"Living responsibility is at the core of our self conception"
Under the motto of "Handle with Care," the world's leading mail and logistics group, Deutsche Post DHL, will implement a Global Volunteer Day from September 6 to 16. During the program, employees, customers and business partners will have an opportunity to serve as volunteers and help a good cause. In an interview, Christof Ehrhart, head of Corporate Communications and Responsibility at Deutsche Post DHL, discusses the significance of the Global Volunteer Day to Deutsche Post DHL and describes how this campaign fits into the Group's overall commitment to corporate responsibility.
Christof Ehrhart, Director of Corporate Communications and Corporate Responsibility Deutsche Post DHL
Mr. Ehrhart, Deutsche Post DHL is now asking its employees to do their part for the Global Volunteer Day for the second consecutive year. Is this the start of a new tradition at the Group?
Christof Ehrhart: Volunteer work already has a long tradition at Deutsche Post DHL, and a pronounced culture of social responsibility exists among our employees. The company also expressly encourages and promotes such activities - in part because we as a business group are committed to responsible business practices on all levels of our company. "Respect and Results" - as our internal keystone - are inseparable to us.
The Global Volunteer Day is an important element that enables us to further raise awareness about the issue among our employees and assume our responsibility as a good corporate citizen around the world. For this reason, we are determined to make Global Volunteer Day an annual event on the company's calendar.
What do you achieve in particular by concentrating the Group's social commitment over a period and putting it under a joint banner?
Christof Ehrhart: The program has grown over the years. It began in 2008 in the Asia-Pacific region, where 15,000 colleagues banded together on one day in the year to help out charitable groups and organizations. Since then, more and more employees from more and more countries have caught the bug, so to speak, for such volunteer work. In 2011, we then raised our employees' commitment to another level: During the first worldwide Volunteer Day 2011, we brought together all local projects within a joint platform.
This was no easy task, particularly when you consider that a total of about 600 initiatives took place in more than 130 countries. This shared platform pays off in many ways: First, it helps create a feeling of oneness among employees and motivates them to commit themselves to other charitable initiatives in the future. Second, we can see the result of our joint efforts. And, finally, every individual who pitches in has the feeling that he or she is contributing to a good cause. At the same time, the local nature of the work and, thus, the responsibility of every individual are preserved. This specific commitment is exactly the thing that we promote - also in our daily business activities.
Which projects will employees of Deutsche Post DHL work on this year, and have new focal points been added since last year?
Christof Ehrhart: Our employees do not focus on a few major projects. Rather, their work involves small local programs that are also selected locally. A conscious decision was made to avoid laying down rules that would define the type of projects that should be supported, nevertheless we concentrate on our core initiatives GoGreen (environment), GoTeach (education) and GoHelp (disaster management). A person who gets involved in a more limited local setting can directly see the impact of his or her work and help improve the situation there - by doing such things as working in a kindergarten, lending a hand at a workshop for the disabled or cleaning up nature reserves.
At the same time, the examples from all parts of the world appear on our Group-wide platform. As a result, they are available to other employees and inspire them to get involved. This year's range of projects will be just as broad as last year. The projects include for example employees helping to clean up green areas in France, collect donations for the homeless in Russia or assist the disabled and elderly in Germany. Outside Europe, our colleagues will help restore the ecosystem of the Gulf of Thailand, tell stories to children with impaired vision in India, build houses in Mexico and remodel schools in South Africa. We expect that many employees will take part in hundreds of projects around the world once again.
This year, you are overseeing the Global Volunteer Day for the first time. In addition to your previous role as Director of Corporate Communications, you became Director of Corporate Responsibility at Deutsche Post DHL on July 1. What role does the Global Volunteer Day play in the Group's overall CR concept?
Christof Ehrhart: The Global Volunteer Day fits seamlessly into our Living Responsibility Program, in which we meld our social and environmental commitment on the Group level. Living Responsibility is part of the core of our self conception. It is vital for us to be perceived as good corporate citizens. And we should be seen this way not only in Germany, but also in every place where we do business. We help achieve this through such initiatives as GoHelp, in which we offer global logistics support following natural disasters. GoTeach, our program that aims to foster equal access to education, is part of this effort, too.
Responsible actions can also have a business dimension: With GoGreen, for instance, we turn climate protection into specific logistics products and services. As a result, we help protect the environment and meet our customers' growing demand for carbon-neutral services. But no matter which program you are talking about, Living Responsibility is always based on the dedication, passion and ideas of our employees. This is the foundation from which we as a company make a positive contribution to society - either by creating innovative solutions in the logistics industry or by promoting the Global Volunteer Day, where our employees can see firsthand what it means to change the world for the better in small steps.