The Opportunity

The overnight shipping industry uses more than a billion shipping envelopes and boxes each year. This packaging creates significant solid waste, and also requires large quantities of paper, plastic, energy and water to produce. Avoiding pollution and waste can save money, too — recycled paperboard is widely available and can cost up to 40% less than virgin paperboard. Using paperboard with just 35% recycled content means using 20% less energy, consuming 35% fewer trees, and releasing 15% less global warming pollution.

Our Strategy

In January 1998, we began a partnership with UPS to improve the environmental characteristics of the company’s express packaging. UPS saw a chance to serve its customers better and advance its standing as an industry leader. The goals of the partnership included:

  • Decrease the amount of material used in packaging
  • Expand the use of reusable packaging
  • Incorporate recycled content into packaging
  • Eliminate bleached paper from all packaging
  • Maintain product performance, appearance and cost-competitiveness


After ten months, this partnership yielded substantial environmental, customer and business benefits. In November 1998, UPS introduced new packaging that:

  • Eliminated all bleached paper, reduced overall materials use and increased recycled content
  • Resulted in significant average annual environmental benefits:
    • Reduced air emissions by 13%
    • Decreased energy usage by 16%
    • Reduced solid wastes by 17%
    • Reduced overall water use by 17%
  • Included a reusable overnight envelope
  • Saves over $1 million annually