Navigation and Content

"Corporate Responsibility is not a 'nice to have'"

Deutsche Post DHL Group published its Corporate Responsibility Report 2018 entitled "Strength Through Diversity". The report underlines that diversity is the driving force behind its innovative strength, productivity and future success - a word about our milestones in 2018.

Why the title "Strength Through Diversity" for this report?

Frank Appel: Deutsche Post DHL Group is one of the most international companies in the world. We have some 550,000 people on the ground in over 220 countries and territories, and each of these individuals makes his or her own unique contribution to our success. Diversity also applies to our wide-ranging portfolio of logistics and supply chain services, which gives us a unique competitive advantage. There's no question in my mind that diversity is key to helping us fulfill our ambition to be The Logistics Company for the World. It drives our innovative capacity, productivity and competitiveness. Our diversity also allows us to respond to challenge or uncertainty; it's about resilience, too.

Was 2018 a particularly challenging year?

Frank Appel: The economic uncertainty on the macro level was not new or unique to 2018, but yes, as a company we had to overcome some new challenges, most notably the restructuring of the German mail and parcel business. This was a step we took to strengthen our domestic business and better exploit the opportunities open to us in the booming e-commerce logistics market. But for me, 2018 also demonstrated the strength of our foundation as a company. An important component of this foundation is our corporate strategy, which is itself based on the diverse needs and expectations of our stakeholders: customers, employees and investors. So we don't just have one bottom line, we have three bottom lines: to become Provider of Choice, Employer of Choice and Investment of Choice.

How does Corporate Responsibility fit into this strategy?

Frank Appel: The basic idea behind Corporate Responsibility (CR) is that we want to do more than create value for our customers and shareholders; we also want to give something back to society and the planet. But this is not separate from our everyday business. CR is not a "nice to have"; it is absolutely integral to our strategy and driven by our core company purpose of connecting people and improving lives.

So is CR your fourth bottom line?

Frank Appel: CR is a bottom line in the sense that responsible business is just good business. This starts with respect, tolerance, honesty and candor vis-à-vis employees, customers and stakeholders; these are the key pillars of our Group-wide Code of Conduct, our "ethical compass". Without employees, of course, we don't have a business. When they are healthy, motivated and performing well, it's good for business and everybody wins. On the environment front, we are increasing the carbon efficiency of our operations, reducing local air pollution emissions, and helping customers make their supply chains greener with environmentally friendly products and solutions. Yes, we're a pioneer in green logistics, but at the same time, the demand is there from customers and investors. So CR contributes directly to all three bottom lines.

What would you consider some of your key accomplishments as an employer?

Frank Appel: Our fundamental goal is to establish long-term employee relationships. This requires a combination of effective leadership and employee engagement. I was especially pleased to see our KPIs for Active Leadership and Employee Engagement improve in 2018, even as we began restructuring our mail and parcel businesses. 

For me, the fact that we added around 28,000 employees to our workforce last year is no small achievement. As of December 31, 2018, we reached our highest ever total of 547,459. This figure has grown continuously since 2012 - a testament to the strength of our position within the postal and logistics services industry, even in times of change. And it's a diverse workforce! We're proud to be listed in the Thomson Reuters IX Global Diversity & Inclusion Index and the Bloomberg Gender Equality Index. We also received the European Diversity Award in 2018 and recently became the first German company to receive the US-based 2019 Catalyst Award for our "Women in Management" project. Of course Forbes named our CFO Melanie Kreis one of the World's 100 Most Powerful Women in 2018, and she is also on Fortune's list of Most Powerful Women internationally.

What were the climate and environment focus areas?

Frank Appel: Urban air quality was one of our focus areas in 2018. Among other measures, we further expanded deployment of our CityHub solution in European cities, which replaces delivery vans with cargo bikes, and we began replacing conventional motor scooters with electric scooters. 

What's more, over 9,000 StreetScooters, our electric delivery vans, have now been deployed throughout Europe - and now that they are available to third parties, our list of external customers continues to grow.

Our carbon efficiency has improved up to 33% over the 2007 baseline, which represents another milestone on the way to Mission 2050. Group-wide, our use of green electricity from renewable energy sources such as wind, hydropower, solar and biomass has already risen to an impressive 77%. We also made progress in a wide range of initiatives designed to increase energy efficiency and the use of alternative power sources - from electric-drive trucks, to LNG powered trucks, to state-of-the-art aircraft, to green building technologies. And we stayed on track with our forest conservation target, joining partners to plant 1 million trees.

Looking forward, I believe that promoting synthetic fuels based on renewable energy

sources will be an important piece of the puzzle when it comes to lowering the carbon footprint in transport. In 2018, we joined the Global Alliance Power Fuels to help improve the marketability of synthetic fuels, and continue to support development of alternative aviation fuels.

Would you say the company has given back to society as much as it has done for the environment?

Frank Appel: Certainly we have. We are a signatory of the UN Global Compact and have been a supporter of its Ten Principles since 2006, and this, along with the UN Sustainable Development Goals, provides a kind of framework for our business and CR activity. So we're part of a larger effort by the international community to bring the world together and improve lives. This inspires many of our people to give their time and talents as part of our Global Volunteer Program to leverage our strengths as a company for the greater good of the communities in which we live and conduct business. In 2018, for example, some 123,000 Group employees gave a total of over 374,000 hours of their time to thousands of social projects across the globe.

A perennial highlight for me is the work of our Disaster Response Teams and our GARD disaster preparedness program in collaboration with the UN - both of which showcase the effectiveness of public-private partnerships in humanitarian action. DRT and GARD once again completed multiple deployments and workshops in 2018; these are great examples of our logistics specialists delivering maximum impact and benefit as volunteers.

We continued to improve employability for disadvantaged youth worldwide through our GoTeach program, and also integrated our refugee initiative into the program last year. During 2018, we signed employment contracts with around 4,000 refugees. They are building new lives for themselves, performing valuable work for us, and enriching and strengthening the fabric of society.

One of the tenets of the UN Global Compact is that responsible business is an important force in bringing about change. Do you consider your company an agent of social change?

Frank Appel: All companies should be the agents of social change. In our case we can provide valuable examples of progress in areas like human rights, environment and society. Take the example of the refugees I just mentioned. While the news often focuses on the refugee problem and the lack of practical answers, our story provides an example of a solution, a positive outcome. On the climate front, it can be frustrating to see the lack of progress on the global, political level. In the meantime, Deutsche Post DHL Group continues to set clear, ambitious goals, such as our zero emissions target for 2050, and to apply discipline and can-do spirit to making steady progress in reaching these goals.

You sound optimistic!

Frank Appel: Indeed I am! Sure, the world still faces plenty of challenges, but you can argue it's never been in better shape. 70 years without a world war is something we are certainly grateful for and celebrate here in Europe. Extreme poverty is down by more than half since 1990, for example, and life expectancy is on the rise. I also have a fundamentally positive view of globalization and digitalization, the two major forces of our time. Certainly globalization is under some pressure, and we should not take for granted the relatively new form of openness we enjoy today. But in my opinion, the knowledge flows driving today's global economy and technological advances are too strong to be stopped. And this is good! Becoming more connected is the only way to move from a fragile world to a world of solid, shared and sustainable progress.

This is how our connectedness makes us stronger, and how diversity makes us stronger. I firmly believe that this is also how Deutsche Post DHL Group can continue to enable progress and improve lives around the world.