Sustainability / Reading time: ~ 5 Min.

To boost sustainability we need “legislative incentives that stimulate climate investments”

DHL Freight developed the truck technology roadmap toward climate-friendly logistics.

In an interview with multimodal cargo transport association Deutsches Verkehrsforum, DHL Freight CEO Uwe Brinks explains how to stay logistics provider of choice.

DVF: Mr. Brinks, in March Deutsche Post DHL Group launched its new Sustainability Roadmap. What does it mean for DHL Freight over the next ten years? What roles do climate protection and sustainability play for your customers and partners?

With our new Sustainability Roadmap we have a clear route to reducing our greenhouse gas emissions in line with the Science-Based Targets initiative. We plan to achieve this by investing €7 billion in green technologies until 2030. We will grow the share of sustainable fuels to more than 30% and ensure that 60% of our last-mile delivery fleet are e-vehicles. At my division – DHL Freight – we developed the truck technology roadmap to chart our path forward, spotlighting our journey toward clean transport through viable short-, mid- and long-term solutions. Besides optimizing operations, it highlights the shift from road to rail, the use of bridge technologies such as bio-LNG, and longer term technologies, such as hydrogen and battery electric trucks.

All told, Freight aims to reduce CO2 emissions by 1.2 million tons by 2030 on our mission to achieve zero emissions by 2050. More and more customers are asking for sustainable transport solutions, so it will be key to soon set minimum binding standards that reflect the more costly but cleaner products in customers’ carbon footprints. This can help create an industry-wide cycle that drives forward the decarbonization of transport.

More and more customers are asking for sustainable transport solution. This can help create an industry-wide cycle that drives forward the decarbonization of transport.Uwe Brinks

Uwe Brinks, CEO of DHL Freight

DVF: What needs to happen in Germany and Europe to make it easier for companies to achieve their sustainability targets?

We need climate-friendly parameters, especially in three key areas:

First, we need a legislative framework that stimulates and rewards climate-friendly investments. Levies have to be realigned, for instance, and carbon prices for fuel should only have to be paid once, either via certificate trading or through an energy tax.

Second, technologies being widely discussed for road freight transport, like hydrogen, won’t reach market maturity until 2030, and because we want to take action now, the political environment needs to create incentives for bridge technologies, such as bio-LNG and HVO (hydrotreated vegetable oil). Toll exemptions, tolerance in regard to EU tax regulations and the eligibility of such biofuels to count toward carbon reduction targets are crucial factors to achieve the climate policy objectives over the next decade.

Third, we must quickly ramp up production capacity and charging infrastructure for electric and hydrogen technologies across Europe.

Besides that, policies that are detrimental to the climate should be rolled back, such as the rule mandating the return of trucks every eight weeks that results in empty runs.

DHL Freight's green logistics is good for customers

Ensuring profitable growth while reducing carbon emissions by four million tons by 2030 – that’s one of the targets laid out in DPDHL Group’s new Sustainability Roadmap. To that end, the company will invest €7 billion in green technologies until 2030. Our mission is to achieve net-zero emissions by 2050.

We, DHL Freight, are already helping our customers meet their own climate protection goals. Our portfolio of green products and solutions help minimize or prevent logistics-related emissions, waste and other negative impacts on the environment across the entire supply chain. Combined with transparency, emissions-related supply chain optimization and certified offsetting measures, we are the pioneers of green logistics. Our GoGreen portfolio is based on three pillars:

  • By providing transparency through emissions measuring and carbon reports, our tools help you understand the environmental impact of your logistics-related activities, providing you with a solid basis to make smart decisions.
  • Green optimization with clean fuels and environmentally efficient technologies, such as more rail options, bridge technologies like bio-LNG fuel and groundbreaking innovations such as hydrogen and battery electric trucks.
  • Carbon offsetting: For all our products we offer you the option to compensate for unavoidable emissions by supporting certified climate protection projects. All compensation activities are verified regularly by auditors in compliance with international standards, such as the GHG Protocol for Products, EN 16258 and ISO 14064.

DVF: With elections scheduled for Germany later this year, what are the main policy challenges facing the transport sector in the country’s next legislative period?

I think the major issues will continue to be climate protection and the transition of transport. Implementing the changes to European toll charges will also gain traction. I hope that the toll exemption for bio-LNG will be extended, and also that fuel tankering – the practice of carrying additional fuel in response to Germany’s carbon prices – can be counteracted through a compensation mechanism. Overall, policymakers need to pay more attention to the transport sector in its entirety. There are many small and medium-sized businesses in the forwarding and logistics industry that have to keep up with all the major developments. Applying for subsidies is often too daunting a task for them. A label for green fleets could provide more visibility for investments. Policy should place more focus on digitalization and the lack of skilled workers.

DVF: The pandemic continues to pose huge challenges, but its impact hasn’t been entirely bad for some businesses. Has DHL profited from the coronavirus crisis?

It’s true that our company has shown resilience. The health and safety of our drivers and staff has been our top priority, and thanks to our safety measures we were able to maintain continuous operations throughout the pandemic. But its impact, especially on road freight, could be strongly felt when production came to a halt during the first lockdowns in Asia and Europe. Besides a significant drop in the automotive sector, few segments had been hit as hard by the pandemic as our trade show and events business, DHL Global Event Logistics, We flew into action to assemble a portfolio of innovative digital event solutions, and in doing so created a new, successful mainstay of business. At the same time we’ve seen a consistently ongoing surge of transport needs in the e-commerce sector. And it fills us with pride to have played a crucial role in the global effort to combat the pandemic by transporting protective medical equipment and Covid-19 vaccines.

DVF: For more than a year, rules about quarantines and travel restrictions have been constantly changing, sometimes at a moment’s notice and with differing guidelines from region to region. How does a globally active company like DHL Freight cope in such an environment?

During the pandemic, governments and societies quickly realized the essential nature of logistics. The public showed extreme gratitude and appreciation for our people, and there was great political understanding for our operational requirements. Of course we also experienced major disruptions at first, especially when country borders suddenly closed within Europe. The situation was very unclear and confusing. Even now country regulations in Europe still change at very short notice, causing delays, but overall DHL Freight is keeping things moving with no major setbacks.

At company level we created a Coronavirus Taskforce that aligns with international institutions, such as the World Health Organization (WHO) and Germany’s center for disease control, the Robert Koch Institute (RKI). We cooperate closely with the relevant authorities in every region and consistently follow all RKI recommendations. We also maintain contingency plans at every site to ensure the safety of our employees and customers and to guarantee that our operations run smoothly.

DVF: One more question to wrap up: How do you prefer to shop – online or in-store?

That really depends. I think there are upsides to both. There are certain products I actually prefer to shop for in person. Books are one example, even at the risk of sounding old-fashioned. For me, though, it’s an essential part of the experience to browse through a bookstore to find my next exciting crime story. But of course, I also really like it – not least due to a feeling of nostalgic solidarity – when a colleague from DHL Parcel shows up at my door to deliver something I’ve ordered online.

Uwe Brinks has been Chief Executive Officer of DHL Freight since January 2017, managing the company’s operations and strategic development. As one of the leading providers of road freight services in Europe, the division of Deutsche Post DHL Group provides its customers with an array of flexible, reliable and efficient road, rail and intermodal freight solutions. Since 2019 Mr. Brinks has been a member of the Presiding Board of the “Deutsches Verkehrsforum” (DVF), Europe’s only multimodal industry association for passenger and cargo transport in Europe.

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