The end of the year is a time to reflect, recharge, and rechart your course for the next twelve months. No one imagined that 2020 was going to unfold the way it did. Understandably, most people are ready to tackle 2021 with a renewed vigor to make up for what happened this year. That’s true of the business community as well.

As the year comes to an end, e-commerce and retail brands find themselves in a unique position: For many of these essential services, 2020 was busier than expected, with an unprecedented increase in online sales as consumers turned to digital more than ever before. FedEx and UPS each reported 20% surges in package volume back in July due to this shift to online shopping — and that’s before the peak season of shipping even began in Q4.

This led to a massive increase in packaging materials, including cardboard boxes, plastic, and protective material. Industry experts have already started to discuss the negative impact this type of convenience will have on the environment in terms of carbon emissions, consumption of resources, and increased waste.

However, Research by Doddle Pulse found that 43% of consumers would purchase from a competitor if they offered a greater range of sustainable delivery options than their current brand. The percentage was even higher (56%) for the 18-to-24 consumer age demographic. It’s safe to assume this awareness in prioritizing sustainability is only going to grow.

As we enter 2021, many consumers are creating New Year’s resolutions around mitigating waste and lessening their environmental impact. To maintain customer loyalty, brands should do the same.

Stick to Your New Year’s Resolution with GRIT

Lowering your company’s carbon footprint or optimizing the design of your package might be a real challenge for your company, but it’s a New Year’s resolution worth committing to. To hold your brand accountable all year, it will take GRIT:

Goal-setting for concrete and realistic resolutions

Roadmap for a clear plan of attack

Impact-focused action to drive real results

Time limits and deadlines to remain accountable

This versatile strategy can help create and sustain your personal, environmentally friendly New Year’s resolutions. Now let’s talk about how to apply this process to “greening” your shipping operation.

The Goal

The foundation of a successful New Year’s resolution is a goal that’s specific, realistic, and measurable. After all, to make your business operation more sustainable for the environment, the goals you set should be physically and financially sustainable.

An example of a specific, realistic, and measurable goal would be: “We will reduce our customers’ damage claims by five percent, and measure and report the impact by January 2022.”

Here’s a quick checklist to test the sustainability of your goal:

☐ The goal is focused. Concentrate on a specific metric instead of spreading your effort across multiple areas. For example, reducing package volume while simultaneously introducing high quantities of recycled content might be too ambitious. Choose one or the other.

☐ The goal is specific and measurable. Make note: Your goal should be achievable. For example, you resolve to cut your company’s carbon emissions by 25% rather than end global warming.

☐ The goal is realistic. A smart place to start is to reduce plastic waste by one-third in one year instead of becoming a zero-waste company in that same time frame.

The Roadmap

With a specific goal clearly defined, the next step will be to develop the strategy for achieving it. Using the example, “We will reduce our customers’ damage claims by five percent by January 2022,” your roadmap will involve ways to modify your packaging solutions to ship more efficiently, such as optimizing the design of our package to reduce unnecessary empty space while providing proper cushioning or protection.

Before settling on a specific solution, this will likely involve months of research, consulting with new vendors and experts, testing products, and conducting customer satisfaction surveys.

You’ll want to spend time mapping out the project, so the team is clear about what steps need to be taken and what order to work toward the goal.

Your roadmap will be successful if:

☐ It breaks down your goal into stages and lists specific action steps.

☐ It empowers individual team members with clarity about what tasks need to be completed and by who.

☐ There are review processes built into the roadmap, allowing your team to assess progress and make adjustments to the strategy.

The Impact

As you work toward your New Year’s resolution, it will be important to remember the environmental impact you intend your goal to have.

For example, if you reduce customers’ damage claims by five percent, that will lead to a significant reduction in the amount of material used for shipping and your company’s carbon footprint since less cargo space and fuel will be required to transport your deliveries.

It’s important to be aware of this internally to keep your employees motivated and encourage more ambitious resolutions the following year. This is also incredibly valuable information to communicate to your customers. It will foster brand loyalty and inspire other companies to lower their environmental impact, too.

Here’s how to measure the total impact of your resolution:

☐ How does it align with sustainability metrics, such as those outlined in the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals?

☐ How does it affect your operation — such as lowered or increased production costs, greater efficiency, less storage space, etc.?

☐ How does it impact sales or brand loyalty?

☐ How does it affect company culture?

Timebound Results

Nothing can truly be measured without time, and this inherent limit also demands accountability. The time aspect of the GRIT method will hang over every stage that precedes it.

Since GRIT is for New Year’s resolutions, the goal you set must be one that can be achieved within 12 calendar months. It’s imperative to bring this into the roadmap phase and set numerous deadlines to achieve the goal. Time will also determine how to measure impact. A small change to package volume in 2021 might reduce your company’s greenhouse gas emissions by hundreds of thousands of tons by 2031.

You can put time on your side by:

☐ Breaking down your resolution into smaller stages with deadlines.

☐ Measuring your impact over multiple years.

☐ Using your successes or failures to set more ambitious goals for 2022 and beyond.

Clint Smith is Director of Sustainable Packaging, Pregis LLC. Pregis is dedicated to working in a way that protects our planet, preserves natural resources, and “Inspyres” people to care about the future. We recently unveiled our ambitious Pregis Purpose 2K30 initiative, designed to eliminate one million preventable reships, drive the circular economy, and positively impact 25 million lives. You can learn more about our goals at

This article originally appeared in the November/December, 2020 issue of PARCEL.