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Sustainability Q&A with DHL Supply Chain experts

DHL Supply Chain outlines initiatives in environmental, social and governance programs

(Photo: Jim Allen/FreightWaves)

DHL Supply Chain has established a range of environmental, social and governance (ESG) programs that the company says it plans to continue building upon.

To find out more about DHL Supply Chain’s ESG initiatives as customers demand more sustainable practices, FreightWaves interviewed Mark Kunar, executive vice president, strategy, transportation and automotive, engineering and manufacturing, chemical and energy at DHL Supply Chain, and Emily Davis, director of sustainability and DHL’s GoGreen lead in North America.

The interview has been edited for clarity.

FreightWaves: What programs has DHL Supply Chain implemented that address sustainability and/or corporate responsibility?

Kunar: “Our sustainability programs are focused on three different pillars, and those would be the environmental impacts, and … we’re finding that more and more time is spent on things like social impacts and our governance structures as well. 

“Within [our] GoGreen pillar, we’re looking at the property, transport and packaging elements. From a transport standpoint, we’re looking at things like how do we burn less, and how do we burn clean? 

“Our overarching goal, which is zero emissions by 2050 … is going to be a pretty tough goal to hit.

“We have other programs under the social pillar, like GoHelp, where we send disaster recovery teams into places … impacted by natural disasters. We have a GoTeach program, which partners with a number of charitable institutions, like Teach For All and SOS Children’s Villages.”

Davis: “Our GoGreen branded program [attacks] our climate change emissions, because that’s the bulk of our environmental impact from fuel and energy use. 

“On the social side, we leverage our experience as a logistics company to really drive home … employing people in the communities where we operate to be those next-generation logistics professionals. Teams within our own operations [can] give back through our GoHelp program, where we provide and train external partners on humanitarian aid.

“Governance is more of something that we’ve always done; it’s kind of that foundation of operational excellence.”

FreightWaves: How important are sustainable supply chains to DHL Supply Chain customers? 

Davis: “We’re seeing customers asking for more sustainable solutions from an environmental standpoint. They want to see warehouses with a lower energy footprint. They want to see transportation provided with lower climate emissions impacts. They want to see the data, they want to understand [if one network would be more efficient than another], from an energy and climate perspective, and we can help them do that down to even a shipment level.

“We are actively encouraging all of our internal associates to be talking about sustainability with their customer base. We’re educating our sales and business development teams on what our green solutions in DHL Supply Chain are: How do we improve that energy efficiency in a warehouse? Looking at renewable energy, what can we do? On the transportation and carrier management side, what standards do we have on our vehicles? What are we asking of our suppliers?

“Our diversity and inclusion agenda [summarizes] how we’re volunteering in communities from our sites, and customers are starting to want to see that. They want us to help them with their own goals and targets.”

Kunar: “Our employees are asking to talk about this as well. We recruit nearly 400 interns and full-time college recruits every year in North America, and I can’t tell you the number of questions that I have from young adults that are asking things about our [ESG] programs. I know that if it’s happening on our side, it’s happening with our customers.”

FreightWaves: What programs does DHL Supply Chain have planned that address sustainability and/or corporate responsibility for the future?

Kunar: “I think where most of the programs in the future are focused is continuing to drive the culture within the organization. We have a certified program [where] our associates have different certifications in things like diversity inclusion, and most recently, we established the certified GoGreen specialists. It’s two courses that individuals take in order to get a firm foundation in our GoGreen programs [concerning carbon emissions and environmental impacts]. 

“A good sustainability program … starts with educating [employees] on things that are happening in the world, how we’re looking at the world, what our position is and what our contribution has to be. We’re finding that our associates want to talk about these subjects, so we’re really focused on making sure that we’re engaged with them and understand them.

“From a digitalization standpoint, we’re constantly looking at ways to reduce waste, and our digitalization strategy is key in that area. We challenged our sites with [a] paperless warehouse. It was amazing, the ideas that folks came up with to use technology to do that.”

Davis: “The culture and that certified GoGreen specialist program is so important for that recruitment and engagement, and then retention, of course. I talk to associates every single day, interns, people coming in on the floor, that really want to understand what we’re doing as a company across all the ESG pillars. This program, and the education that we’re providing, gives them a way to really touch it and feel it. 

“Even beyond that culture … digitalization is a huge push for us in warehousing and transportation, and across that, sustainability is going to become more important. You’re going to see them come together. There [are] opportunities for us to harness things like data analytics, robotics process automation [and] electronic bills of lading to make our operations more efficient, both on the warehouse and transportation side.”

Click here for more FreightWaves articles by Alyssa Sporrer.

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Alyssa Sporrer

Alyssa is a staff writer at FreightWaves, covering sustainability news in the freight and supply chain industry, from low-carbon fuels to social sustainability, emissions & more. She graduated from Iowa State University with a double major in Marketing and Environmental Studies. She is passionate about all things environmental and enjoys outdoor activities such as skiing, ultimate frisbee, hiking, and soccer.