How DHL navigated a global pandemic with opportunities for change and innovation.
COVID-19 has been a catalyst for change in so many ways, not only in the logistics industry, but in our society. It laid bare some major challenges that the logistics industry was facing, but it also channeled people’s attention to important social causes. In many ways, the pandemic even fast-tracked digitalization and sustainability efforts across our company, all the while finding new ways to connect, share and work together as a diverse and inclusive workforce.
Powering up on digitalization
Freight forwarding is often characterized by many inefficiencies, manual processes, and paperwork. This creates opportunities for innovation and disruption. At the same time, it is still a people-driven industry, so our approach is one of evolution rather than revolution. We believe that digitalization has never been more important.
With the spread of the coronavirus, we are experiencing an increasing demand for digital solutions from our customers and partners. We have become more resilient and flexible and are adapting and accelerating new technologies quickly. This is vital for any business, especially the freight forwarding one. New technologies are drastically changing the way we work from the perspective of improving productivity. As a business, we must liaise with our customers about our digitalization efforts and encourage their implementation.
Our innovation approach is focused on upgrading the digital ecosystem, with the Transportation Management System at the center, to speed up and simplify processes, increase responsiveness, eliminate paper, and operate more efficiently. We are applying incremental technology innovations in our operations—such as scanners and sensors—to increase speed and accuracy, as well as to give customers more transparency. Being able to utilize the data that we collect improves processes, provides greater visibility for our customers, and gives us the insight to continue to be flexible and nimble for future growth and success.
Many things are involved in moving shipments around the world, but digitalization has the potential to not only make it easier, but also faster and leaner. It is the key to our future and meeting the industry’s supply chain needs.
Making sustainability a reality
For much of 2020, executives across our region were trying to keep their people safe and their operations running amid an unprecedented health crisis. But despite the urgency of the response to the pandemic, sustainability has maintained its place on the agenda for businesses across the world and has given it an even higher importance.
Logistics and transportation activities are a significant source of carbon emissions for any company that makes or distributes products or supports them in the field. And like every other aspect of business, the development of carbon neutral supply chains will involve a combination of big innovations and detailed operational changes. Just this past spring, we announced an investment of 7 billion euros over the next 10 years in measures to reduce carbon dioxide emissions.
For short distances and the last mile, we are continuing to drive forward the electrification of our vehicle fleet. By 2030, 60% of global delivery vehicles for the last mile are to be electrically powered, hence more than 80,000 electric vehicles will be on the road. In 2020, the figure was 18%. On longer routes, especially in air transport, electric drives are not an alternative for the foreseeable future. That is why we are pushing for the development and use of fuels produced from renewable energies: By 2030, at least 30% of fuel requirements in aviation and line haul are to be covered by sustainable fuels. In addition, the Group is investing in environment-friendly properties (office space, mail and parcel centers, and logistics warehouses): All new buildings being constructed will be climate neutral.
But we also want to support our customers in reducing their carbon footprint. Understanding the carbon impact of their logistics activities helps our customers make informed decisions about transport modes, sourcing locations or inventory distribution. Sustainable logistics can and must play its part in helping to create a better world. Working together with our customers, we have the chance to ensure a brighter future for ourselves and our children.
Walk the walk with D&I
Global companies such as DHL have the responsibility to make a significant contribution in embodying and supporting diversity and inclusion. It should go without saying that both should be a priority, and we at DHL are not alone. According to the latest Diversity and Inclusion Benchmarking Survey by PwC, 87% of organizations surveyed list diversity as a “stated value or priority area.”
The perspectives and opinions of our employees are what defines us as a company and helps us deliver excellence daily. Diverse thinking and life experiences encourage innovation and create more opportunities for growth and development. In fact, if there is a lack of diversity, the opposite happens—we lose the creativity and broad knowledge base that keeps us at the forefront of technological breakthroughs.
Take the example of gender: the disproportionately low number of women in management roles in Fortune 500 companies. When half of the available talent pool is being unconsciously missed—or, worse, consciously discounted—the impact splays out in all different directions. The overlooked female candidates suffer and, perhaps unnoticed, the unbalanced teams suffer, innovation suffers, customers suffer and, ultimately the company suffers.
So, what can we as a company do to foster a world where D&I are ingrained in our DNA?
Simply put—walk the walk when promoting diverse candidates into positions of responsibility. You can keep underscoring how strongly you believe in giving senior roles to female, ethnic, LGBTQ+ or disabled people, or those from disadvantaged backgrounds. But if you consistently refuse to do so, the company’s credibility will be damaged, and all talk of adherence to D&I will remain just that: talk.
Take the time to choose strong, creative, and talented team members, provide thorough training and coaching, and support them on their journey. Their success is your success, and nothing is more important than that. Don’t hesitate to challenge processes—if you feel there is a gap or room for improvement, share your insights and your solutions. Everyone has a different view, and it is healthy to share those perspectives to drive excellence.
Our diverse employees are our strongest asset—each one of them adding value and benefit to our organization. We have a duty to shape the future of D&I, but we can only do that when we listen and prioritize the unique insights of our employees. This ultimately fosters an environment of understanding, equality, and business success.