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DHL Express Goes Full Speed Into Greener Logistics

DHL considers itself a pioneer in green logistics and feels companies in the field have an obligation to be proactive to reduce their operations’ impact on the environment.

DHL Express, holding a briefing on the subject last week titled “Going Green While Going Fast,” said citing U.S. Environmental Protection Agency estimates, that transport accounted for 28 percent of greenhouse gas emissions in the U.S. in 2016.

“We recognize that logistics companies have a social obligation to proactively reduce the impact of their operations on the environment,” DHL Express said.

In 2008, DHL set a measurable carbon efficiency target, which was to cut emissions by 30 percent by 2020 over a 2007 baseline. It met that goal in 2016, which led the company in 2017 to introduce a more ambitious new target of reducing net transport-related emissions to zero by 2050.

DHL Express also set interim targets, such as having 70 percent of its first and last mile delivery performed in green vehicles by 2025 and in the same year reducing emissions 50 percent. It also plans to plant 1 million trees a year with the help of employees and local communities.

Joe Sullivan, senior director of process engineering and head of Americas for the GoGreen program at DHL Express Americas, said, “The biggest challenges we face in going green are in the areas of aviation and ground transport, although there are also contributions we can make in areas such as facilities and packaging.”

Sullivan said DHL Express Americas approaches this in two ways: in using greener technologies in fuel, and with an approach that is more effective at the stage of development through operating more efficiently. In aviation, green technology development is at an early stage, such as testing of biofuels.

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“The biggest benefit we can derive is from squeezing great efficiency from existing technology,” Sullivan said. That could be through means like more fuel-efficient models or devising better routing within the network.

“At the same time, efficiency can only take you so far, so we’re interested in new technologies that can allow us to make step changes in reducing our emissions,” Sullivan said. “This is where green vehicles come into play.”

DHL has made recent announcements of its aim to have 25 percent of its U.S. fleet made up of green vehicles by next year. The company recently invested in 63 new vehicles, making the current percentage around 18 percent. These are mostly smaller vehicles serving the last mile comprised of electric, propane and natural gas vehicles.

Sullivan said DHL Express Americas is “highly interested’ in seeing more heavy duty mid- and long-range green vehicles become available, as well as developments in charging infrastructure.

Bianca O’Brien, head of Americas for the GoGreen program at DHL Global Forwarding, said discussing green transport trends in the freight forwarding sector, that a major area of focus has been around supplier management.

“We’ve been investing a great deal of time in an effort in collecting air, ocean, trucking and rail carriers that offer greener solutions and directing most of our volumes to them,” O’Brien said. “We’ve had a lot of success in the ocean freight domain so far, where we’ve been able to significantly improve our emission efficiency. Our ocean freight footprint per container in the Americas region has been reduced by 50 percent. Since early last year, we’ve also been offering our customers the opportunity to select next generation marine biofuels for their ocean transport.”

Global forwarding has also been successful developing multimodal transportation solutions, particularly from Asia, O’Brien said, where air-sea solutions have been developed that are competitively priced and have better energy use than pure air freight.

When it comes to environmental priorities in contract logistics, Emily Davis, sustainability program manager for DHL supply chain North America, said the supply chain unit has driven 40 percent reduction in CO2 emissions per square meter and for trip dollar revenue since 2017.

“But we create supply chains for our customers, so in addition to just offering network optimization and design solutions, we are fully committed to adopting innovative technologies,” such as the latest transportation management, piloting alternative fuel vehicles and digital freight platforms,” Davis said.