Penny Naas (MPP '93) talks about key issues in government and business, including diversity, the relationships between the regulated and the regulators, and environmental sustainability. September, 2021.
Betsey Stevenson: Hello. Welcome to the Ford School Policy talks. I am excited to be in conversation today with Penny Naas. Penny has just spent a day as our first alumni in residence post-COVID, getting a chance to talk with some of the students, and then have this conversation with me about her role in the world and what Penny has done since she herself graduated from the University of Michigan. So I'll start there. Penny has a Bachelor's Degree in Economics and a Master's degree in Public Policy from the University of Michigan. And since then, Penny started her career in the US Department of Commerce, so she spent some time in government, she worked there for 13 years in various roles covering international trading, commercial issues. She then went to work for Citi Group and the global government affairs team for six years, moving to Europe to open the company's first government affairs office in Brussels, Belgium. So, Penny has some knowledge about not just what US government does, but global countries do and what Europe's doing around regulatory issues. In particular, she oversaw the various legislative and regulatory issues that arose after the 2008 financial crisis. Currently, Penny Naas is the UPS President for International Public Affairs and Sustainability.
BS: She started at UPS in May of 2012, managing the public affairs team, where she enhanced government understanding of UPS and the issues impacting the logistics industry. In 2014, Penny was also asked to oversee sustainability in Europe, and has worked to advance internal and external appreciation of the importance of sustainability for UPS. She then served as UPS Vice President and District Manager for International Public Affairs and Sustainability from January 2015 until early 2020. So first let me welcome Penny to this conversation. I am excited that you're here. And you work for UPS, you're a logistics expert, so I thought the first place we should start our conversation is talking about logistics and COVID, and the kinds of supply chain problems that we're starting to see around the globe. Can you tell us a little bit about, that from UPS's perspective, is what are your big fears around, and what's the truth on the ground around the kind of supply chain problems that all of our students and alumni hear about in the newspapers?
Penny Naas: Well, first off, Betsey, thank you so much for engaging in this conversation with me today. I think... I really admire a lot of the work you've been doing, and I really admire in particular the spotlight you've shown on a lot of the issues around the care economy and around child care, particularly during COVID. And I think that that's been incredibly impactful, and I just wanna thank you for the spotlight you've brought to that, 'cause I think it's just... It's a huge issue that is under discussed. If I could...
BS: Let me just say, thank you for saying that, and we're definitely gonna save some time to talk about gender issues, and child care, and managing it all as a working mom. 'Cause I know you have three kids, I have two kids. So we don't just talk about it, we live it. But let's start with the nitty-gritty of what you're dealing with every day right now, which is those supply chain issues.
PN: Yeah, so at UPS, we have 540,000 employees around the world. We move 2% of the global GDP every day. During COVID, we have had to navigate some incredible challenges, and it is a testament to all of our employees, our pilots, our folks on the ground who have day in day out been dealing with huge surges in volume, as well as very challenging operating conditions out in the world. It has been... When I think through some of the things that we've been grappling with and dealing with, I think about a lot of the agility and the resilience that you need to have in your global value change, your global supply chains today. It has been... I'm gonna talk about our pilots in particular, if I can, for a second, 'cause I think that there's some examples there. A pilot that works for UPS... In order to get the PPE and some of the other equipment we needed out of China, working in the COVID-related pandemic conditions has been extraordinary. We have pilots who fly around the world, but who, once they land, go into closed loop systems. So they land, they're picked up by somebody wearing full PPE who takes them to a hotel, they're not allowed out, they remain in that room until it's time for their flight back, that could be a couple of days, they eat all their meals in there, they're not allowed to take a walk, they're not allowed anything.
PN: And so that's been going on for 18 months. That's how our pilots are getting around the world. It's the same with the folks driving the boats. People are behind all of these logistics. And as we think about some of the challenges that are arising in the global supply chain at the moment, I think you can't take a step away from the people, 'cause it's the people that are really driving this. And it's the people and the conditions in which they have to work, that create at times what then are becoming some of the bottlenecks... Challenges that are creating the bottlenecks. It's around the people and what's happening with them, that really is where some of this is stemming.
BS: When you're talking there, it makes me think about... One of the things I've been most frustrated about in all the COVID debate is this people being concerned that government policies to rein in COVID, whether it's lockdowns or mandatory vaccines, are causing harm to the economy. And the thing that just struck me, is the big thing doing harm to the economy is COVID. And so, it's your pilots, yes, they're getting picked up in PPE and they have tough times, but there's a reason for it, right, which is otherwise... I bet you must have been dealing with some of your pilots actually getting sick and having to deal with with their own concerns about their personal safety as they travel the globe in this pandemic.
