Green logistics was the overarching theme of the world's largest three-day congress for the logistics industry in Berlin last week; the 37th in the history of the German Federal Logistics Association (BVL). It was organized as a hybrid format with a few on-site participants complemented by the streaming of the presentations to roughly 1,000 viewers and listeners.
In his opening remarks, BVL Chairman Prof. Thomas Wimmer demanded that logistics processes become more sustainable to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, improve the reputation of the industry, and foster closer cooperation among supply chain participants. “The crisis enables us to make the logistics business more robust by boosting digitization, reviewing sourcing strategies, minimizing costs, and making our actions more transparent and understandable for the broad public,” he urged.
Leaning back belongs to the past
Citing government statistics showing that the energy and production sector together with transportation account for the lion’s share of CO2 emissions, he emphasized that logistics has a cross-divisional function in all these fields and therefore should also play a model role in the battle against global warming.
Mr. Wimmer’s appeal was warmly welcomed by Sigrid Nikutta, head of Deutsche Bahn subsidiary, DB Cargo. She presented impressive figures to the BVL participants. A single freight car saves 80% CO2 compared to a fully loaded 40-ton truck. Hence, when it comes to efficiency, one cargo train supplements 52 trucks, showing a significantly better environmental balance, and it does not cause jams on motorways. Ms. Nikutta announced that, by 2030, the portion of goods transported by DB Cargo will rise from currently 18% to 25%, thus contributing sustainably to greenhouse gas reductions. This corresponds to 50 million more truck journeys that she intends to shift from road to rail.
Leading role targeted
At present, DB Cargo manages 20,000 rail trips per week, of which 60% operate internationally, including routes between Europe and China. But that is only the beginning. Ms. Nikutta wants to convert DB Cargo into the leading European rail logistics provider by connecting the most important ports in the EU with the industrial centers in the hinterlands through a close-meshed partner network and achieving customer-oriented runs of freight trains. “For long-distance traffic, rail is the preferred mode of transport, while trucks are better suited for feeder services and the regional distribution of goods.”
She also spoke of plans to make DB Cargo more agile by managing and monitoring the entire freight train system digitally. Meanwhile, the concept is becoming real, shown by a rapid night train set on track last September, linking Hamburg and Cologne nonstop. More fast connections are to follow, Ms. Nikutta assured.
Fighting global warming is becoming a dominant topic in the logistics sector
In his presentation, Karl Gernand, Executive Chairman of the Kuehne + Nagel Holding, focused on the logistics industry’s fast adaptiveness to changed situations. “Our industry is acting within a challenging environment, involving technical progress, sustainability, and increasing awareness of environmental issues on the one side, but also political demonstrations of power evidenced by the tensions between China and the USA, coupled with regulatory obstacles and national solo runs.”
The logistics industry is highly dependent on social acceptance, as shown by Greta Thunberg, who mobilized and keeps mobilizing societies to stand up for ecological change. In fact, “we have to ask ourselves what our industry contributes to saving our planet,” the manager stated, citing Greta Thunberg again: It is not only about CO2 reduction, but also about the fair distribution of wealth, coupled with sustainable, socially acceptable access to resources. "The discussions about these vital issues are accelerating and becoming more emotional," Mr. Gernand observed. “Logistics experts and the entire industry must play a leading and creative role in this debate.”
Currently, the entire sector is on standby for the upcoming transport and distribution of the COVID-19 vaccines, he said, reminding participants that setting up and monitoring a state-of-the-art supply chain for the serum is extremely demanding. However, despite all hurdles, he is confident that “logistics is able to handle this upcoming challenge in a very professional way.”
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