Analysis to the point of paralysis, not uncommon among German companies, is not an option for DHL. Instead, the logistics giant sees itself as a pioneer in sustainability policy. Acting now rather than waiting for new technological solutions tomorrow or sometime in the future is not its maxim. This was illustrated by leading company exects at the “DHL Era of Sustainable Logistics 2023” event held last week in Valencia, Spain during a media briefing titled "Delivering on Climate Action."
To speak of a Herculean task that DHL is eager to undertake to protect the climate and save the environment would be an understatement. The company's roadmap to a more sustainable und cleaner future covers practically all areas of its activities. Top priority has the further reduction of CO2 emissions to limit global warming. Last year, DHL blew 36.5 million tons of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere, with aviation accounting for the lion’s share of roughly 90%. Until 2030, this figure shall be reduced to 29 million tons, stresses Yin Zou, Executive VP Corporate Development at Deutsche Post DHL Group. “We launched our first GoGreen program in 2008 and achieved a reduction of 10% carbon efficiency already two years after. Since then, we have progressed further while at the same time growing our business.”
A package of measures
Simultaneously, the Group has decided on a 7-billion-euro investment program until 2030 to achieve clearly defined sustainability goals across all divisions. This includes not only air, sea and road transportation, but also warehouse activities and, for example, the environmentally friendly construction of buildings with high eco-efficiency and smart packaging solutions. "While we are proud of the rapid progress we've made, we remain dedicated to exploring new technologies and partnerships to further crate momentum to drive the green agenda forward," exclaimed manager Yin at the Valencia press briefing.
Air freight spoils the carbon footprint
The greatest attention is being paid to air freight, although the Group is not budging from its proclaimed goal of climate-neutral flying by 2050, confirmed Andreas Mündel, SVP Strategy and OPS Programs. Even in response to repeated critical inquiries, he remained as firm as a rock on this announcement. He brushed aside doubts about achieving this goal by mentioning a combination of coordinated measures for less climate-damaging air freight transports by ongoing growth. For example, DHL will add increasingly blend traditional jet A1 kerosene with Sustainable Aviation Fuel (SAF) to operate its own freighters, as well as those of Kalitta, AeroLogic or other partner companies flying on behalf of DHL Express. Alongside providers such as the Finnish company NESTE, DHL is building a number of its own facilities to generate sustainable synthetic fuels (e-fuels) by 2030. In addition, the logistics provider has contractually secured 18.5% of the SAF volume produced worldwide, taking it out of the market, or 830 million liters in absolute terms. "With this, we have given a clear 'demand signal', which will lead to the scaling of this fuel, which is still very expensive today in comparison to traditional kerosene," emphasizes Manager Mündel.
Scaling up SAF production is key
Support is now coming from the EU. It decided last week that all flights departing from a European airport from 2025 onwards must have 2% SAF in their tanks. From 2030 it will be 6% and by 2050 the quota will rise to 70%. The missing 30% is to be achieved through more efficient aircraft, smarter routing of flights and other climate-friendly measures on the way to achieve net zero.
Upping the number of electric vehicles is another major cornerstone of the integrator’s roadmap to sustainability. Currently, 30,000 e-vehicles belong to its delivery fleet. This is complemented by the procurement of up to 400 BioCNG powered trucks and an order of 12 fully electric cargo planes stemming from U.S. start-up Eviation Alice. Each of the freighters can transport 1.2 tons of cargo over a range of 800 km on a single charge. The aircraft will be used for middle-mile transportation from major U.S. hubs to regional destinations with the first being expected to be operational in 2024. However, for long-haul aircraft capable of carrying 100 tons or more, H2-powered freighters are more likely to play a role due to the heavy weight of large batteries, which have yet to be developed. “We are closely monitoring this H2 option as part of our Sustainability Vision 2050," emphasized Carsten Lützenkirchen, Senior VP Operations at DHL Customer Solutions & Innovation (CSI) at the Valencia press meeting.
H2 powered freighters are still in their infancy
This statement also shows that "sustainability is a marathon without finish line," as Katja Busch, CCO at DHL and Head of CSI, exclaimed, citing one of DHL's major U.S. customers. At the same time, she emphasized that supply chain partners who are eager to reduce their CO2 footprint are encouraged to utilize DHL's GoGreen Plus services for shipping their core products. This is slightly costlier but it guarantees users climate neutral transports of their goods and enables Deutsche Post-DHL to up their investment in biogas or electric vehicles to further reduce carbon emissions. On this occasion, DHL introduced a GoGreen Dashboard tool in Valencia. It is a seamless emissions reporting scheme, allowing customers to quickly view carbon emissions for all of Deutsche Post Group's business units through a single customized platform. This new interface, which is completely free of charge, eliminates the need to access multiple systems, making the reporting process more efficient and streamlined. The tool, which leads to better informed decision making will be rolled out to the first top 100 cross-divisional customers with the intent to expand the scope later this year, reads its press release.
Successful cooperation needed
The event in Valencia, held on April 24-25, is part of DHL's Sustainability Roadmap first announced two years ago. Since then, the integrator discussed with hundreds of customers on different continents and across all industries how to best implement sustainability targets and identify fields of action. The unsurprising result: "collaboration of producers, suppliers and consumers is key to stop global warming, with logistics serving as key enabler," Ms. Busch summed up the outcome of the many talks. The impulses gained from the meetings were bundled in the Sustainable Logistics Global Summit in Valencia, attended by over 1000 decision makers, stakeholders, and experts. The venue fits the theme: Valencia has been named Europe's green capital for 2024.
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