July 28, 2021
Senior Vice President, U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation
The pandemic proved the value of partnerships across the globe. From small businesses supporting each other to large corporations partnering with the government, relationships across industries and supply chain levels became vastly important to ensuring a positive way out of the COVID-19 pandemic.
During the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation's 10th annual Building Resilience Through Private-Public Partnerships Conference, Nicole “Nikki” Clifton, the president of social impact for UPS and the UPS Foundation, shared the lessons from the pandemic that have shaped key priorities in her current role, UPS’s strategy for serving its customers, and the concrete measures UPS has taken to fulfill its mission around the world.
Past Lessons Have Shaped UPS’s Key Priorities
Coming out of the pandemic, societies and corporations have been discussing systemic change and the systems we need to dig into to make a long-lasting global impact. In Clifton’s eyes, this is one of the most important initiatives the pandemic has inspired.
“Businesses, schools, and families … experienced great loss and suffering throughout the pandemic, but it didn't affect all of us equally,” said Clifton. “That's one of the reasons that the UPS Foundation is going to be focusing and centering our work on equity and justice.”
Clifton’s team uses the moniker HELP (health and humanitarian relief, equity and economic impact, local community engagement, and planet protection) for those focus areas.
“We're looking and centering our work through that lens of equity and justice because we've learned that's what's going to help create a world that we all want to live and participate in,” she said.
UPS’s Strategy for Serving Its Customers
With the recent appointment of Carol Tomé as CEO of UPS, Clifton said the company realigned its purpose statement to “moving our world forward by delivering what matters” to demonstrate the root reason and core value of the “why of what we do at UPS.”
From delivering 27 million meals to students and the elderly to moving personal protective equipment (PPE) to where it was most needed, UPS sought to fill the gaps.
“For us, what matters is what's most important to the communities,” said Clifton.
How UPS Fulfills Its Global Mission through Partnerships
Partnerships run deep for UPS. In fact, Clifton received advice early in her career to build relationships before you need something, because “relationships determine results.” The varied relationships and vast network Clifton cultivated have helped UPS deliver aid around the world.
“Our partnerships are broad and they are deep,” said Clifton. “[When the pandemic hit], we had to work with the government, both state and local to [designate our drivers as essential employees]. We've mobilized more than 250 flights carrying personal protective equipment around the globe … [and] our healthcare division also opened up a 450,000 square foot distribution center … [where we’re] able to mobilize vaccines very quickly out of our air hub in Louisville, Kentucky.”
Not only has Clifton’s team been able to help the U.S. and Asia, but they’ve partnered with the U.S. Chamber to help respond to the crisis in India by moving oxygen concentrators. In addition, UPS looks at how they can produce in-kind gifts to countries that are the most underserved.
“We've been first in … Ghana with the COVID-19 vaccine, and we most recently delivered one of our largest gifts in kind to date to Indonesia. We're on pace to deliver more than 20 million vaccines … through our network, so we're really, really proud of that.”