PN: Absolutely. And that's absolutely the first thing that I think all of us are thinking about is how to protect our... How the pilots are protecting and are being protected. But at the same time, there's also the other conditions within which we work and how do we balance that? So it's not that I think pilots should be going out and intermingling with the local population, that's why we have the closed loop system in place. But the issues that do exist are, how do you make sure that those pilots are sharp for their flights, for those operating conditions, when these systems are put in place in a way... I know, Betsey, at one point you went back to Australia, having to do two-week quarantines with kids in a hotel room, not being able to go anywhere is potentially not a very appetizing prospect.
BS: Well, certainly, if you're just doing that to get back on a plane and go back to countries where there's lots of COVID. I think my point was that no matter what you do, the cost of doing business went up during COVID.
BS: Whether you take the precautions or you don't, the cost of doing business has gone up.
PN: Absolutely. Absolutely. And it's also become very local. So if you have supply chains, you really had to know where your products were being produced very locally. Because COVID outbreaks were taking place not always at big levels but sometimes at very local levels, and that would impact your supply chain if you didn't know that.
BS: So is UPS struggling with some of the worker shortages in the United States that we hear people talking about? I should say, maybe you don't know the answer to that question 'cause you work in sustainability, but I'm just wondering if they are, and if they are, what they're doing about it?
PN: Yeah, so I think that we're all... I don't have the answers to that specific question around the labor and some of the labor issues. I think that what we have seen is we've seen a huge surge in volume, and that has at times created, like with all things, what we've seen are peak conditions that are taking place in non-peak periods. So there have been times... But again, our people have been working hard to make sure that we're meeting the demands of our customers globally. And looking to see, and we've been doing different things to do that. But again, I don't know all the specifics about it 'cause it's not my specific area.
BS: But let me ask you this, 'cause this is a question we all wanna know the answer to, and I know you've given some thought to this. Am I gonna get my Christmas presents on time or do I need to get out there and start shopping right now?
PN: [chuckle] I think that, as one of my senior officials said the other day, it might be good to order Christmas presents a little early this year. We are seeing... I think there are some things that we're seeing. I think there's... I haven't checked with the numbers today, but it was 64 boats off the port of Long Beach the other day. There are some, potentially some dislocations going on, going back again to some COVID outbreaks that took place and some major ports around the world shut down a few ports; those ports have come back online, but, again, we're kind of seeing the start and stop of some of the supply chains that are out there, and I think that it might be wise not to wait till the last moment this year for your Christmas gifts.
BS: I appreciate, I'm sure everybody appreciates that advice. Well, let's turn to something that's a little bit more long run, 'cause I think the hope is these global supply issues, and the surges that UPS has experienced, the peaks and the valleys, that's all gonna work itself out, hopefully over the next six months, maybe sooner, maybe a little bit longer. But the big question is the disruptions that are being caused by the kind of catastrophic weather events we're seeing from climate change. And this brings us to these question... You know, what do we do about sustainability and how do we deal with climate change? And I wanna start with, how do you think about it on the corporate end? This is your job, advising on sustainability; how do you marry advice that's good for the planet with advice that's good for UPS's bottom line?
PN: Yeah, so at UPS we've put in place just this year, we had goals, sustainability goals, environmental goals, that were in effect until 2020, some until 2025. And we've just re-issued our 2025 goals and then put in place some 2035 and committed to be carbon neutral by 2050. But alongside those, we've put in place some principles. And some of our principals have to do with always acting with integrity, making sure we're delivering results not just promises, and this follows on the fact that we've been doing this already for years. At UPS, we're all about efficiency. And so the best mile is the mile that's not driven. Because we're efficient with the processes, the procedures, the dispatch, all of the things that go into a network business. So that's something we've been doing, and we've been doing forever.
PN: The next thing that we've been doing is we've been looking at, and have been working on, again, for years, looking at and trialling different technologies, working on new and different things. So we have this thing called a rolling laboratory that we do. Again, we've got a tremendous network, and every day in our network we are trialling different technologies. Not all of which I can talk about publicly, but we have amazing things that are going on every day. And some of them work and some of them don't.
PN: So right now in the United States, UPS currently runs about 25% of our network is run on renewable natural gas and liquid natural gas, compressed natural gas. We'd like to get it to be all renewable natural gas; we're not quite there yet just because of supply, but we're working our way up and we're getting there, and this year is gonna be, we're, again, taking a big leap forward. But for us, we see that as an important step forward. It's a transitional technology, but it's one that is making huge impacts, and it's something we're doing today. And that's what we're committed to do, is to continue to look for those things that we can do. We can scale up and have meaningful, real, tangible impacts.
