"Sustainability and corporate responsibility are integral components of our corporate strategy"
"Taking on Responsibility Together" - under this title Deutsche Post DHL today presented this year's report on corporate responsibility. In an interview with Deutsche Post DHL News, Christof Ehrhart, Director of Corporate Communications and Responsibility in the Group, talks about green anniversaries, big figures and the future of responsibility.
Christof Ehrhart, Director of Corporate Communications and Corporate Responsibility Deutsche Post DHL
Mr. Ehrhart, Deutsche Post published the first environmental report ten years ago. How is this year's report on corporate responsibility different from the first report of 2003?
Christof Ehrhart: The first environmental report in 2003 was an expression of a rethinking. Protecting the environment and sustainable actions were set down as particular goals of the company - not only as lip service but for the first time in a comprehensible manner through the report. A number of things have changed since then; more importantly, they have been further developed. Today we are reporting on our ecological and social responsibility as an employer, corporate citizen and the world's leading postal and logistics service provider. Our aim in the process is to deliver respect and results. You can't have one without the other: Assuming our place in the community as a company and respecting its needs is the only way to ensure our economic success in the long run. That's why at Deutsche Post DHL sustainability and corporate responsibility have long been integral parts of our Strategy 2015, the roadmap with which we intend to become the employer, provider and investment of choice. We call this part of the strategy "Living Responsibility". We use that phrase to express that we consciously perceive the responsibility we bear as a company and that we intend to "live" it. And this commitment to society and the environment we are presenting today in this report, which has been independently reviewed by a third party.
Christof Ehrhart: We report on the social contributions we have made in very different areas. This extends from HR topics like our diversity or idea management, through our activities related to environmental protection that we have consolidated under "GoGreen", through our work in the area of disaster management ("GoHelp") and our commitment to education ("GoTeach"). It's not only a matter of facts and figures, but it is also a question of showing very concretely how we implement our aims. That's why we document, for example, the efforts we make for the environment by accompanying a DHL employee in New York and showing how he delivers parcels and documents with an emission-free electric delivery van.
Let's get a little more specific. What are you doing for your own employees in order to make them - and thus the company - fit for the future?
Christof Ehrhart: Around 475,000 people work for Deutsche Post worldwide. Without their knowledge, ideas and enthusiasm, we couldn't be successful. That is why one part of the corporate responsibility report is also focused on topics from our human resources department under the leadership of Board Member Angela Titzrath. We want to show how we are preparing ourselves for the coming demographic change, which poses very different challenges to us as a global company. In Europe, the main issue involves shaping jobs in such a way that the increasing number of older employees can also participate; but in the emerging countries the challenge lies in finding young talents, keeping them at the company and giving them the opportunity to further develop. In Germany, one of the ways we have responded to this challenge is with the Generations Pact for age-based career solutions; around the world we are addressing it with strategic workforce management. Through our diversity management we also have in mind the question of how we can even more strongly promote the diversity of nationalities, vocational training and religion that distinguishes our company.
Is the advancement of women a part of that?
Christof Ehrhart: Around 36 percent of our employees around the world are women, at the management level in Germany, that figure is just under 20 percent. We want to increase that proportion in the mid-term. One approach is that we have committed ourselves to filling 25 to 30 percent of all management-level vacancies with women. In addition, we targetedly promote female high-potentials through our talent management activities. That is another reason why in the past year Deutsche Post DHL received its fifth consecutive Total E-Quality award in Germany. But it's not just about the advancement of women: To a greater degree, balancing career and family is in general one of the most important issues that we address on the personnel side. Not only in Germany where 43 percent of our colleagues work, we offer improved childcare, flexible working hours and various support measures for re-entering the workforce following family leave. Things like that pay off: Employee satisfaction with the company is continually growing. The results of our annual employee opinion survey, which we have conducted now for the sixth time, demonstrate that.
But surveys aren't the only way you enter into dialog with the employees?
Christof Ehrhart: No, not by far. One factor of the success of Deutsche Post DHL is that we collect ideas and improvement suggestions from our colleagues around the world. They are there on-site, and they are the most familiar with the processes and for that reason they know exactly where the potential for optimization lies. That's why we further expanded idea management in 2012, the program with which we collect, examine and - where possible - implement the improvement suggestions from the workforce. Around 165,000 new suggestions and an implementation rate of 81 percent in the past year alone are impressive results. One focus of the ideas, by the way, is on increasing our environmental efficiency.
Key word environment. The "GoGreen" program has been around for five years now. How do you develop green products?
Christof Ehrhart: With the start of the Plus-Päckchen service, we initially offset the carbon emissions of 1.16 million products in the first year. In 2012, that figure had already reached over 2.4 billion shipments that we transported in a manner that is climate neutral - an increase of more than a half billion compared with the prior year. As a result, we have offset around 180,000 tons of CO2. Or, in order to make it even more concrete: the amount of CO2 produced by a fleet of over 36,000 mid-sized vehicles if they were to drive one time around the world. But the entire supply chain is the focus of our green optimization service. For example, we offer comprehensive CO2 reporting and advise customers on how they can save the most CO2 in their supply chain - and then we implement the solutions together.
