The recent campaign launched against UPS by a coalition of unions and environmental groups shows how little they understand UPS’s responsible business model. UPS’s emphasis on recycling and sustainable business practices benefits all those who use it. It would be wise of the activist coalition to applaud, rather than attack, UPS’s voluntary commitment to the environment.  

UPS is a model for sustainable business practices. Instead of being compelled by a government mandate, UPS freely chose to enact sustainable business practices and search for innovative ways to recycle and reduce their carbon footprint. Their consumers, and employees, benefit from the services they provide and their respect for the environment. John Mackey, co-CEO of Whole Foods, emphasizes care for the environment as a tenet of what he calls “conscious capitalism.” UPS, in its quest to carry out responsible business practices, has embraced this tenet. 


The American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), of which I am CEO, is proud to have UPS as a member. UPS brings its experiences to the table to share with state legislators and other stakeholder groups how its business model benefits consumers and the environment. In turn, ALEC members are able to ask questions and learn from UPS’s successes.  

ALEC fully supports an “all-of-the-above” energy strategy that includes voluntary efforts to expand and advance sustainable business practices. Government should encourage corporate environmental responsibility, but mandates and subsidies that distort the market are a poor way to create real change. Energy security requires a diversity of fuels to meet the demands of different geographic regions and different energy supplies. At the most recent ALEC Annual Meeting, members listened to presentations discussing the value and benefits of utility-scale solar and will continue to explore emerging energy technologies in the future. ALEC members have also adopted many model policies that reflect their concern for the environment and their commitment to renewable energy. ALEC is proud to support our members who look for innovative ways to advance renewable energy technologies and environmentally friendly policies absent government mandates and handouts. 

Respecting the environment isn’t just a tag line. It takes a real commitment to transform a company to sustainable practices. These types of investments and changes should be embraced and encouraged by environmental groups, particularly when companies opt to voluntarily engage in these changes without a government mandate. Companies that embrace free market environmentalism recognize that doing good for the most people can also benefit the organization’s bottom line.  

Environmental groups and consumers have a right to challenge companies to adhere to more sustainable business practices, just as companies have the right to run their business as they choose. It takes an innovative, thoughtful company to employ environmentally friendly policies and still maintain the fast-paced corporate structure without missing a beat. UPS spent years transitioning its business model to a structure that produces less waste and ultimately less pollution. In July, UPS publicly committed to reducing its greenhouse gas emissions by 20 percent by 2020 and to expand its use of alternative fuels by signing the White House’s “American Business Act on Climate Pledge.” Again, these commitments were made voluntarily and without a government mandate. 

UPS creates jobs, supports the economy and respects the environment. Any company that strives to embrace all three of those principles should be celebrated.

Nelson is CEO of the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), a nonprofit organization of private sector representatives and conservative state legislators that develops and shares potential state-level legislation.