, in this instance, has potentially life-saving benefits. It is an exciting achievement for the logistics industry and the future of drone delivery.