UPS and Corporate Sustainability: Proactively Managing Risk

Darden Business Publishing Cases

ISSN: 2474-7890

Publication date: 20 January 2017


This case traces UPS's first corporate sustainability report (CSR), “Operating in Unison,” from its origins up to its publication in 2006. It is based on interviews with managers who championed and shaped the report internally. UPS took its CSR quite seriously, basing its reporting and goals on the more stringent Global Reporting Indices (GRIs) as opposed to merely complying with U.S. regulations. Soon after going public, UPS was significantly expanding its European operations; it followed that its CSR ultimately took the form of many European CSRs, addressing the relationships among financial performance, environmental sustainability, and engaging stakeholders such as employees and the community. By 2008, some form of CSR would become routine in the United States. Yet not all CSRs are created equal; the case includes copious examples from UPS's first report, with key performance indicators in all categories. Given UPS's employee-centered culture, the company debated how much internal information to report. UPS also has an engineering culture whose innovative thinking helped align its business model with efficiency and reduce its carbon footprint. UPS managers and employees are invariably motivated by “doing the right thing”—a phenomenon increasingly found in strong brands. UPS's reporting grew out of its culture. Yet a major topic for our times is how to manage reputational risk, especially when these risks are inherent to the business. As corporate social responsibility gains public attention, will first-movers such as UPS be rewarded for taking CSR seriously?



Rubin, J. and Carmichael, B. (2017), "UPS and Corporate Sustainability: Proactively Managing Risk", Darden Business Publishing Cases.

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