How this parcel company went carbon-free – BRINK – Global Business Conversations and Insights


This is the sixth coin in an occasional series on the state of affairs around the SDGs. Here is the previous article in the series.

The harmful effects of humans on the environment have been demonstrated time and time again, and this has been particularly visible in recent months.

Beyond the environmental impact itself, one aspect that I find particularly concerning is that if you ask today’s young people about how they see the future, many will respond that they think it is. is likely to be worse than the present. This pessimistic outlook is probably a first in human history.

Experts call it “solastalgia”, the emotional distress caused by climate change. It is a terrible thing that our young people believe that what awaits them will be worse than what they are going through today and have gone through in the past. Along with what we know about the imperatives surrounding global temperature and protecting the environment, sustainability is also about protecting our youth and everyone else.

An operating license

For us at DPD, a parcel delivery company, sustainability is an operating license, which is particularly relevant for a logistics player, as parcel delivery companies operate thousands of vehicles every day to deliver your parcel to your door or to retail or industrial companies.

This is why DPD embarked on a process of offsetting our carbon footprint relatively early. We started in 2012 by saying that we lack the technical means to replace our thermal fleets but at least wanted to make sure that for every gram or ounce of carbon dioxide we emit we would make the equivalent compensation through, for example , reforestation programs.

The result is that today every gram is compensated. Of course, that’s not enough, which is why we embarked on a bold decarbonization program a year and a half ago. It started with a clear analysis and understanding of where and how we were broadcasting, which allowed us to establish a clear and specific plan for how we might reduce our footprint.

We no longer have infinite resources, nor infinite human capital.

Focus on where the harm is greatest

I often hear companies say that they are going to cut 20% or 30% in 2030 or 2040, and I always wonder how they are going to do it at all levels and really have an impact.

We took a different path by looking at where the greatest evil was in our space and our activity – it was and is in the urban environment. This is where the traffic and population densities are highest and, therefore, it is where carbon dioxide and particulate emissions are highest. For us, it quickly became clear that we had to start our journey by decarbonizing deliveries in urban areas.

The first step was to transform our thermal fleets, and the second was to change our logistics infrastructure. The third was to collect data and through the data, inspire action. We have equipped a large part of our fleet with air quality monitoring devices, which are now in place in 14 major cities in Europe. They help us collect and deliver this data, not only to our shipping customers and consumers who receive these packages, but also to municipalities and institutions responsible for implementing sustainability and carbon reduction programs. In this way, we can be a partner of cities and stakeholders by helping them to better target and to have more effective sustainable development programs.

The fourth element is that we communicate with our customers and offer delivery choices, so that they can opt for a more carbon-free delivery solution. This can take the form of choosing a delivery window where we can use an electric vehicle, for example, or choosing delivery to a relay point or to a locker where we have a larger volume of packages and therefore a footprint. lesser.

Take people on the journey

To make this journey a success, we must cooperate, help each other and work with our stakeholders and the different ecosystems involved.

We must understand that we are in a phase of transition from an industrial revolution to a lasting revolution. We no longer have infinite resources, nor infinite human capital. We need to use skills and technology to make sure we can create a sustainable model and a desirable future.

This means, especially in a people-friendly business like ours, that you need to make sure you take care of your employees and embark on this journey with them. I think we feel particularly privileged because our role has never been as visible as it has been during the pandemic, providing a lifeline during lockdowns and providing essential goods to people.

We have helped businesses continue to source and ship their products and orders to customers’ doors. We are very proud of it, but it also means that we have to take care of our employees.

This is what we do on a daily basis, both with our direct collaborators and with our subcontractors, ensuring health and safety and offering professional careers and safe working conditions. It also means making them feel that what we are doing has a purpose, not just economic, but also a purpose that keeps people going and brings them joy. We need to show them how they can contribute to the journey to sustainability.

If you want to be sustainable in your business or startup, you need to find a way for every employee to understand how they can contribute to a sustainable future in ways big and small. It could be anything from drinking water from a refillable bottle rather than a plastic bottle, to changing printing paper or helping a coworker set up a recharging infrastructure or the purchase of low-carbon vehicles.

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