BS: So I think the thing that is behind what you're saying is that there's lots of things UPS wants to do because it's gonna be good for UPS's bottom line, but there's other things that are not good for your bottom line 'cause they're too expensive. So you just started talking about renewable natural gas, and you and I've talked about this before, and you told me that a big motivator is, Are you getting a huge subsidy for that because it's really expensive? So you just said there are supply issues, but I think that by supply issues that's kind of a polite way for saying pricing issues. It's expensive, and a subsidy changes how much you use. Is that right?
PN: I think that there are always... We work in various ways with various governments. There are different government policies that are used around environmental policies. Again, you and I have talked about this. In some cases there's restrictions, in some cases there's penalties, in some cases there's incentives, in some cases there's taxes. And so we look at and make assessments around which technologies make the most sense for us. First off, from a reliability and service perspective. We do need to serve our customers first and foremost, and that is a very important thing for us. Then once we test the technologies and we look at them from a service perspective. "Will this do the things we need it to do to stay in business?" We then look at it also from a financial perspective, as well as from an environmental perspective. "Is this something that's gonna... Yes, be potentially something that we can work with in terms of our bottom line, in terms of our finances, but also will it move the needle on the environment? Is this moving us in the right way?" And so those are all things that we look at and assess from a technology perspective, as we look at and appraise some of these things that are coming online from a climate change perspective.
BS: So I'm just gonna have to point out the fact that you use the word incentive to mean a present to us from the government, like a subsidy, but of course a tax is an incentive, a fine is an incentive. We change our behavior to avoid taxes and to avoid fines, but, just like my kids tell me, they certainly prefer rewards rather than punishments as incentives, even though both of them might actually incent the behavior I'm looking for. So I understand the corporate preference, that might not always align with what's in the public interest, but I think the clear thing is that we have to align the public interest and the private interest with being more sustainable. So what do you think are things governments could do better to create better incentives for companies to be able to move more quickly towards a sustainable future?
PN: So I think it depends on the different... Work through. And I think the issues out there, there's a lot of very complicated issues out there that cut across... Some cut across industries, some are industry-specific. So one of the areas that I've been working on, and there were some papers that came out this week, was trade policy. How can we work on trade policy to make trade policy work in a way that helps promote climate change, green technologies, make sure that the right incentives are in place in terms of tariffs, non-tariff barriers, etcetera, with regard to some of the technologies and some of the things we're looking at from a climate change perspective? On the tax front, Betsey, I'm gonna leave it more to you, because I know you have done a lot of thinking and work on some of the taxes that are out there, whether it be a carbon border tax, whether it be cap and trade, whether it be some of those. I think that there are incentives there, but I think you also need to think about how those incentives, or how those taxes, or how those regimes, are actually executed.
PN: Because I think that sometimes some of them are quite complicated as well, and that creates some other... Above and beyond the financial aspects, some of the complicated nature of some of those regimes is something else that needs to be considered and looked at when governments are putting them into place.
BS: Well, I'm glad you mentioned trade. And so one of the things I didn't say in the introduction is that you're the co-chair of the World Economic Forum's Global Future Council on Trade and Investment, and but you probably have some views on this idea that well we should try to buy things that are locally made rather than buy things that are made far away, 'cause that's better for the environment. How do you respond to that kind of claim?
PN: I think one of the great things that I think governments do is collect data, and I think some of this is you need to look at the issues around this in a way that's... Really looks at the facts and looks at the data, 'cause I have seen some examples, Betsey, where there are locally made products that consume way more resources than something that is produced further away but is then put on a boat and brought in via trade into a country, and I think... I've heard different examples, I've heard an Australian Lamb example. I've heard a few other examples in the past, and I think that it's a question that continues to need to be examined and looked at on a... Because I think there are different examples that would result in different outcomes.
PN: As a consumer, though I have to say that even if I... I grew up in Michigan... I grew up here in Michigan, and when I grew up as a kid in the winter time, you kind of ate apples and you ate some oranges that maybe came up from Florida, and that was about it, you didn't get many other fruits and vegetables. Container shipping got invented and all of a sudden you could eat grapes and strawberries. So there's the climate question around it, there's the consumer aspects around it too, and then there's the question of how do you move it? 'Cause there are some ways of moving it that from a climate impact perspective, may not be as impactful as some people think, versus something that's made locally.
