"Social and environmental responsibility is a part of our core business"
"The AND makes the difference" - this is the title of this year's Corporate Responsibility Report that Deutsche Post DHL released today. In the following interview, Christof Ehrhart, Director of Corporate Communications and Responsibility at Deutsche Post DHL, discusses the significance of this one small word for the business activities of the world's leading postal and logistics provider.
Christof Ehrhart, Director of Corporate Communications and Corporate Responsibility Deutsche Post DHL
Mr. Ehrhart, this year's Corporate Responsibility Report has the simple title of "&" Why short on words?
Christof Ehrhart: The symbol encapsulates a complex issue, boiling it down to a single point: The word "AND" demonstrates that at Deutsche Post DHL, business success and social responsibility are in no way a simple "either/or" proposition. Rather, they are two inseparable objectives for us. But that's not all: Both are also key metrics in our Strategy 2015. The aim of this strategy is for the Group to become the Employer, Provider and Investment of Choice. Our guiding principle of "Respect and Results" illustrates this point quite clearly: We will be truly successful only if we are capable of producing good business results while adequately respecting the needs of society. For this reason, using the ampersand as the title of our 2013 CR Report symbolically demonstrates that we perceive the assumption of social responsibility as an essential aspect of our business performance. In a reflection of this approach, we refer to the people who work in our Group by more than just one name: They are co-workers and co-creators. They work to fulfill our customers' needs and to lessen our impact on the environment at the same time.
It is not just the title that is new this year. The details surrounding its release also deviate from the way Deutsche Post DHL has done things in the past - until now, you had released the Annual Report and Corporate Responsibility Report at different times.
Christof Ehrhart: That's true - but this year we wanted to pay tribute to the relevance that Deutsche Post DHL has attached to corporate responsibility for years with the joint publication date. For this reason, we are really happy about releasing the Corporate Responsibility Report - which has been reviewed by external auditors - at the same time as the Annual Report. The "AND" also plays a crucial role here.
This year, you are also releasing for the first time a comprehensive materiality analysis. What does this mean?
Christof Ehrhart: For more than ten years now, we have been reporting on initiatives, guidelines, projects and measures in which we have assumed commercial and social responsibility - but we have generally done so on the basis of focal points that we defined ourselves. Now we use the results from a materiality analysis that we conducted last year based on a comprehensive survey of stakeholders to gain a better understanding of the needs of our interest and target groups and to align our work even more closely to these expectations. Through our stakeholder dialogue - that is, the ongoing conversation we conduct with all of our interest groups - we will also continue to conduct analyses that will enable us to determine whether and how the importance of various issues has possibly changed in the minds of our stakeholders or from the point of view of the company.
What does this specifically involve?
Christof Ehrhart: On the basis of this analysis, we refined our corporate responsibility strategy - something we call "Living Responsibility" - last year. We placed our environmental protection activities, which we have consolidated into the GoGreen program, our education initiative GoTeach and our disaster management effort GoHelp under this umbrella. One of the enhancements made to our Living Responsibility strategy in 2013 was the creation of a Group-wide Responsible Business Practice network that we will use to systematically manage and coordinate all of our CR-related issues and projects. We will also use this network to intensify dialogue among the board and relevant business units within the Group - from human resources, health management and data protection to procurement, compliance and environmental protection. We have also expanded individual initiatives, including our environmental protection program GoGreen, to which we have added a Shared Value component. In this effort, we intend to combine added value for our customers with benefits for the environment and new business opportunities for the Group.
How does the Shared Value concept fit into GoGreen?
Christof Ehrhart: It turns out to be a perfect fit. In taking this step, we are better able to apply our own experience with GoGreen on a much broader scale and provide our customers with true added value for their value chain. You should keep one point in mind: We launched GoGreen in 2008 with the aim of improving our carbon efficiency by 30% by 2020 compared with the base year of 2007. In striving to reach this target, we continuously monitor our network and routes. We also invest in our fleet. Over the past five years, we have improved our efficiency by 18%, and in 2013 we transported approximately 2.4 billion climate-neutral shipments. As you can see, we are well on the way to reaching our efficiency target. We are also not letting up: Last year, for instance, we further improved our carbon reports, which are designed to make carbon emissions more transparent for our customers. We also operate one of the industry's largest fleet of vehicles with alternative drive systems and aerodynamic modifications. This fleet now totals 10,500 vehicles.
Through the Shared Value concept, you intend to pass on Deutsche Post DHL's environmental commitment to your customers?
