Playing to Our Strengths

Working together, we can accomplish what none of us can achieve alone.

Adapted from a speech given by UPS Chief Executive Officer David Abney on October 20, 2015 in Houston at the Points of Light Conference on Volunteering and Service.


Points of Light Conference in Houston

At UPS, we have a pretty good view of the world.

We see it from ground level, where our people work hand in hand with businesses and organizations of all types on a daily basis. We also see it from high above, where UPS aircraft crisscross the skies, globally connecting people with goods and information.

That perspective convinces me of two things. The first is that, as global citizens, we have never been subject to more world-changing forces.

Everything from connecting technology to diminishing resources … from diverging demographics to the unpredictable forces of nature and the well-being of humanity. All of it coming at us from different directions – at mind-blowing speed.

I’m also convinced of one other thing: the degree of complexity and the urgency of these forces demand a concerted response. The job facing concerned global citizens today is simply too big for any of us to tackle on our own.

That’s why, at UPS, we participate in public-private partnerships and why we stress the importance of volunteerism.

Two big questions for UPS – and for many companies:  “Where do you start?” … and “How do you choose?”

Pullquote share icon. Share

As global citizens, we have never been subject to more world-changing forces.

Those are particularly tough questions for a company like ours, which does business in 220 countries and territories.

With customers and employees living and working in local communities around the world, any natural disaster, any emergency and any issue of global magnitude quickly becomes a local issue for us.

But while our hearts pull us in different directions, we must follow a strategy that focuses our involvement and support to be most effective.

That strategy is summed up in four words: “play to our strengths.”

Playing to our strengths means taking the experience of our people and the power of our logistics network and bringing them together where they intersect with the work of our NGO partners.

We focus on areas where our volunteer efforts and philanthropy not only make a difference, but also where they align with our vision, which is to “connect a global community through intelligent logistics networks.”

We believe that when we approach sustainability, humanitarian relief and volunteerism from a position of strength, our employees realize the connection between the skills they apply at work and the contributions they make to society. That discovery often ignites a new level of engagement.

We’ve seen the results of this type of collaboration on numerous occasions.

[Also on Longitudes: Time for Business to Step Up]

Public-Private Partnerships

Not long ago, one of our customers in Detroit introduced us to the Wayne County prosecutor, a woman named Kym Worthy. The prosecutor’s office had discovered that more than 11,000 sexual assault kits were sitting in police storage units. Some had been there for decades.

Utilizing business process reengineering, which is a skill we use every day to improve efficiency in our operation, we took a hard look at how these kits were processed and handled. Our folks recommended a number of ways to improve integrity, credibility and accountability during the chain of custody.

Wayne County now has a more efficient and reliable way to track evidence of these serious crimes. As a result, more cases are moving through the judicial system and more bad guys are going to jail.

Thanks to the success of this public-private partnership in Detroit, we will be using the same skills to spread this program to communities across the nation.

In another example, the UPS Foundation is working with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees and the World Food Programme to transport critical relief shipments to refugees in Greece and along the border of the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia. More than 160 metric tons of relief supplies – including food, blankets, sleeping mats and solar lanterns – were shipped on flights funded by The UPS Foundation.

Pullquote share icon. Share

We must follow a strategy that focuses our involvement and support to be most effective.

In Brussels, UPS volunteers built benches, tables and baby cradles from wooden pallets and transported them in UPS package cars to a nearby refugee camp.

A third example – right here in Houston, UPS volunteers are teaming up with the Houston Independent School District to help students at the Roderick Paige Elementary School become better readers and learn the finer points of etiquette. They’re also doing some painting and landscaping at the school.

Some of those volunteers are here today. I’d like to ask our Houston volunteers to stand and be recognized. These UPSers are part of our global volunteer force that has committed themselves to 20 million hours of volunteer service by the end of the decade.

[Also on Longitudes: 20 Million Volunteer Hours by 2020]

I announced that commitment at this conference a year ago, and I’m glad to say we’re making steady and significant progress toward that goal.

I admire our UPS volunteers across the globe. They make me proud to be a UPSer.

I’m also proud of the partnerships we have with so many of you here today. Working together, we can accomplish what none of us can achieve alone. goldbrown2


Every morning, wake up to the blog that gives you the latest trends shaping tomorrow.

Visit David Abney's Linkedin profile page.
David Abney serves as Chairman and Chief Executive Officer at UPS. Click the icon above to follow him on LinkedIn.

Click the RSS icon to subscribe to future articles by this author. RSS Feed


We welcome the re-use, republication, and distribution of our content – just as long as you credit us. So we ask that you insert the following tagline when you use our content:

Reprinted with permission of Longitudes, the UPS blog devoted to the trends shaping the global economy.