The UPS Eco Responsible Packaging Program is a cooperative sustainability effort between UPS and its customers. Created in 2010, the program provides a formal strategy designed to reduce packaging waste. Through this initiative, UPS, the world’s largest package delivery company, is taking a leading role to encourage and support responsible packaging practices among its customers.
The program considers the sustainability of transportation (secondary) packaging and fill material being used during shipping. Those meeting and maintaining conformance to the program’s criteria are permitted to use the program’s logo on packages to demonstrate a commitment to sustainable packaging and conservation.
Specifically, awarding of the ECO Responsible Packaging Program logo signifies that the recipient has successfully passed a comprehensive and stringent evaluation of its packaging processes. Packaging is evaluated in three areas:
- Damage Prevention: Packaging products to prevent damage. This results in fewer customer returns, reducing the resources used to transport goods, and keeping damaged items out of the waste stream.
- Right Sizing: Reducing packaging size by using packaging that effectively holds product while minimizing empty space. Right sizing reduces fill materials and paper waste and means more packages can fit on one vehicle.
- Materials Content: Adopting environmentally-conscious packaging practices requires making better material choices for packaging. UPS analyzes reusability and recyclability and uses the leading sustainable packaging assessment application, COMPASS®, for screening life cycle metrics. Fossil fuel consumption, greenhouse gas emissions, water consumption, biotic resource consumption, aquatic toxicity, mineral consumption, and eutrophication are all considered in determining the impact of the materials used.
For packaging to be truly sustainable, it must be quantifiably measured against industry standard metrics. The UPS Eco Responsible Packaging Program meets all evaluation criteria defined by Société Générale de Surveillance (SGS), the world’s leading inspection, verification, testing, and certification company. Additionally, Business for Social Responsibility (BSR) and the Sustainable Packaging Coalition (SPC) have praised the program for its environmental leadership.
UPS offers consulting services and will suggest needed improvements to help companies meet program standards. COMPASS, a sustainable packaging application from TRAYAK, plays an integral role in this process. The application allows package designers to baseline current package designs, compare alternative scenarios, and analyze packaging components with detailed life cycle environmental impacts. As UPS handles nearly 4 billion packages annually, the adoption of COMPASS is a significant opportunity to improve on the environmental impact of transport packaging. UPS has demonstrated impressive leadership by starting the Eco Responsible Packaging program and selecting COMPASS in order to better understand and inform future packaging designs.
COMPASS uses transparent, industry average, life cycle data to assess and benchmark the impacts of a package design and materials across a comprehensive set of impact metrics. Incorporating COMPASS into the Eco Responsible Packaging Program provides UPS customers with a comprehensive environmental assessment of their packages, in addition to damage prevention and cube utilization.
Questions for Arnold Barlow: Senior Manager, UPS Sustainable Solutions
As this program enters its sixth year can you share some of the results?
Our unique program has been adopted by a number of companies across several industries. What they have in common is that they care about their environmental impact and want to communicate their positive achievements to their customers. Some are making their statement even stronger by coupling the Eco Responsible Packaging Program with the UPS carbon neutral program and offsetting the impact of their transportation shipping (www.ups.com/carbonneutral).
What are some of the most significant changes to packaging that you’ve seen in the past six years?
Six years ago, it was more common to hear of packaging elimination as a goal. Some people were focused on alternative – and unusual – packaging materials. But now, the conversation has advanced and is shifting to the circular economy, viewing packaging as part of a system and evaluating packaging materials not just according to their manufacturing characteristics, but including end of life scenarios and the entire product life cycle.
Does UPS have plans to modify or expand this program?
Although we’re always open to fine tuning, the dimensions we’ve been evaluating since the beginning have stood the test of time and are still the “big three”: damage prevention, right sizing, and materials content.