BS: Yeah, that I think is just... It's such a really important point that you have to check your intuition when it comes to what's the most sustainable and... You're roughly my age, so I hear you on the idea that back when we were kids, you ate what was in season and you didn't eat the rest, but you know, even if we weren't importing strawberries today we are richer as a society and there'd be hot house grown strawberries consuming enormous amounts of resources right here in Michigan, probably if we couldn't buy our strawberries from somewhere else, and it does require taking a harder look at what is sustainable and what isn't. The... But how do you think countries are going to deal... So thinking back on a sort of carbon pricing, what we're seeing is other countries are starting to introduce carbon pricing, how is that gonna affect global trade if some countries price carbon and other countries don't?
PN: I think that's a great question, and I think you are seeing things like the carbon border adjustment mechanism being debated and discussed in Europe, a lot of discussion around what that means from a trade perspective. Is it compliant with the GATTs, with the global agreement on tariffs and trade? And in particular, looks at some of the specificities. Again, it's a question that's very, very dependent on how the regimes are structured, and then once they're structured, there's a question around how are they gonna... Are they gonna be effective? Now that they've been structured in such a way to comply with the trade rules, how are they gonna be executed, how are they gonna be... How are they gonna work? Are they gonna work? Are they gonna send the right signals in.
PN: So again, I think the jury's out on some of this, but it is something that I know is important from a domestic political consideration for a lot of countries who wanna go further on climate, but have domestic constituencies they're worried about, and that's I think what they're grappling with, in terms of some of this. I know that there are studies that have come out that have shown that some of the taxes, at least in the European perspective, would not... Would still contribute positively to climate, but again, I think there's still a lot more work that needs to be done and a lot more examination that we need to be doing around some of these regimes before we're gonna really know how compliant they are with global trade rules.
BS: Well, let's shift the conversation a little bit in that you're working on sustainability, you care about climate change and environmental issues, and your degree is in public policy, how did you end up in corporate America? And is that consistent with who you wanted to be as a public policy student?
PN: Yeah, so I would say, just very honestly, I was in the US government for 13 years, and going to a topic, we can pivot to another topic, I got divorced. And I was a single mom with a child and a mortgage, and I loved government work, but it got to a point where it was gonna be challenging for me to remain in Washington DC on the government salary as a single mom. So I started looking around, and to be honest, at the time was looking for some of the big US global companies who I thought were doing public policy work, but doing it from the private sector perspective. And I first ended up at Citi Group, I was working with somebody who I had known and I had worked with in the White House previously, and it was really exciting work, it was... I'm a huge, passionate believer in international trade, I'm probably one of two people in the world today that are still a big passionate believer in international trade, and I wanted to go work for a company where I could do that, and Citi provided that opportunity to me. It helped me also from a financial perspective, but it was true that there was a lot that they were able to do from their purchase, a big financial company to assist with that.
PN: Now, I also happened to time it may be a little bit off in coming in two years before the financial crisis began, during which time we saw that, again, talking about the pandemic, talking about supply chains, talking about how people look at risk and assess risk. There's some things had gotten out of whack with regards to risk and risk scenarios and risk planning. And so I got to spend a couple of fun years doing that, and then at a certain point, UPS came calling and I thought, "Great, international trade and UPS. Everyone loves international trade, and everyone loves UPS, another great company to go work for." And I have to say, I get to do amazing things at UPS that help advance women's economic empowerment, doing things on delivering vaccines around the world. We do a lot of amazing things on a day-to-day basis that I think that are still true to my public policy, my public policy upbringing and my public policy goals and the values that I took from my time here at Michigan.
BS: Well, one thing I wanted to tell you is, you are also an Undergraduate Economics major, and I have been... I have a Principles of Economics textbook, and I'm really committed to try to change how we teach Economics. And one of the things I say at almost every presentation I give to Econ instructors is your students are not growing up to become economist, they're growing up to work maybe in a corporation, maybe you are working on sustainability, maybe working on trade, which is much more connected to economics, maybe working in government, maybe being a teacher, but what we know actually looking at the data is very, very, very few students, whoever... Who take a Principles or Economics class like one in a thousand go on to become an economist, and even few... We also don't see very many Econ majors who go on to become economists, so you're a great example of using your economics degree, 'cause you clearly use it, but not doing it as an economist, and I think it's obviously clear to me you're using your public policy degree... One thing you said that I am just gonna stop and pause on because it is...
BS: I worked a lot on government salaries when I was in Washington DC, and the reality about government salaries is they're more equal. So people at the top are sort of paid a little bit less than what they can get in the private sector, and people sort of in the bottom ranks tend to be paid a little bit more than what they can get in the private sector. There's a lot of benefits to that greater equality, but it's really hard to co-exist in a world where there's rising inequality in the private sector, and it's people in the private sector who are competing to buy the house next door to you and pushing up the cost of living around you. And so your story about being lured out of government in order to provide for your family really resonates in a way that I think doesn't just say, well, maybe the government should pay more but raises some questions about just the out-of-whack-ness between the amount of inequality we see in the private sector versus government.
