DHL is the global market leader in international express, overland transport and air freight. The company’s services range from express document shipping to supply chain management. DHL’s international network extends to over 220 countries, with around 285,000 employees. In the company’s own words, “We move things – by road, rail, boat or air – We move things.”
The company is part of the Deutsche Post World Net (DPWN) Group. While DPWN has a global approach to sustainable development, individual companies and countries within the Group are encouraged to develop approaches which meet the needs of their own regions, whilst still supporting the overall company goal. The Group recognises its business has an impact on the environment – operating vans, trucks, aircraft and boats every day to deliver customers’ parcels. However it understands that it cannot simply stop doing business but, at the same time, it cannot ignore the environment. Instead the company seeks to recognise the impacts it creates and develop a programme to address them.
This case study focuses on the efforts of DHL Express UK to reduce its carbon footprint by 10% by 2010.
For DHL Express UK with 5,000 ‘red and yellow vans’ on the road everyday, and the intrinsic nature of runnning a delivery business, transport emissions and the carbon agenda are seen as key factors in the company’s future. Furthermore, like many companies, over the past few years DHL has noticed an increase in attention to its carbon strategy from both customers and in new business tenders.
The company acknowledges that its current business model, based on fossil fuels, is far from sustainable ‘as is’ in the long term, and as such recognises there is a need to balance the corporate responsibility and environmental factors in the current business model and climate.
The first phase of the company’s approach to carbon management has been developed in partnership with the Carbon Trust. This phase had the specific objective of providing an evidence base for ‘where are we now’. This evidence base was then used within a facilitated workshop presentation to the Express UK Sustainability Board to identify and prioritise work streams going forward. It also enabled the calculation of the DHL Express UK carbon footprint.
DHL Express UK’s carbon impacts fall predominantly into two areas: energy from buildings and the fleet/transport network. A comprehensive carbon management plan was then developed for the UK across each of the areas of impact and a detailed calculation of the company’s carbon footprint undertaken:
- Premises: 28,463 CO2 tonnes;
- Road transport: 104,883 CO2 tonnes;
- Total emissions: 133,346 CO2 tonnes.
This approach also recognised the importance of gaining employee ownership in implementing any carbon management programmes. Previous attempts at similar initiatives had been restricted by either budgeting or resources and also by not necessarily taking a holistic approach to the issue within and across the business.
Initially the topic and the results of the ‘where are we now’ audit were shared with the UK Sustainability Board. As a result of this workshop opportunities were identified for a win-win result (carbon reduction and business benefit), which the company is already taking forward.
Using budget availability, resourcing and timing as the initial key criteria the opportunities were allocated into priorities: ‘short term’, ‘long term’, and ‘currently too difficult’. Each of these was then assigned to the project teams involved in these areas in their everyday work – with clear accountabilities and deliverables.
Project plans per work stream were produced by the teams who will be implementing them and these were presented by those teams at the Sustainability Board where they were signed off.
Across the Fleet/Transport work streams, the company sees the opportunity for innovation, especially in alternative fuels and technology.
The challenge for DHL Express has been in building from the bottom up – notably in the approach to data management. As experienced by many companies, environmental data is constantly evolving and things we now wish to measure were often not measured robustly in the past. This has brought challenges to DHL and strides have been taken in the company accepting that transparent data may mean the numbers have increased! This may be as a result of business growth or is sometimes just a more accurate reflection of the evolving situation on carbon.
DHL Express understands that addressing its corporate responsibility, environmental and community impacts is simply part of how it does business. In particular, the risks of not addressing the growing priority of the carbon agenda, was identified by DHL as a fundamental risk to its ongoing success. The company recognised that the growing customer awareness and initiatives undertaken by competitors had the potential to leave DHL behind, particularly given the nature and scale of its business. Additionally, as Suzanne Worrall, DHL Express UK’s Corporate Responsibility Manager explained, “Through efficiency measures and robust, innovative management, cutting carbon can translate into cutting costs and real business benefits. If we can get this right it will fundamentally affect the business model and how we undertake our business and serve our customers”.
Why is it CSR?
This programme is seen as part of the company’s corporate code and core values (Value 7 on website). It also is seen as working across sustainable development themes, i.e. linking environmental, social and community – accepting where the company is in the community and what steps it takes to address the impacts it understands its business creates.
DHL Express UK is making good progress in each of the work streams and employee engagement of the issues is starting to be seen across the wider business. Regular updates at the UK Sustainability Board are taking place to ensure the projects and work streams remain on programme and any issues are promptly addressed.
For more information on DHL Express, please contact Suzanne Worrall, DHL Express UK Corporate Responsibility Manager, on Suzanne.Worrall@dhl.com or visit www.dhl.com.
© Article 13 and CBI – CSR Case Study Series, June 2008
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