DHL Freight Sweden has slashed its CO2 emissions by half, reaching already a sustainability goal that was set for 2025. The challenge now is to maintain the achievement and reach long-term sustainability.
Based on data collected since 2008, DHL Freight Sweden had actually halved its emissions by 2016, with a 54 percent drop per ton-kilometer traveled. That number measured at 48 percent in 2018. The goal now is to maintain a 50 percent reduction through to 2025. DHL Freight Sweden and its subcontractors operate a domestic fleet of 2000 vehicles, from the smallest van to the heaviest truck. They work hand in hand on CO2 emissions reduction, a crucial element in Deutsche Post DHL Group's Mission 2050.
The early success comes largely from the purchase of biofuel called hydrotreated vegetable oil (HVO) from pine trees, which can be used right away in modern diesel engines. Setting up fuelling stations has been a critical part of this mission.
"We currently have a 38 percent renewable fuel proportion, a number that reached 50 percent in 2016," says Maria Nilsson Ohman, Sustainability Manager at DHL Freight Sweden. "There are economic reasons for this decline. Until mid-2018, HVO cost the same as diesel fuel, which contains only 26 percent hydrogenated vegetable oil. However, pure HVO is now more expensive than diesel.“
Required by law
The Scandinavian country's regulations give it a head start in the fight against climate change. "The law requires net zero emissions by 2045 nationally, and the transport sector needs to cut its emissions by 70 percent by 2030," explains Nilsson Ohman. "Our subcontractors have been obliged to make 25 percent of their fuel volumes renewable since the summer of 2018. Prior to that, the law stipulated only 5 percent."
The Sustainability Manager gives full credit to DHL Freight's business partners for what has been achieved so far. "This transition would have been impossible without the cooperation of our subcontractors, who are our heroes. I can nudge them and give them support, but they are the ones driving change in daily business."
Freight Sweden refuses to sit on its hands despite the progress it has already made. The dramatic early drop in emissions needs to be future-proofed. "Swedish customers buy approximately 30 percent of the world's HVO production, and 80 percent of our HVO consumption is imported. What happens if Germany adopts a law to require a percentage of renewables in their fuel mix?" Nilsson Ohman points out. "Would Swedish companies still be able to buy them? Would there be a price war?"
Other solutions for the future are on the table, but they remain a work in progress. "Some subcontractors do use rapeseed oil and ethanol in our network and we are investigating how to raise the usage of liquefied biogas," says Nilsson Ohman. "I believe that this biogas will gain importance in coming years, until we can electrify our heavy vehicles. “Today we use small electric vehicles in some cities. We are also testing a cargo bike in our operations."
DHL Freight Sweden also explores increased use of rail networks and hopes for electrified roads, but "the business models are not in place yet. Beside rail solutions, we also investigate possibilities to operate 34-meter long vehicles."
Swedish colleagues can still say that they lead by example despite the challenges.