BS: But let me come back to what you are... The ways in which you're using your policy degree... One argument is that you can't have every public policy major on the government side of the table, because who's on the other side of the table? So you've been on both sides of the table. How does it feel to be on the corporate side? And why do you think... Why do you think it's important for public policy majors to be... To think about being on either side or both sides for some of their career of the table.
PN: Yeah, so I think some of my role, I think Betsey is to... And I think the role that we all serve in public policy and why going into the corporate world is a good thing. A lot of what we do is we translate. And so business and government don't always speak the same language, they often don't speak the same language, and so I think in our roles, we end up trying to be that translator between the two. Both sides are trying to achieve certain goals they have missions, they have things that are top of mind. And I think sometimes you need to help each side understand what the other side is trying to accomplish, because sometimes you might be both trying to accomplish something similar, but you're saying or talking about it in different ways. And so that I think is something that's really important to speak to and really is something important that folks in roles like mine can do. And so that's why I think that there is a role for public policy majors to go into the corporate world.
PN: I also think that it's just... We at UPS have a foundation, so I work very closely with my foundation partners, and while we do some amazing work in our foundation, a lot of humanitarian work, we do a lot of work around women's economic empowerment, but because it's a foundation, it's really about capacity building, and so... But what makes that women's economic empowerment work, building resilient communities work, sustainable over the long run, is moving it from being in our foundation and then in the part of UPS that's a 501 [c]  and moving it over to the business part. Because once it becomes part of the business, once it becomes an area, then it becomes very sustainable and it becomes something that the business becomes very invested in as well.
BS: You mentioned the communication and not really understanding necessarily what the other side was saying, and you know, I think you often hear this cynical view like, "Corporations have the ear of government." But there is actually this other challenge, which is that you have people who work in government who don't really understand what's going on in business, and we need to make sure that those channels of communication are open. And so how do you see the balance, again, having been on both sides of the table, between undue influence from corporations in the policy making and regulatory process versus being able to truly communicate so that better policy can be made?
PN: Yeah, so I think one thing we try to do, and one thing I try to do on trade policy in particular, is I focus very much on trying to help our customers, our female-owned business customers, our small and medium-sized customers, we try to help with articulating some of what... Some of the issues they're facing that are impeding their ability to grow, and so there is... I think there are things that we see out there where government consultations, government involvement in certain areas in with regards to women and trade, with regards to women's economic empowerment, we've seen that some government policies get developed without necessarily taking into account the perspectives of or the views of all businesses.
PN: And so as a result... And sometimes it goes out, it's open consultation, but people are busy, and as you know, women we are also... Some have a disproportionate responsibility at home in some cases, and so women's ability to contribute in some of the consultations with the way that that's being done is... Maybe means that women's voices is less heard or is less reflected sometimes in government policies. So one of the important things we try to do is we're trying to help get some of those voices out on the table to help make sure that the policy making that is done at least hears from all the perspectives and then is making decisions based on all of that information. And I think that that's something that's important that we all continue to try to do in our societies, because hearing just from a few does not always produce the best results.
BS: With that let's shift a little bit to talking more directly about gender, and I want to start by asking you if you thought that the way business was done during the pandemic, did that change how you interacted with your colleagues, with your employees? Did you learn things different about them or how to interact with them, and how did you deal with people who worked underneath you, dealing with their struggles of being a mom at home with kids?
PN: I have a global team, so I was using Zoom before the COVID hit. And the one thing about Zoom that I think we underestimate is that everybody's box on Zoom is the same size, and so there is something that I think is... Came out of it... What is for many men a very challenging and difficult situation. But there has been, in some cases a flattening of the world and some of my people that work for me have been able to be much more involved in certain things because we were all on Zoom, and so that helped. But as I would just say that... So I have three kids, I was at home, people saw my kids, people saw my kids come on camera all the time. My kids always seemed to know that when I was in the middle of really deep passionate business discussions, that was the perfect time to come ask me if they could get $10 for their Playstation 4, and so... 'Cause I would tell them, "Yes." And go away 'cause I gotta finish this first. But I had a lot of... We've had a lot of things on my team that I think really required, not just from me, but from many a very empathetic leadership style.
PN: We all were going through something, we were all going through it together. We had to become much more understanding about disruptions, interruptions, what was going on. We had to, I think, have a little bit more grace and understand that we didn't always know what everybody was going through and we needed to cut everybody a little bit of slack because you just didn't know what might really be going on in someone else's space. But at the same time, needed to check in on some of our colleagues from time to time, and I think that that became really, really important.
