DHL buys electric planes and guides customers to sustainability

4. 05. 2023 | Samuel Slavík

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The future of logistics is green. DHL buys electric planes, guides customers to sustainability.  While DHL’s customers will be able to opt for more environmentally friendly package delivery, the company’s drivers will drive as green as possible.

Valencia’s City of Arts and Sciences looks as if it has only recently been built, with a complex of several buildings completed in 2009. The new pride of the Spanish city was originally supposed to cost 300 million euros, but in the end the building exceeded its budget by three times. And it was worth it. The science museum generates 113 million euros a year and creates 3,500 jobs. It is also one of the twelve most visited places in Valencia. It is therefore no coincidence that DHL chose this location for its sustainability conference.

The story may well be similar. A green policy will cost the company, but it is counting on it to pay off in the future. DHL already knows the former, at least in the short term. In fact, it plans to spend seven billion euros on sustainable fuels and technologies by 2030. The logistics company already committed in 2017 to reducing emissions to net zero by 2050.

The company wants to take a big step towards this goal just before the 30th year. “We are proud of how fast we are progressing, but we still want to continue to explore new technologies and partnerships to strengthen our green agenda,” says Yin Zou, vice president of corporate development at Deutsche Post DHL Group.

The seven billion is expected to go mainly into alternative fuels, the acquisition of emission-free cars and the construction of climate-neutral buildings. This should lead to the company’s emissions, which were 39 million tonnes of CO2 equivalent in 2021, falling to less than 29 million tonnes by 2030.

DHL currently has 30,000 electric cars in its fleet. But this is still only a fraction, namely about eight percent. By 2030, the company wants sixty percent of its vehicles to be emission-free, and it is talking about electricity as well as hydrogen. The company also already uses two thousand all-electric vans, which have a range of over three hundred kilometres.

But DHL is also focusing on air freight – the German logistics giant has already ordered twelve electric cargo planes.

“The emission-free route is still in its infancy in aviation – and it’s also very complicated. At the moment we have 830 million litres of sustainable fuel available and it’s probably the most anyone has on the market,” Zou describes. The fuel is expected to last until 2026. As a result, it should save about two million tonnes of carbon dioxide emissions, about the same as if 400,000 cars stopped running.

Last but not least, DHL also plans to focus on buildings in the coming years. More than half of them are now carbon neutral, so the next seventeen years will be marked by half of the other half.

But the company also says that if you don’t have clean energy, you can’t do anything. And so green energy is part of the plans. By 2030, DHL wants to have ninety percent of its energy from solar panels.

No more paper boxes

But DHL is counting on not going it alone when it comes to sustainability. That’s also what the aforementioned conference in Valencia at the end of April is for. DHL also chose it because the Spanish municipality won the title of European Green City 2024. At the conference, entitled Global Summit of the Sustainable Logistics Era, the German company invited over a thousand experts and industry people to discuss further green options.

“We are facing a climate emergency, so it is clear that sustainability must be at the forefront of our efforts. By prioritising cleaner and greener logistics and working together, we can make significant progress,” said DHL Chief Commercial Officer Katia Busch at the start of the conference.

DHL outlined these green options in an exhibition that was on display in the City of Arts and Sciences for the duration of the summit. There, it showed the possibilities of green logistics. In the future, couriers could carry goods in zipped, foldable fabric boxes instead of paper boxes, from which the customer would remove the package when handing it over, while the courier would take the fabric box away again.

Music of the not-so-distant future is also an app on which customers could view the complete carbon footprint of goods. In the case of wine, the app would reveal what emissions were produced when the grapes were grown, what emissions were produced when the bottle was made, what emissions were produced when the cork was made, or what emissions were produced when the wine was transported.

The exhibition is temporary and ended in Valencia with the summit. However, the exhibition should be travelling and customers should also be able to see it in the various innovation centres.

The German company also wants to motivate its employees. They will be able to choose a project that has a positive impact on the environment and work on it for two days. The company also intends to educate them online about sustainability. After completing the course, the employee will receive a certificate, and the 2030 target applies here as well. By then, DHL wants to have eighty percent of its employees as green specialists. The company also plans a programme for its drivers, who should receive training in greener driving.

Finally, DHL is counting on its customers to be responsible. For them, it launched Go Green Plus this year, a voluntary service that will be available to those who want their shipments to have less of a huge carbon footprint. This will allow the customer to choose a route that the package will take using only sustainable fuels. DHL has already tried a similar project in Germany.

“There, it turned out that people were opting for greener, not faster solutions,” says Zou.

Author of this article

Samuel Slavík


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