Released on Wednesday (29 July), the main focus of the report was UPS’ ‘Rolling Laboratory’ approach, where the haulier utilises a variety of fuels for different ranges, including propane, biomethane, electricity and hybrid technologies.

The ultimate target for the 5,000-strong fleet of alternative-fuel vehicles is one billion miles travelled by 2017.

Last year UPS logged 154 million miles towards that goal – an almost threefold increase from 2013.

“It took 13 years to drive the first 350 million miles with our alternative fuel and advanced technology fleet,” said UPS chief sustainability officer Rhonda Clark.

“In just one year we were able to build dramatically on that number and we are now more than halfway to our 2017 goal. With continued investments in this fleet, we are doing our part to help transform the transportation industry.”

In total, green fuels displaced around 25m gallons of petrol and diesel in the UPS fleet.

Swimming upstream

The company report also highlighted two global trends, which it claimed were making its green ambitions more difficult; urbanisation and online shopping.

E-commerce shipments are typically business-to-consumer (B2C) and fewer packages per stop, meaning carriers are often driving more miles to deliver fewer goods.  Likewise, increasingly crowded urban areas are leading to more polluted cities.

UPS has counteracted this problem with 80 electric vehicles across Europe, including 28 in London, as well as a fleet of delivery bicycles to make shorter deliveries.

In 2014 UPS emitted fewer greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions per package, with a 14.1% percent reduction in carbon intensity achieved since 2007, equivalent to removing more than 380,000 passenger vehicles from the road for a year.

“Urbanisation and e-commerce growth create unique challenges for us, our customers and the communities we serve,” continued Clark. “UPS is committed to meeting those challenges, minimizing our impact on the environment and paving the way for a more sustainable future.”

VIDEO: Chief sustainability officer Rhonda Clark explains UPS’s approach to sustainability

Logical logistics

The parcel-delivery industry as a whole is embracing innovative ways to save money and reduce carbon by cutting delivery miles.

German company DHL is known for championing the concept of ‘reverse logistics’ – moving a product from its point of consumption to the point of origin to recapture value.

DHL was recognised at edie’s recent awards ceremony for its partnership with Wetherspoons, to whom it delivered more than 2,000 roll cages of food and drink to every day. Those roll cages are then filled with waste, and backhauled to the National Distribution Centre in Daventry for sorting and processing .

Meanwhile, Norwegian start-up Nimber is also looking to revolutionise the logistics space, with its peer-to-peer delivery concept, which it recently brought to the UK. The service utilizes spare capacity by using real people who are already going somewhere to make deliveries, bringing about significant environmental benefits.

Brad Allen

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