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Q & A: "All People Want to Help Others, if Given the Opportunity"

December 20, 2017

UPS Foundation President Eduardo Martinez explains why humanitarian relief work with UNICEF is a natural fit for UPS. 

For decades, UNICEF and UPS have shared their logistical expertise to help children around the world. Eduardo Martinez, president of the UPS Foundation and UPS chief diversity & inclusion officer, is responsible for the operations and management of UPS's global philanthropic, employee engagement, corporate relations and diversity and inclusion programs. Below, he shares some of the ways UPS and UNICEF collaborate to deliver lifesaving supplies to some of the world's most vulnerable people.

UNICEF and UPS work together so beautifully in emergency situations. UPS has helped our UNICEF Supply Division with logistics, with efficiency, with running better supply chains. What are the challenges in maintaining that kind of efficiency?

EDUARDO MARTINEZ: UPS operates in over 220 countries and territories, so we have the broadest network in the world. Sometimes we run into situations where the areas where need is greatest are difficult areas for a private-sector company to operate in: conflict zones, embargoed areas. That's probably the biggest challenge that we have.

UPS operates in over 220 countries and territories, so we have the broadest network in the world.

UNICEF runs one of the most professional supply-chain logistics shops that we've encountered across our partners. It's a question of bringing your expertise and our expertise together and sharing best practices because I will tell you that our people learn a lot too, in humanitarian logistics.

After Hurricane Maria slammed into Puerto Rico in September, UPS and UNICEF USA worked together to deliver clean drinking water and emergency hygiene kits to some of the 1 million on the island without running water. 

Why is UPS involved in humanitarian relief efforts to begin with?

EDUARDO MARTINEZ: UPS has a long history of working in the community. We consider ourselves a doorstep company. We operate, as I said, in 220 countries and territories, so when a community suffers, chances are that our people are hurting, too. Our customers are hurting in those communities, so we've had a long history of being there to help communities in need, because those are our communities, too.

UPS has a long history of working in the community.... When a community suffers, chances are that our people are hurting too.

The other reason is that if you have a prosperous community, a community that is healthy and safe, you're going to have a healthy business around it. You're going to have an inspired workforce, so we have chosen humanitarian relief and resilience because we play to our strengths. When a crisis occurs, chances are that the supply chain is either broken or ineffective. That's where we can engage people, using our philanthropy and the resources of the company to build back those supply chains and save lives. 

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In a season of terrible storms, Hurricane Maria was among the worst ever. UNICEF USA and UPS partnered with New York Governor Andrew Cuomo's Empire State Relief and Recovery Effort for Puerto Rico and local community organizations to deliver emergency supplies. 

Are there special considerations when you're delivering temperature-sensitive supplies like vaccines that need to be refrigerated? 

We developed special containers to maintain the whole cold chain. When those kinds of assets are needed, we have them. To get materials from a warehouse in Louisville, Kentucky to the front lines of Liberia, that's a long supply chain. While we may have the equipment, getting it through that chain of stops is always going to be a challenge. It's not easy to do.

There are so many humanitarian crises going on in the world today... Everybody's doing more with less.

These days, there seems to be one crisis after the next. How does UPS coordinate multiple relief efforts?

EDUARDO MARTINEZ: There are so many humanitarian crises going on in the world today. There's just not enough resources. People have to drop what they're doing and respond, so being able to think and act strategically is a challenge sometimes.

Everybody's doing more with less. In an emergency situation, where you're out there trying to save lives, it can be very difficult to put strategic programs in place or work towards a more longterm strategic solution. 

For UPS Foundation President Eduardo Martinez, far right, pitching in to aid those less fortunate is second nature: "I'm fortunate to work for a company like UPS that values comunity and understands the role that we play in connecting communities."

Is there anything in your personal experience that draws you to this work?

EDUARDO MARTINEZ: I am an immigrant. My family came to the U.S. from Cuba when I was an infant. We were refugees. Obviously, UPS has been involved since 2012 in the Syrian refugee crisis, and we've been working with UNICEF and the World Food Program and the UN Refugee Agency and a number of other organizations supporting refugees where they are and as they've immigrated into Europe. 

I think all of us, collectively, have a passion to help people.

I think that all of us, collectively, have a passion to help people, so I think nothing special of my background. All people want to help others, if given the opportunity. I'm fortunate to work for a company like UPS that values community and understands the role that we play in connecting communities.

How long have you worked for UPS?

EDUARDO MARTINEZ: This is my 41st year. I started with the company when I was 16 years old. It was my first job: unloading UPS trucks in Miami. I served as an accountant, an engineer, various roles at UPS. I was a lawyer, corporate counsel for UPS, before taking on this responsibility. We develop people who are multi-disciplined. Really, to do this job, you have to tap into a lot of those kinds of resources.

I've heard stories of UPS volunteers building cradles out of loading crates.

What is the work you're doing with refugees? Is it mostly transporting supplies to refugee camps?

EDUARDO MARTINEZ: It's transportation. It's supply chain. It's tracking their nutrition using technology to make sure they get their fair share of nutrition. We are in Europe trying to hire them where possible, so there is a small hiring component. There are volunteer efforts. I've heard stories of UPS volunteers building cradles out of loading crates.

We're honored to work side by side with UNICEF and a number of other United Nations agencies. It's just an honor to do this kind of work.

I just want to clarify, you don't transport humans, right?

EDUARDO MARTINEZ: No. Our planes are very uncomfortable. No seats.

 

GIVE HOPE

 

Top photo: After Hurricane Harvey hit Texas in August, heavy flooding displaced many students and teachers from their schools. UPS partnered with UNICEF USA to prepare and deliver School-in-a-Box kits to help nearly 13,000 children in the Houston area get back to learning.