PN: And it was also important to make sure that we were reflecting this up and down, so I wasn't trying to present the perfect picture to my people, nor was I presenting it to the people above me either, because that wasn't what was going on in my life. I was struggling with three kids, trying to educate them while also trying to do a really hectic job because of what COVID was doing to our network and to all the things that we had going on, as well as adopting a dog, as well as trying to get out of the house and take a walk from time to time, and it was a challenge. But I think it was empathetic leadership that really came and was really helpful to make sure that balance was somewhat maintained during that period.
BS: And do you think that that is gonna change you permanently as a leader?
PN: I'm sure it will. So I think of... We recently went through the 20th anniversary of 9/11 and Betsey, I was in the commerce department that day, having to make decisions about what to do with all the people we had in the building. We had people in Tower 6 next to the World Trade Center. The unpreparedness we saw that day has impacted me to this day. I will... I have a list of my employees and their phone numbers I carry with me at all times because I wasn't able to reach my people that day, and that was something that really, really impacted me. And so I think all of these experiences help shape us and change us and make us the leaders we will be in the future, so at least I hope. I hope we all learn something from it.
BS: Well, and honestly, your 9/11 story is very powerful in terms of how it just shaped you thinking about, "How do I get in touch with somebody?" And I think so many of us forget that and...
PN: But we all forget it, we forget... We always forget the lessons of a crisis, don't we? The supply chain crisis we're going through today, it's the same thing we've seen it in the past.
BS: So I started to get some of our audience questions that I wanted to bring to the table and one... So I'll read this out to you is, How do you think about maximizing positive impact in your career, and in which of your roles do you feel you've made the greatest positive impact for environmental sustainability?
PN: And so for sustainability would be the current role. So at UPS, we're a very large transportation company and we're in... We have sectors that are easier to decarbonize like ground transportation, and then we have sectors that are more challenging, like aviation. So I think that there are areas there that we will continue to try and we are continuing, but we have a huge impact to play there and we... I don't think we underestimate our importance on it. So I see that the work I'm doing today as the one that's the most important. And for those out there that are Michigan students, I'll tell you that I didn't set out to do sustainability, I just became passionate about it, and I walked into my boss's office one day in Europe and said, "We're not doing enough on this." And she said, "Okay, you're in charge." So be careful what you ask for sometimes. [laughter]
BS: That's a great story 'cause it's actually how a lot of people end up doing things, which is, they put their hand up to do it, and then somebody says, "Okay, go forward." And we go forward or you don't. So what advice would you give today's public policy students about how they should think about getting that first job or internship, how they should think about navigating their career?
PN: Yeah, so I think it's a great point. The main advice I would give is, you need to pick your bosses, you don't always pick your... You can work on the world's most boring thing, but if you have a fantastic boss who's supportive and encouraging, and they can take topics and make them relevant and interesting. I started off doing anti-dumping and countervailing duty investigations at the Department of Commerce, but I had fabulous bosses who helped me transition from my public policy school, academic career to the business world or to the work world. And I will still... I still remember them fondly and ever since then to today with my current boss, I think who your boss is is an incredibly important thing to think about. So researching that and making sure you network to find good supportive people to work for is gonna be what makes the most impact and allows you to make the most impact on a day-to-day basis.
BS: I think that's really incredibly good advice, and a lot of people might not even think to do it 'cause you're like, "How do I do that?" But I think you're saying you ask around and you try to gather the information you can when you're picking jobs, because I think you're right to say, you can never do better than the person just above you. You can't really make end runs very easily around the people above you. So they're your cap. And that seems really powerful and important...
PN: But a good one will bring out the best of you too.
BS: Yes, so it's, what are they getting out of you and I always say that the best people for me to work for are people who already see the best in me, because that makes me want to be the best. I certainly am not motivated by negative comments, I'm motivated by someone who says you can be more, but you have to... Good advice to try to figure out who you are and you wanna be. But I wanted to come back to something you said, which is you left commerce because of family reasons, but it sounds like that's been okay. And I think a lot of people are afraid to make career choices or sacrifices for their own personal reasons, and certainly afraid to say it out loud. What do you think should people be afraid to make those choices?
PN: I think I've gone through... There's times in your life where frankly, it's challenging to make a change, so health crises, maybe you have family issues, you have an elderly parent, you have a child who needs stability, sometimes you can make it... Sometimes you make choices for, I think for family reasons, and that's fine, that's fantastic. But there are other times where I think we need to be careful not to be so locked into, and particularly as women locked into fear of taking a leap, and I think sometimes taking those leaps is when you not only have the greatest personal growth, but you also have the greatest opportunities that come up.
