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Kathrin Brost discusses how DHL is reducing its carbon footprint

 May 04, 2023

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Working for a sustainability-focused company such as DHL can make for a very rewarding career choice, offering great job satisfaction. DHL is focused on creating a better world. 

In an interview with the Journal of Commerce, DHL Global Forwarding Vice President & Global Head of GoGreen ProgramKathrin Brost, shared her insight and advice on reducing the carbon footprint of the supply chain, and discussed DHL Global Forwarding's commitment to Zero Carbon Emissions by 2050 and how the company plans to achieve this ambitious goal. The conversation formed part of TPM, one of the world's largest trade conferences. The event is a conference for global logistics technology, addressing the industry’s drive toward digitization and automation.

Focusing on sustainability

TPM logistics

Discussing her role, Kathrin said: "I head up the GoGreen program at DHL Global forwarding, which is our Environmental Protection Program. My team and I basically focus on the decarbonization of supply chains."

GoGreen is a DHL worldwide environmental protection programme that demonstrates the company's strong sense of environmental responsibility and commitment to supporting its customers to grow sustainably. GoGreen's main objective is to reduce and avoid the emission of greenhouse gasses and local air pollutants.

Focusing on DHL's Mission 2050 and highlighting that 80 per cent of the emissions come from what we DHL does in supply chain, Kathrin highlighted some of the key insights uncovered at the TPM Tech panel discussion, and outlined action points regarding reducing the carbon footprint.  

"It's a very exciting and important topic and I think one of the key conclusions we drew is that the time to decarbonize it now, but the big question is how to do that," explained Kathrin. "So in essence there are only two things you can do if you want to decarbonize, you can either burn less fuel or you can burn clean, which means that you use different engine technologies and sustainable fuels to emit no or little emissions, and what we discussed in particular is that before you even start to burn less or burn clean you first of all need to understand your carbon footprint, so transparency is key because you need to focus, you need to pull the right levers, and you can only do so if you've got the data to tell you where your biggest levers are."

Providing and understanding data 

Another discussion point was how providers need to be pushed to be able to get the data but also to be able to help people understand the data, where we are now in the carbon footprint journey, and how they can work with us to help reduce that.

"That's tricky because more data is not necessarily helpful," explained Kathrin. "We need to have meaningful data, and it needs to be simplified in a way that it's easy for managers for a supply chain managers just to take the right decision. So it's no good if you need a PhD and have an accountant, the data needs to be visualized in a way that it really stands out on what you can do."

Doing something small to make an impact 

Looking at how to make it easier for supply chain professionals to do something small every day to make an impact, Kathrin shared that digitization is key. 

"And it's not just having the data, but that it's really displayed in a meaningful way and then basically pick a priority and start to work on that one and also understand your footprint and the different parts of it.

"So one really interesting example we had on our panel discussion was a shipment from Paris to the U.S. West Coast. So if you track it to let's say the Port of Antwerp then 50 per cent of the emissions will already occur in this comparatively short tracking leg, whereas the thousands of kilometers on sea will have almost the same footprint. And that's just showing how important it is to really understand the different emissions per leg and per transport mode because in this example a very easy and powerful way to reduce your footprint would be to think about the logistics, how can the distance be shortened, can you choose another port, can the container be railed or barge?"

A focus on transparency and digitization 

Discussing her experience at TPM Tech, Kathrin shared some of the key topics people were focusing on. "I think it's very much on transparency and digitization, which is of course is not surprising," she said. 

"But what I find most inspiring is really the positive spirit, it's the attitude of 'can do, we've got the data, we've got a solution for you' and people are passionate, they want to help to decarbonize. There are also other sustainability aspects such as human rights, which are covered by some of the tools here, so I'm particularly impressed by the positive can-do spirit and everyone really wanting to make a difference and wanting to push for change."

Kathrin concluded by looking at how to get to Mission 2050 zero emissions together: "By burning less and burning clean. We have to invest into new technologies and new fuels, and then we can get there. The technologies are there we just need to do it." 

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