How do you compensate for CO2 emissions?
Christof Ehrhart: First, by purchasing emissions certificates from climate protection projects, against which the carbon emissions of the item transport is offset. But we don't only use emission certificates that we buy in addition on the market for the purposes of compensation. In this fiscal year for the first time we will be able to generate carbon credits from our very own climate protection project in Lesotho. Together with atmosfair, one of the world's leading providers of measures for CO2 compensation, and with local partners, we have been building up this project since 2010. The project focuses on special wood-burning stoves to reduce the wood fuel consumption of local households by 80 percent and thus also to protect the bio-diversity in a country marked by erosion. This year we received certification in line with the "Gold Standard" for the project, something the United Nations uses to confirm compliance with ecological and social criteria in accordance with the Kyoto protocol. That shows that we intend to be committed here long-term and sustainably.
Is the investment in climate protection the only contribution that you make?
Christof Ehrhart: Quite the contrary. Compensating CO2 emissions is only one of the things we do. In addition, we constantly ask ourselves the question of how we can further optimize our processes, our buildings and facilities, and our fleet in order to consume less energy and thus decrease our impact on the environment. We invest continually to do that. Already today, 8,500 Deutsche Post DHL vehicles around the world utilize alternative or modified drive systems, electric or hybrid. That is more than ten percent of our road fleet and twice as much as a year ago. Something similar applies to our fleet of aircraft. Last year, we put 13 additional planes into operation that can hold larger loads and in the process consume substantially less fuel than the older planes. Building efficiency is another approach: In our buildings and at our sites around the world, energy consumption is dropping - and the energy that we are using is increasingly generated ecologically. Moreover, we utilize our expertise in ecological logistics more and more intensively to advise our customers on how they can optimize their own supply chains. Those are all steps that bring us closer to our larger target, improving the CO2 efficiency of the Group by 30 percent by 2020. Five years have passed since we set this target for ourselves and we are already halfway there.
You also mentioned two other areas of "Living Responsibility". What's happening with "GoTeach"?
Christof Ehrhart: Under the name "GoTeach" we express our desire to improve the educational opportunities of young people and increase their chances for a successful professional life -regardless of their social origin. We have been working closely together for a long time now with two international partners here: "Teach For All" and SOS Children's Villages. In Germany, we were among other things a founding partner of the Teach First Deutschland Initiative, which belongs to the "Teach For All" network. With our financial support, "Teach For All" has been able to expand to 26 independent national partner organizations. In 2012, more than 13,000 "Fellows" reached a million children and youth around the world. These "Fellows" are personally and academically outstanding university graduates who work for two years as teachers at schools in disadvantaged communities. We have developed and implemented numerous offers together - tailored to the needs of the partner organizations - which depend on the commitment of our employees. Last year around 2,000 employees contributed their competencies and their free time to the partnerships. Many of my colleagues were available to serve as mentors for young people. That shows that when companies get involved we have a real chance to do something for educational equity.
You have been working for some time now with the United Nations to provide support in the aftermath of natural disasters. What does that involve?
Christof Ehrhart: "GoHelp", what we call our disaster management, involves on the one hand using comprehensive prevention measures and workshops to prepare for a natural disaster. Our GARD workshops - short for "Get Airports Ready for Disaster" - that we conducted in 2012 in Lebanon, Turkey and in Indonesia together with our partner, the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), and local participants at the airport belong to that. Additional workshops are on the schedule for the current year. On the other hand, we also help after a natural disaster. Which is why together with the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (UN OCHA), we have built up a network of over 400 specially trained employees around the world who voluntarily assist in our "Disaster Response Teams" (DRT) wherever that help is needed. Upon request of the UN, these colleagues can begin their work in a disaster region within 72 hours. That was the case in Guatemala and the Philippines in 2012.
That sounds like the "Living Responsibility" strategy is already soundly anchored in Deutsche Post DHL. Has everything already been accomplished or do you intend to further pursue the issue of corporate responsibility in the medium term?
Christof Ehrhart: Overall, we are already very orderly positioned in the area of corporate responsibility. It would be fatal, however, if we became self-satisfied and simply rested on our laurels. It is precisely that two-fold responsibility that a company bears according to our understanding - delivering respect and results - that offers major opportunities for the future. That's why we intend, for example, in the future to expand the idea behind "GoGreen" - namely linking sustainability sensibly and credibly with our business and our expertise - to other business processes. We call this principle "shared value". The goal is to improve both the economic and the ecological performance of the company and to open up new markets. For us, that is the corporate responsibility of tomorrow.