PN: And I've never regretted a shift I've made just like... I think with all things in today, the world is just changing so quickly, we've got to be constantly learning, and we've gotta be constantly changing. And in my own job and in the various jobs I've had, I've worked in three institutions, the Department of Commerce, City Group, and at UPS, but I have done multiple jobs and on multiple things in each, as well as doing extensive board service and volunteer work and NGO work on the outside, and I've never regretted any of the leaps I've done internally, I've learned from every single one of them.
PN: I think the other thing that I would just say though, Betsey, for family reasons as I re-married, and I'm now married to somebody who's a diplomat for another country. And so the other thing that comes up, I think, and will become more and more challenging is how to marry two careers. You happen to be with somebody who's in a similar profession. But marrying people that... Similar education level, similar ambitions, and moving around, particularly with a global career moving around the world, that comes with needing to think about managing your career in a very proactive fashion. Because otherwise, it's very hard to make that work-life balance work.
BS: I think that's exactly right. And this issue of how do you figure out whose career comes first, and I think it has to be that somebody's career has to come first in a particular moment in time, and then you just try to make sure that it's not always leaning too heavily in that one direction. If you lean too heavily in that one direction, then it becomes the joint... Household joint optimization is keep supporting that person who's earning more and more and more and more, and that's how you end up with women getting sidelined. And then one of the fact that really I always think about is men who move physically for work, so you're working in the City A and you've got a job and you get a new job in the City B, and you move. They get a big raise, if you look at their wages. So I'm just looking at men who move from City A to City B changing jobs, big wage increase, women, it's a decrease. Why? Because they're more likely to be following a spouse, than they are to be making their own proactive move. And there's a little tiny bit of our gender wage gap.
PN: Well, I would say one of the leaps I made, Betsey, was when I went to City Group, I worked for a year in Washington, and after the year, they turned to me and they said, "You know, we're looking for someone to go work in Brussels, but your name keeps coming up, would you like to go do this?" I was a single mom, I had a five-year-old, and I luckily had a boss who asked me. Didn't assume because I was a single mom with a kid that I couldn't. Didn't hold back from offering me that opportunity, he said to me... He came to me and said, "I think you're the best person for this job. Can you make it work?" And I went home and I made it work, and I went. And I have to say that from a wage perspective, for me, it worked out well. But I think also sometimes as again, going back to a good boss, I didn't have a boss who made assumptions, and I think that's also what holds certain people back is that people make assumptions about what's gonna work for you rather than asking and giving you those opportunities and helping you make it work.
BS: I totally agree, and I could talk about that all day, but let me turn to some questions that people have that are more around sustainability. And here is an example, how does UPS and other logistics companies like FedEx, and DHL, balance environmental sustainability and consumers desire for faster shipping? Is there any way to make these conflicting forces aligned?
PN: I think that's a great question. And I think one of the things we need to do as shipping companies is provide transparency to our customers when they make choices. And that's something that we do have, we need to probably do more of it, and we need to work with particularly the e-commerce companies around it. So that when you are going and you're making your check out, you're making decisions that align with the service levels you need, and then the climate impact that comes with it. In some cases, it can be complicated in the sense that we are seeing a move from having warehouses far away and a lot of transportation of goods to having maybe shorter zone movements.
PN: So some of you may know that there are certain companies that are actually using the inventory on their floor to then ship and to ship shorter distances, that's something else that we're seeing as a trend as well. So there are things, and I would just say again, there are ways to help with faster same-day shipping and to help with the climate discussion and it requires... It just requires conversations amongst the broader ecosystem, but at the same time, we do need to help consumers make the right choices with regards to what their environmental goals are and what they should be, and then how do they want that product to be received as a result.
BS: I think that that's a really important point because honestly, when I'm asked by Amazon, do you want a delay or do you want this thing to arrive tomorrow? I'm like, "Well, what do I get for delay?" And there's no information, there's nothing like, "Well, this will reduce the carbon footprint of this package or this... " There's nothing that tells me why I should go for that.
PN: I was on the website of one of our customers the other day, I was looking at something... Looking at a dress. And when I went to go to the checkout cart, it told me that if I was willing to get the package in two weeks, it was six times less carbon than if I got the package in two days.
BS: So that would change my behavior.
PN: Yeah. I clipped it, I made a picture of it and clipped it. This is a customer of ours that we've worked with on this and on some of the carbon mapping and the carbon impact. And so clipped it and said, "This is the best case."
