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Companies that meet United Parcel Service's new green standards for responsible packaging can ship their goods with a label attesting to that fact under an assessment program the carrier introduces today. Through its Eco Responsible Packaging Program, a new contractually based service the company is calling the first of its kind, UPS will evaluate a customer's shipment packaging processes in three key areas -- damage prevention, right-sizing and packaging materials.
"This is precedent setting," said Anne Johnson, director of the Sustainable Packaging Coalition, which was among the organizations UPS consulted in developing its program.
UPS uses the coalition's Compass software in its new program. The software application enables users to see the lifecycle impacts of package design choices and compare various options, making it an important tool in UPS's evaluation process and its work with customers in the program. Identifying the most responsible and effective packaging for any given client is at the heart of the service, according to Arnold Barlow, manager of sustainability solutions for UPS’s Customer Solutions group. And determining the most responsible approach depends on a customer's needs and the goods they are shipping.
"Customers need to package (their goods) so things are not damaged in transit," said Barlow. "That's single most sustainable thing you can do. If you have to replace something, that more than doubles the carbon footprint of your supply chain." During the course of its evaluation, UPS runs simulation tests to gauge whether a customer's packaging can withstand the stresses of transit.
Right-sizing transportation packaging is the next consideration. "Ideally you want your transportation boxes no bigger than they need to be" in order to contain and protect the product being shipping -- and maximize use of space in delivery vehicles, Barlow said.
The third segment of the UPS review looks at packaging materials -- their makeup and that of any filler used inside the secondary packaging. "We do a lifecycle analysis of those materials," Barlow said. Source location, biodegradability, whether items are in fact widely recycled (as opposed to merely being recyclable) and whether renewable resources are used to produce materials are all taken into account, he said.