"Logistics industry will be a facilitator of change"
Interview with Frank Appel, CEO of Deutsche Post DHL, about sustainable logistics
Deutsche Post DHL has published a new study. "Delivering Tomorrow: Towards Sustainable Logistics" examines developments towards a sustainable, carbon-efficient logistics industry and outlines how sustainable solutions and technologies will be key in reducing the CO2 footprint of logistics. Frank Appel, Chief Executive Officer of Deutsche Post DHL, talks about the study's findings and its consequences.
Deutsche Post DHL CEO Frank Appel
Why did Deutsche Post DHL issue this report on green logistics?
Appel: It is a follow-up on our Delphi Study from last year which identified the move towards "green" solutions as the big issue for future business. The new report focuses completely on our business, the logistics industry. We’ve done this report on sustainability in the logistics sector because we want to be part of the solution when it comes to fighting climate change.
Man-made greenhouse gas emissions have made climate change the most pressing challenge we face and if we don’t start tackling it now, the costs will just keep mounting. The logistics industry is a significant source of carbon emissions. And, as the world’s largest logistics group, we recognize that Deutsche Post DHL holds a special responsibility for reducing emissions.
So you think the logistics industry needs to be at the forefront of climate protection?
Appel: Absolutely. We appreciate that we can and will be facilitators of change, and that logistics is ideally placed to help foster sustainability. Spanning a worldwide transport network and through its expertise and positioning all along the supply chain, the logistics industry can be a role model for many other sectors as they embark on their own efforts to reduce emissions. We can act as a catalyst for sustainable business practices.
So what is Deutsche Post DHL doing about climate change?
Appel: Providing greener solutions has been a key activity at Deutsche Post DHL for some years already and is integrated into our corporate strategy. We were the first logistics company worldwide to commit to a carbon efficiency target – 30% improvement by the year 2020 compared with 2007.
We were also the first logistics company to offer carbon-neutral shipping services, we’ve recently implemented a Carbon Accounting system and we have a strong GoGreen program as part of our Corporate Responsibility initiatives. And of course there’s our unit DHL Solutions & Innovations that is constantly working on innovative solutions for greener business.
What are the most important findings in the report?
Appel: The report notes that more sustainable business practices will be a prerequisite to long-term success for most companies in the future, and that this trend is already driving a greener logistics industry. It also finds that while many still see a contradiction between economic growth and environmental protection, sustainable business policies can actually enhance profitability. The logistics industry can already achieve significant carbon reduction results today by optimizing distribution networks, using the right modes of transportation and efficiently managing load capacities and routes. Which at the same time reduces costs.
We can also increase the energy efficiency of warehouses, improve the aerodynamics of existing vehicles, and make better use of eco-driving systems. Our report has distilled some of the salient, forward-looking developments of our industry.
What are the consequences in your view?
Appel: The logistics providers to shape the future will be those who offer specific expertise. Logistics will be less and less of a commodity. At the same time, given the cost of new technologies, change will entail a concerted drive from companies, governments and financial institutions; we will see more collaboration between companies – even competitors – as the most efficient way of achieving sustainability. As sustainable innovations open up new opportunities, logistics companies will adapt their business models.
Furthermore, the regulatory environment will evolve. CO2 labeling will become standard, providing transparency to consumers. Once carbon emissions have a price tag, it will be particularly important for policymakers to ensure a level playing field. A patchwork of diverging regulations will only lead to carbon leakage, meaning a relocation of emissions intensive sectors to countries with laxer regulation.
What are you hoping to achieve with this report?
Appel: Our aim is to create a more focused debate amongst policymakers, commentators and the media as well as business people and consumers. All these groups need to consciously and with more urgency consider the challenges posed by climate change and to act upon them. The report aims to show how business innovation and green demand can drive a low-carbon industry and lead to a low-carbon economy.