The Power of Trust

Building loyal customers through a culture of integrity.

There’s not much about the UPS of today that resembles the company started 107 years ago in a basement office in Seattle. Except for trust. In an interview with the Ethisphere Institute, a New York-based organization formed to advance the standards of ethical business practices, Teri McClure, the company’s chief legal, communications and compliance officer, talks about the timeless value of trust. McClure was interviewed by Turney Stevens, dean emeritus of the College of Business at Lipscomb University in Nashville, Tennessee.

Q: You’re a leader of a global company. With all the matters that come to your office and to your attention, how do you rest easy in your position, if you’re able to rest at all?

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You can do background checks and verify resumes, but in the end it’s about creating an environment where doing the right thing is the expectation.

McClure: You know, I’m a pretty good sleeper. But one of the things I do think about constantly, given the scope and scale of our operation here at UPS, is that at any point in time I’m sure there’s something going on in the world that probably is going to require the attention of the compliance or legal group.

So my largest concern is, what’s going on that I don’t know about? And are we doing everything within our organization to ensure that we are creating an environment where people feel that they can bring issues to the attention of management, the legal staff or the compliance group. That’s probably my biggest concern – and the biggest area of focus for me – just making sure that that environment is in place.

Q: How do you advocate for not only the values of the organization, but also the values of outside constituents and customers and communities, when those values may be in conflict and leave the reputation of UPS vulnerable?

McClure: The promise of our company was built on the concept of other people trusting us with their things – first their messages, then their packages, and now with their supply chains. So this concept of trust and integrity is critical to our business model. It’s ingrained in who we are as a business.

Nevertheless, as time has gone on, as the environments in which we operate have expanded, it is much more challenging for us to ensure that that level of integrity is reinforced and continues to be a significant aspect of our culture. For me, it is making sure that we have the leadership in place that instills and reinforces that culture.

Q: As you look back over your career at UPS, and certainly the history of the company, how has brand stewardship evolved for your executive leadership team?

McClure: In the past we typically viewed the brand as our shield, our drivers, those brown vehicles and brown uniforms. While those are the most visible and impactful aspects of our brand, we now view our brand as the entire experience that our customers, stakeholders and employees have with UPS. We recognize that the brand can be impacted at multiple touch points across the organization – not just with the drivers who deliver that last-mile package, but really in all aspects of our business.

So we have worked to evolve how our people view their ability to impact the brand — and help them understand that they must be sensitive to their individual impacts on the brand in every interaction that they have with our customers and our stakeholders.

Q: We understand that UPS is a leader not only in logistics, but also in global supply chain management. How embedded has compliance and ethics become in these processes, particularly as you think about a global organization?

McClure: It’s extremely important. One of the competitive differentiators we have, and are proud of, is that because of our culture of compliance and ethics, we are sensitive to the responsibility we have in ensuring that we help [our customers] be compliant. In many of the areas in which we are providing supply chain services, we’re operating in regulated environments — whether it’s healthcare or other regulated areas. We have to help ensure that same level of integrity and compliance that we operate in our own business is applied to how we provide services for [our customers] as well.

Q: What role does your board play in creating the culture that you’ve talked about at UPS?

McClure: A very critical role. We are blessed to have a board that is truly a reflection of the culture of the organization, in the sense that they see integrity, compliance and the culture that we want to create as extremely important. It’s an important part of who we are as a business, and they reinforce that in their expectations for the organization.

The board has regular access to senior management, and to other employees within the organization. We rotate our board meetings. They do tours. They do ride-alongs with our drivers. They are very much aware of, and want to have a sense that, the things that we’re saying and doing are actually flowing down to the frontlines of our organization.

Q: How do you keep the conversation around ethics and compliance fresh on a year-to-year basis? It’s one thing to have a corporate meeting or retreat and have a great event, but it’s something else to do that year after year and have people stay focused.

McClure: In our environment it can be somewhat of a challenge because people believe that they’re ethical and they believe that we’re a compliant organization. Sometimes they’ll say, ‘Why do you keep telling us this? We know this. We know how to operate this way.’ It is important for us to reinforce that we can’t just assume that these values and these practices will transcend year after year. We have to be intentional in reminding people what the expectations are.

And while societal values have been more consistent and more common across the areas in which we operate, now that we’re operating around the world and have more divergent thinking in our populations, it’s increasingly important to ensure that we are defining who we want to be as an organization and what the expectations are for our company.

Q: When you’re selecting new associates, how do you determine whether a person has the proclivity to do the right thing?

McClure: I don’t know if you can determine that. What you can do is establish the expectations for your organization and the culture and the environment in which the individuals are coming to work. And I think people who will gravitate toward that environment and be successful in that environment are people that operate in that manner. People who tend to operate differently won’t feel comfortable in that environment.

You can do background checks and verify resumes and take all of the steps, but in the end it’s about creating an environment where doing the right thing is the expectation, as opposed to taking shortcuts or walking too closely to the line.

Q: What has UPS done in the area of corporate social responsibility? And how do you press that issue from a cultural perspective throughout the organization?

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As we moved from community to community, it wasn’t just about setting up a business. It was about setting up relationships and demonstrating that we were there to serve the community.

McClure: We are lucky that our founder was committed to social responsibility before social responsibility was a catchphrase. Jim Casey built this company around making sure that we had positive relationships in the communities in which we operate.

So as we moved from community to community, it wasn’t just about setting up a business. It was about setting up relationships and demonstrating that we were there to serve the community not just as a business — but as a good corporate citizen. So this aspect of community service and commitment to improving the communities in which we operate really has been an integral part of our organization from the beginning.

The UPS Foundation is active and contributes over $100 million to causes around the world. We strongly encourage volunteerism within our organization. We’ve committed to more than 20 million volunteer hours by the year 2020.

We’re committed to the environment and we view our vehicles as sort of a rolling laboratory, where we test alternative fuel vehicles, looking for ways to be efficient in how we provide our services and being respectful of the environments in which we operate. We have a history and culture of being sensitive and responsive to the communities in which we operate. So it makes it easy for us to use those efforts to demonstrate the value that we provide overall, not just as a business service provider.goldbrown2

Teri Plummer McClure Senior Vice President, Global Human Resources, Labor Relations, and Employee Communications at UPS.

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