Christof Ehrhart: One point is clear: To live up to our responsibility as the world's leading postal and logistics provider, we must not only tend to our own concerns, but also view ourselves as active members of the global society. If we are to succeed in business and strengthen our market position, we must effectively link our social contract with our business activities and direct added value for our customers. This means we will have to offer something that we are particularly good at. Two good examples of this approach are our broad range of measures designed to raise our carbon efficiency and our portfolio of eco-friendly GOGREEN products and services. The really positive feedback we have received from customers about our "GoGreen"-program has shown us just how interested customers are in getting the professional assistance they can use to reach their own climate goals. This is where the Shared Value concept comes in: We offer our know-how and experience in the area of carbon efficiency to our customers so they can optimize their supply chains, minimize their emissions and thus reach their own climate goals. Ideally, they will be able to design a more efficient and lower-cost business model. This is a great help to our customers and a new business model for us. We use this model to share our knowledge and put it to use for the good of everyone. Not least, we will strengthen our market position by viewing social and environmental responsibility as a component of our core business.
What are you doing to help your colleagues become co-creators of your company?
Christof Ehrhart: The company's business success is based on the commitment, creativity and knowledge of our approximately 480,000 employees around the world. It makes good sense to create a work environment in which they can put their talents to full use. This also includes fair compensation, which, in turn, is essential if the company is to attract qualified and motivated employees. To ensure the company has a solid remuneration structure, we introduced a number of job-related evaluation systems in 2013. By doing so, we create transparency and trust. Openness, trust and mutual respect are the critical values that define our corporate culture.
What effect does this have?
Christof Ehrhart: In 2013, the company's Human Resources Department, led by Board of Management member Angela Titzrath, focused on the issue of diversity management. The Group's Board of Management passed a Corporate Diversity & Inclusion Statement at Deutsche Post DHL. In 2013, we also conceived of a diversity and gender awareness training program. Beginning this year, all future executives must attend this course. And, finally, we moved ahead during the reporting year with the One HR program, which was launched in 2012 to drive sustainable human resources management throughout the Group.
Let's return to Living Responsibility for a moment. You mentioned your education program GoTeach just a few minutes ago. Which issues did you focus on during 2013?
Christof Ehrhart: With GoTeach, we have committed ourselves to improving educational opportunity and the employability of young people - particularly those who are underprivileged. As part of this effort, we began working with the global educational network Teach For All in 2010. With our support, Teach For All was able to increase the number of independent country organizations from 26 to 32. The impact of this network is really impressive: Last year, 1.3 million children and young people benefited from it around the world. Financial support is not the only thing we provide to Teach For All. We are also closely involved in seven country organizations with volunteer activities. Targeted to the needs in these countries several activities took place, for example programs that help teachers and students grow in personal terms as well as gain additional occupational and professional orientation. The Philippines was added in 2013 and other countries will follow. About 840 of our employees joined in partnership activities last year as a way of helping children and young people in this regard. We are pursuing a similar goal in our relationship with SOS Children's Villages, which we also intensified in 2013. We are currently supporting partnerships in 14 countries. In addition to the financial support that we provide to educational programs and the facilities for children and young people run by SOS Children's Villages, we create opportunities for occupational orientation and qualification as well as offer an initial look into the world of work.
What did you do as part of GoHelp?
Christof Ehrhart: In GoHelp, we serve as a strategic partner of the United Nations (UN) in the area of disaster management. Colleagues who are part of our prevention project Get Airports Ready for Disaster (GARD) conducted trainings at airports in El Salvador, Armenia, Panama and the Philippines. Our Disaster Response Teams (DRT) were also called upon to provide airport logistics assistance after the forest fires in Chile and the devastating typhoon on the Philippines, for example. In addition to these activities, our employees also made a valuable contribution to society in other areas last year. During our Global Volunteer Day 2013, around 100,000 employees pitched in around the world and worked on more than 1,500 local projects. This makes one clear point: The "And" we are using as the title of our report is now almost second nature to our employees.
This year's CR Report has not just been restructured on the basis of a materiality analysis and released with the Annual Report. You also now have your own online version. What's this all about?
Christof Ehrhart: That's correct. This year, we have created a comprehensive, interlinked online version of the report. All of the information has been prepared in a manner that makes it easy to read and access. We also decided to provide selected information from our report in a printed brochure. With this type of presentation, we are responding to the needs of our stakeholders: Our dialogue with customers, employees, investors and interest groups has shown us just how much interest exists in having an integrated presentation of our corporate responsibility activities. The Internet is the medium of choice for creating this transparency. With this new approach, we are improving the quality of our reporting - and simultaneously reducing our impact on the environment because we decided not to release expensive printed reports and instead chose to provide an abbreviated supplementary brochure in its place. As you can see: The "And" truly does make the difference.