Frank Appel is chief executive officer of Deutsche Post DHL Group
For any significant international business, in our case since the world’s leading logistics provider, the dedication to go emissions-free by 2050 tends to activate one of two responses. Some regard it as a public-relations ploy, but some think placing such a goal is too optimistic.
I think both responses are mistaken. Making such a commitment is simply inevitable. Climate change is a clear threat to the value of businesses everywhere.
At exactly the exact same time, the true capability to fight climate change will only be achieved after human creativity and the resource efficiency of this marketplace are fully tapped. Because of this, business leaders increasingly understand that fixing the climate risk isn’t merely a cost imposed on them. Additionally it is a chance to drive value through new business models and investment in new technologies.
The objective of COP 23, this year’s UN climate-change convention — that wrapped up in Bonn, the German city where our firm’s international headquarters are located — was to become quite particular on how to achieve a positive outcome for the environment.
That challenge is also very much directed at big corporations. According to what I have learned since 2008, when we established specific obligations to reduce our global emissions, I would point to four important lessons.
The commitment to go emissions-free needs a fundamental rethink of many business tasks. For all of us, re-evaluating everything through the prism of sustainability has given a fresh quality to our relationship with suppliers and clients.
By way of instance, our aerodynamically designed Teardrop trailers, used for long-haul road transportation, reduce fuel consumption in addition to carbon emissions. Beyond our own business’s needs, we work together with our clients to create tailor-made models for them.
Second, precisely because there’s absolutely no silver bullet, an individual has to launch many concrete measures rapidly and systematically. These efforts, by way of instance, start with small steps, like switching to LED lighting in our centers globally and rediscovering the advantages of relying on bikes for urban delivery.
Third, success depends at least as much on alternatives flowing bottom-up inside every company as top-down. Startup labs, which catch promising ideas from rank-and-file workers, play an essential role in that respect.
Fourth, a company ready to tackle a fundamental rethink of its established means of doing business may well find transformative solutions that yield new companies with true long-term potential.
As for us, we’ve become e-entrepreneurs. Operating a entire fleet of 92,000 delivery vehicles, a fundamental task on our 2050 schedule is to move outside our reliance on petrol and shift into electric vehicles. Such e-vehicles must be as powerful as diesel vehicles in handling heavy loads, able to sustain the pressures of continuous stop-and-go visitors on urban delivery paths and dependable enough for use up to 300 days annually.
When we couldn’t find a appropriate provider in the market, we joined up with a university-based startup, StreetScooter, which we then obtained. We’re now building out its first product to a complete assortment of electric vehicles and expanding its production capacity to 20,000 vehicles in 2018 from 10,000 this year.
A significant motivation for us is to demonstrate that e-mobility can become standard practice in the international logistics industry and outside. That’s the reason, after scaling up in Germany, we’re now starting to roll out this solution worldwide. Additionally, because StreetScooters can be accommodated to the sector-specific delivery needs of different industries, they can offer urban mobility options on a much wider basis.
To reduce our company’s emissions and noise profile we also place great emphasis on e-bikes and e-tricycles. We now use them in 58 cities in 12 different European countries, including France, Italy, Britain and the Netherlands. For us, the full scale execution of the various measures is important to reaching a significant milestone for 2025 — that 70 percent of our first-mile pickup and final-mile delivery solutions will be emissions-free.
There’s absolutely not any doubt that fulfilling our own 2050 net-zero emissions dedication will get incrementally harder. For the road ahead, I’m greatly encouraged by one unexpected truth: Reacting to the climate challenge goes far beyond fixing “just” ecological problems.
As I have heard firsthand, green initiatives contribute to new types of productivity and, with time, the creation of entirely new markets with increasing demand for sustainable alternatives. Bold aspirations are essential, but to catalyze this procedure. This is the manner in which business can — and must — direct the transformation that is required globally.