Over the next few decades, UPS (like many businesses around the world) will see water scarcity and water stress issues that affect a significant number of locations where we have facilities. While our own water needs are modest compared to many other industries, water scarcity and water stress can be devastating to local communities. We describe the three pillars of our global water stewardship strategy in "The Global Challenge of Water". Here we report on results for 2012 from our conservation efforts.
Within our operations, our measurements show that approximately 20 percent of our facilities in the United States account for 80 percent of our total water usage and water cost. We are therefore concentrating our water conservation and stewardship efforts on those facilities where we have concerns about water risk or water scarcity.
As we do with our global logistics network, we are addressing conservation opportunities in our infrastructure and technology, in our systems and processes, and with our people. Our experience is that the best results come when we combine all three. Washing our vehicles shows how this combination can work:
- We are upgrading facilities with low-flow water fixtures and designing them into our new facilities.
- We wash vehicles only as necessary to maintain appearance.
- We use an environmentally friendly enzyme wash agent that reduces the need for rinse water.
- At some of our larger hub facilities, we reclaim water from vehicle washing activities.
In 2012, we assessed numerous water conservation techniques that we have employed in the past, and sought new techniques and technologies that are suitable to the types of buildings and facilities we operate. We are particularly interested in improving water efficiency in cooling towers, irrigation systems, and water-cooled ice machines used to maintain hydration of employees during warm weather. In some cases our facilities are required by local ordinances to maintain landscape appearance in ways that currently require significant volumes of water for irrigation. In 2012, we planned a pilot project at one such facility, aimed at using weather forecasting technology and other methods to maintain landscape appearance with less water. We intend to implement this project in 2013.
The chart below shows our global water consumption by business segment over the past four years, as measured in millions of cubic meters (m3). We continue to increase our data-gathering capabilities for water by refining and collecting more data from our international operations. The increase in water consumption reported for our international segment (from 0.76 million m3 in 2011 to 0.77 million m3 in 2012) is due primarily to gathering more detailed data from more countries than in the year prior. We improved the granularity of data in our international segment (as we currently do for our domestic facilities) by collecting data at the facility level, rather than at the country level. This benefited UPS in two ways:
1. Information is entered into our global accounting system at a local level, which enabled us to do a more targeted follow-up.
2. A stronger emphasis on providing more detailed water data has made local facilities managers more aware of their water consumption, which leads to a more conscious effort to better measure and manage it.
In our U.S Domestic Package segment, our largest segment, we have successfully maintained a downward trend in water consumption for a number of years. Our water consumption decreased 5 percent in 2012 compared to 2011. This is due in part to more engagement with district and facility managers as part of our water stewardship strategy, using data gathered with the WBCSD Global Water Tool. In some cases, unusual water consumption patterns in our data enabled us to alert facility managers to anomalies with underlying causes, such as undetected leaks, that they could quickly correct.