UPS customers repeatedly asked to tap into this expertise, which ultimately led to the development of a full-service business. UPS Supply Chain Solutions is a streamlined organization that provides logistics, global freight, financial, and mail services to enhance customers' business performance and improve their global supply chains.
In 2001, UPS ventured toward retail business by acquiring Mail Boxes Etc., Inc., the world's largest franchisor of retail shipping, postal and business service centers. Within two years, approximately 3,000 Mail Boxes Etc. locations in the United States re-branded as The UPS Store and began offering lower UPS-direct shipping rates. The stores remain locally owned and operated, and continue to offer the same variety of postal and business services, with the same convenience and world-class service.
UPS continues to expand service worldwide. In Europe, Asia, and South America, customers enjoy an unmatched portfolio of time-definite and supply chain services. Two major enhancements to international service came with the expansion of Worldport, the air hub in Louisville, Kentucky, as well as the European air hub in Cologne, Germany. With Asia identified as a primary growth target, in 2005 UPS launched the first non-stop delivery service between the U.S. and Guangzhou, China. That same year, UPS acquired the interest held by its joint venture business partner in China, giving it access to 23 cities that cover more than 80% of the country's international trade.
From using electric vehicles in New York City during the 1930s to developing water conservation techniques while keeping the familiar brown package cars clean, as well as operating the world's largest fleet of compressed natural gas (CNG) vehicles, UPS has long practiced environmentally-conscious innovations. Although sustainable practices are not new to UPS, the company recognized the need to formally document its focus on responsible business models. In 2003, UPS issued its first Corporate Sustainability report, highlighting the importance of balancing economic, social and environmental objectives. Now an annual report, it tracks the company's key performance indicators relevant to the business.
UPS continually gains wider access to various markets through acquisitions. The 1999 acquisition of Challenge Air made UPS the largest express and air cargo carrier in Latin America. Purchasing Menlo Worldwide Forwarding in 2004 added heavy air freight shipment capability, while the acquisition of Overnite in 2005 expanded the company's ground freight services in North America. Other recent acquisitions in the U.K. and Poland present new opportunities for growth in Europe.
Over the past 100 years, UPS has become an expert in transformation, growing from a small messenger company to a leading provider of air, ocean, ground, and electronic services. The most recent public change came in 2003, when the company introduced a new brand mark, representing a new, evolved UPS, and showing the world that its capabilities extend beyond small package delivery. The company went another step further, adopting the acronym UPS as its formal name, another indicator of its broad expanse of services. Ever true to its humble origins, the company maintains its reputation for integrity, reliability, employee ownership, and customer service. For UPS, the future promises even more accomplishments as the next chapter in the company's history is written.