BS: Yeah, that's a really, really good example because I think consumers just don't know, and the other thing is they don't necessarily trust. I can't just assume that if I say, Oh, let's send it slow, that it's not gonna be that Amazon doesn't just de-prioritize it and then it comes out of the warehouse and gets on a plane like four days later. So I think communicating with customers, because people do care about this. I think preferences are shifting, you'll see from the number of questions I know our young students have about environmental sustainability, this is their number one issue, even in the middle of a global pandemic, it's their number one issue. They did... There was an actually interesting question that I wanted to ask that is a little bit about sustainability, but how does UPS work to address the supply chain shortage currently being faced in Haiti? And as UPS work to empower local communities in Haiti or other countries facing natural disasters? To make them more self-sufficient in the face of natural disasters.
PN: So we have. We have a lot of work we've done in Turkey more than Haiti. In Haiti, we've done a lot of work over the years, we've been doing a lot of humanitarian shipments recently trying to help the situation in Haiti. And then other... And in... I don't know if we've done this program in Haiti, I do know we've done it in Turkey, so we may have done something in Haiti, but I can't specifically address it. But in Turkey and another... And we've got a very specific program after they had their earthquake several years ago, where we did go in to try to work with them to help with building resilient economies.
PN: So one of the things that, again, Betsey, going back to our work on women's economic empowerment, we found also, there's a variety of statistics around it, I don't wanna quote it 'cause some of them have been challenged. But some of the statistics that we've seen and some of the work we've done has said that by empowering women and helping women enterprises in particular, you're helping to build that resilience, so that when there are natural disasters, when there are other disasters or crises that may arise, that those communities are more resilient, those that have more women businesses that are operating.
PN: And so in Turkey, we've done some other things with our programs around helping to build resilience in the local community, part of it had to do with some of the aspects around the buildings and how they were constructed, some of it had to do with empowering some of the local civil society, some of it had to do with some other things, but it was a project we did in concert with many others. So that's kind of the areas in which we've worked and we've done that again, my foundation partners have done the majority of that work, they have a lot more of the details on it, but it's been something that in building resilience and building resilient communities, that has been a priority for us in the past... I mean the future.
BS: Well, it's sort of along the same lines. And I think connected to the gender issue somewhat, is, Has UPS taken any steps to support Afghan refugees in recent weeks.
PN: So we have. We've just signed on to and agreed to support... We were one of 30 companies that agreed to support and to look at the hiring of Afghan refugees and made those commitments that we would be willing... We are gonna be a part of that initiative to help out the Afghan refugee population. We've also been working with a lot of the humanitarian organizations, again, who are primarily working in the bordering countries around Afghanistan at the moment with regards to some of the humanitarian needs that we see. It's a challenging situation, there's not a lot of roads in Afghanistan, so everything has to fly in, so the air network is what's really important there and that's... So that's something that we're looking at.
BS: And to one last audience question, How does the growing impacts from natural disasters and weather events caused by climate change affect the transition to cleaner forms of energy? What are the business decisions that UPS has to make to mitigate those impacts?
PN: Yeah, so I think climate resilience is a big question that a lot of companies as well as countries are looking at. So it's looking at your facilities looking at... We operate an air network, so for us, weather can delay our air network delivers, it delays our services. And so those are things that we do look at in terms of that are important, but it's also looking at... Hurricane Ida recently came through Louisiana and impacted some of our facilities in Louisiana, and that's something that we... As part of what we look at in terms of our sustainability planning, that's something that I think we need to keep in mind, and it's something that all companies are looking at in terms of their climate resilience based on where are we building things today and how resilient are everything to that.
PN: At the same time, I'm building... Having to build in resilience as I'm transitioned to new types of energy and new fleets. So for example, as we move to an all-electric fleet, how do I make sure that I always have electricity or how do I have back-up batteries, to make sure that I can deliver my packages on a daily basis to folks, even if there's a power outage, even if there are something else going on. So again, making sure there's not a brittleness in our own internal supply chain, but that we're building in resilience and back-up plans into our systems is incredibly important.
BS: Well, I really was looking forward to this conversation today because you have had such an interesting career as a public policy major, as an Economics major. And we're coming to the end of our time, but do you have any other last advice you want to offer our students, our audience?
PN: My only... Listen to Betsey.
PN: And all the child care and all the women in work, listen to Betsey.
BS: I really love that advice, and I will make sure that I play the end of this for my children tonight, and hopefully some of my students tuned in today, so... Always great fun to be able to chat with you. And I really appreciate you making the time to be our alumni in residence today. Thank you.
PN: Yeah. Well, Betsey, thank you, and I think I've... As a final comment, I would just say my children have listened to your podcast, so they're well on their way to being Economics majors in the future, so thank you for everything you're doing to help educate the next generation on economics and economic theory.
BS: Thank you so much.