Often playing a role within the broader supply chain, the air freight industry and airport sector can draw inspiration from the environmental sustainability activities of its logistics partners.

In the logistics world, the quest to create a more environmentally sustainable supply chain is continuing to make significant headway. Encouraged by a range of international and domestic initiatives alongside changing consumer demands, many logistics providers have already discovered an array of tools and techniques to calculate and minimise their carbon footprint.

Somewhat inevitably, the express giant DHL has been a leading force in this area. As part of the world’s largest logistics group, Germany’s Deutsche Post World Net, DHL has more than 100,000 employees in over 220 countries. The company typically relies on air and road transport to provide fast and efficient services for its customers. Its GoGreen climate protection programme serves as an effective example for airports and the aviation sector in general on how to successfully implement carbon efficiency across airside operations.

Spanning all business divisions and regions of the DHL group, the GoGreen service and programme aims to minimise the environmental impact of how the group goes about its long-term business objectives. In particular, the company has targeted carbon efficiency and is looking to reduce carbon emission per package sent, per ton transported and per square metre of property in use by 10% by 2012 and by 30% by 2020, when compared to 2007 levels.

To help achieve this, DHL Express has been placing various measures on their air, road and real estate operations. These include optimising transport routes, increasing electricity obtained from renewable sources, investigating alternative fuels and raising employee awareness.

"DHL Express has invested heavily in the development of a carbon calculation tool."

Additionally the company offers customers the opportunity to offset the carbon emissions produced when conducting a standard shipment of their parcels and goods under the GoGreen carbon neutral shipping service scheme. The service was launched in Europe in 2006 and so far has gathered about 250 contract customers. In 2008, the service availability was expanded to another 20 countries across Europe and Asia Pacific, then, in 2009, the service was temporarily expanded to Africa in order to celebrate the first anniversary of the climate neutral network (CN Net) – part of the UN’s environment programme, of which DHL was the first logistics related member.

Here, DHL’s sustainability coordinator for global express communications and sustainability Reetika Joshi highlights some of the company’s recent activities and discusses its collaboration with the airport sector.

Alex Hawkes: How is DHL Express able to accurately calculate the carbon emissions of individual shipments?

Reetika Joshi: As part of the GoGreen service offering, DHL Express has invested heavily in the development of a carbon calculation tool, which extracts data from a number of internal systems, allowing DHL to calculate the carbon emissions at shipment level. This is something that has not been done in the logistics industry before.

The tool measures a shipment’s carbon emissions, assessing fuel usage, energy consumption and shipment data. This tool is patented and is the backbone of the unique service that DHL Express offers customers.

The carbon calculation system, in conjunction with a carbon management system, assesses the carbon emissions created by a customer’s shipment, identifies the most appropriate abatement projects, coordinates the offsetting of emissions and then with an independent third party, issues certificates that detail the annual carbon offset data for the customer.

AH: So what customisations must be made at airports to allow for carbon-neutral shipments?

RJ: There are no specific customisations made to airport operations exclusively for GoGreen carbon-neutral shipments.

However, as part the programme, we are implementing measures to improve the carbon efficiency of our air operations. Among the measures being taken are: phasing out older aircraft types and introducing newer aircraft such as the Boeing 777-200LRF and 767-300ERF, and fitting aerodynamic winglets to an initial six Boeing 767-300ERF cargo aircraft, which has been proven to reduce fuel consumption and increase carbon efficiency by more than 4%.

AH: Did DHL Express specifically target airports that had already embarked on their own green initiatives?

"The GoGreen climate protection programme shows how to successfully implement carbon efficiency across airside operations."

RJ: Currently, as part of the GoGreen Programme, we do not specifically target airports but instead try to focus on airlines and aircraft. For example, Aerologic, which is DHL’s recently-formed joint venture airline with Lufthansa Cargo, is set to operate eight new B777-200LRF freighter aircraft between Europe and Asia-Pacific. The B777-200LRF sets a benchmark for fuel efficiency.

Environmental aspects were also a key consideration for DHL while establishing its intercontinental air route system. The transatlantic route between Europe and the US, for example, will be served by six new DHL-owned B767-300ERF freighter aircraft, three of which will enter the fleet in 2009 and another three in 2012. These aircraft exceed the latest energy-efficiency standards by substantial margins.

AH: How will DHL Express continue to develop its focus on carbon-neutral shipments in the future?

RJ: As a leading express and logistics company, we recognise our responsibility to minimise our environmental impact and ensure sustainable development. We are taking proactive steps in our business operations by modernising our fleet, implementing measures such as capacity optimisation, route planning and pilot / driver training to cut costs and ensure fuel efficiency. Additionally, we will continue to use market opportunities and meet the growing demand for more environmentally responsible products and services through our GoGreen service.