Going green is good business for DHL

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Frank Appel, chief executive of Deutsche Post DHL, was in London last month to see an 18-tonne hybrid distribution truck – believed to be the first of its kind in the world – and he took the opportunity to highlight the case for improving carbon efficiency.

So far, hybrid vehicles have been limited to 7.5-tonnes by battery and motor technology.

DHL Supply Chain is currently carrying out operational tests on the Volvo in various urban operations. Trials will last for a two year period; initially it is being operated in and around London.

The trial reflects Deutsche Post DHL’s commitment to reducing its carbon footprint, says Appel, pointing out that there can also be financial benefits for the business. “If we save fuel, we save

The group has one of the largest vehicle fleets on the planet – more than 40,000 in Germany alone and tens of thousands more around the world – so the choices it makes will have a significant impact. And that is not just in terms of the impact of its own operations but on the decisions made by others.

It is currently testing a range of different vehicle technologies. “We already have about 2,700 test vehicles in our fleet worldwide,” he says. “We are testing a whole range of technologies – we are happy to do so.”

In fact, it has just been announced that Deutsche Post is to start testing 15 Mercedes-Benz Vito E-Cell vans from the autumn. The vans use battery-electric drives and will be used in the mail delivery service.

Appel points out that the group has committed to improving its carbon efficiency by ten per cent by 2012 and 30 per cent by 2020 when compared to 2007 levels. The company has set strict targets, reducing emissions per package sent, tonne transported and square metre of real estate used.

“We have made good progress to the 2012 target,” he says.

Deutsche Post DHL was one of the first logistics companies to join the Climate Neutral Network, an initiative led by the United Nations Environment Programme to promote global action towards low-carbon economies and societies. DHL has brought all of its climate change initiatives – both internal and customer facing – together under its GoGreen Programme to build a comprehensive range of environmentally sustainable logistics solutions.

The underlying approach is a three-pronged method of assessing, reducing and offsetting carbon emissions. To measure DHL Express’ carbon emissions on a regular basis and make achievements transparent, the company will set up a comprehensive carbon-accounting system.

GoGreen also offers a competitive advantage. Appel says that the GoGreen service is currently DHL’s fastest growing product in mail and express – more than 500 per cent – though from a relatively small base.

GoGreen is effectively a bolt on to the normal service – the difference being that all transport-related emissions of carbon dioxide are calculated and then offset through internal and external carbon-reduction projects. There are also internal benefits for the business from adopting a proactive approach to environmental issues, says Appel. “Employees are proud that we are doing
this – it is motivational.”

But it is not just transport where this approach is having an impact. Appel points to the warehouse DHL operates for O2 at Wakefield – the first carbon neutral facility in the UK.

The 65,000 sq ft site opened in 2008. Some 98 per cent of the site’s carbon emissions have been eliminated completely and the remaining two per cent is offset via Gold Standard Certified Emission Reductions.

And in Germany, says Appel: “All our energy is renewable. You pay more for it – and if all companies did it would make a big difference.”

Appel points out that there are plenty of other areas where action is needed. And he is keen to promote government action. “If we are making our contribution as a logistics company we can press the case with government,” he says.

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