Green shipping with DHL

Leendert van Delft
Leendert van Delft
5 min read
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DHL courier  scanning a parcel
Benefits of sustainable logistics
Green shipping options
Carbon offsetting

Discover the benefits of sustainable shipping and the innovative solutions that can set your business on the path to a greener future.

Benefits of Green Logistics

Without a doubt, the most important industry trend at the moment is green logistics. And for good reason. Investing in a sustainable logistics strategy can help your business in many different ways…

Enhance your brand’s reputation

Consumers are increasingly concerned with sustainability, and are drawn to brands that align with their values. In fact, 88% of consumers will be more loyal to a company that supports social or environmental issues1. Establishing clear sustainability goals for your business – and being transparent about them on your website – will resonate well with prospects.  

Improve your business’s efficiency

A sustainable logistics strategy focuses on reducing waste and optimizing processes – which means your output will be more efficient. For example, by adopting route optimization software, you can cut down the time your delivery fleet spends on the road. This means no excess mileage and lower fuel consumption – reducing both emissions and costs.

Save money 

Whilst some sustainable logistics strategies require upfront investment, the savings they generate in the long term make them worthwhile. A report by McKinsey2 found a positive correlation between a company’s Green Supply Chain Management practices (greenhouse emissions, recycling, waste, and renewable energy) and its profitability. This is because green logistics increases efficiencies and reduces waste – both of which impact a business’s costs. 


hand planting a seedling

Green Shipping Options

With the continued rise of retail-related deliveries and returns, carbon emissions from e-commerce logistics are forecast to hit around 25 million metric tonnes by 2030, according to Statista3.

But still, there are steps your business can take to minimize its negative impact on the environment. And if every company takes these steps, it could make quite a difference to that rather depressing prediction.


Evaluate your green packaging processes

Getting your goods to your customers without damage should be a priority, but so should be reducing “empty” space. Products shipped to customers in excessively large boxes is a waste of materials, not to mention the extra shipping costs incurred.

Instead, ensure your items are packed in correctly sized boxes, or design the packaging yourself according to your products’ unique specifications. You can also highlight to your customers that you’ve cut back on packaging – for example, a sticker with “Now with 10% less packaging” on the box will reflect well on your brand. And while we’re on the subject, there are many other ways you can use packaging as a marketing opportunity.

The material you select for packaging is just as important as ensuring it’s an appropriate size. Compostable mailing bags, recycled cardboard, mushroom-based containers…there are all sorts of weird and wonderful innovations out there that are less detrimental to the planet than plastic. So it’s well worth looking into the multitude of options you have for eco-friendly packaging and green packaging.


Take steps towards carbon offsetting and insetting

Every business has a carbon footprint, which is the total amount of greenhouse gases emitted directly or indirectly by its activities. Carbon offsetting involves “balancing out” these emissions by funding carbon reduction projects outside the sector of impact. Examples include reforestation and conservation projects, investment in renewable energy infrastructure, and providing clean water to disadvantaged communities.  

Meanwhile, carbon insetting is when businesses invest in carbon reduction schemes within their own supply chains. Examples include a clothing manufacturer planting trees outside its factory, a restaurant growing its own vegetables (to reduce the emissions of the supplier delivering them), or a business switching to sustainable fuel (which we discuss later in this article.)

You can learn more about other important sustainability trends in logistics here.

Tim Scharwath image

“In the long-term, greater decarbonization of transport is key to driving positive change. Future-proofed logistics companies should think now about developing a stringent insetting strategy.”

Tim Scharwath, CEO DHL Global Forwarding, Freight

Offer sustainable returns

It’s estimated that up to 30% of all products ordered online are returned to the sender4. That’s a big hit for your business’s profits. For ways to reduce that hit, and still offer your customers excellent service, make sure you check out our piece on returns management best practices.

Aside from the financial impact to your business, the extra shipping emissions caused by customer returns are bad news for the environment too. But there is a way to make the process more sustainable.

Reverse logistics promotes the recycling, repurposing, repairing and resale of products, with the aim of extending their lifecycle. It means less goods end up in landfill, and, with 67% of consumers checking an online retailer’s return policy before committing to a purchase5, it could win you some valuable extra sales. Our dedicated reverse logistics guide will help you create your own strategy. 


Partner with a sustainable shipping carrier

In DHL’s Global Online Shopper Survey 2023, 64% of European consumers said sustainable deliveries are important to them, whilst DHL is seen as the most sustainable of all the leading international delivery companies. So, for a greener final mile, you know who to speak to!

With DHL Express, you’ll have access to a range of dedicated insetting and offsetting solutions (which you can read more about below). Offering your customers such delivery options at checkout will reflect well on your brand and drive loyalty.


DHL courier walking away from van

Shipping with DHL: Your sustainable strategy

It’s no secret that the transport and logistics industry is a large contributor to global emissions. So, in 2017, DHL became the first logistics company in the world to set a target of reducing its greenhouse gas emissions to net zero by 2050. As part of this commitment, it has several schemes to help its customers – businesses like yours – employ sustainable shipping strategies. Here are some of the options available.


Alternative fuels with DHL GoGreen Plus

In 2023, DHL Express launched GoGreen Plus, a dedicated solution to help businesses reduce ("inset") the carbon emissions associated with their shipments through the use of Sustainable Aviation Fuel. SAF is a biofuel that is produced from renewable sources such as vegetable oils, animal fats, waste products, and agricultural crops. SAF is specifically designed to be used as a substitute for traditional jet fuel and can reduce greenhouse gas emissions by up to 80% compared to fossil fuels. The service can be selected for individual shipments, making it a flexible option for SMEs and e-commerce businesses with smaller cargo loads.


"We know our customers are committed to reducing their environmental impact so it’s important we’re giving them the means to do so. I’m delighted that our investment in SAF can now be fully leveraged by customers to enable them to bring down the emissions of their shipments. SAF is currently the primary route to reducing carbon emissions in aviation, so this is the most effective way to help our customers make their own supply chains more sustainable."

- John Pearson, CEO, DHL Express

GoGreen and carbon offsetting

DHL GoGreen solutions are dedicated to helping customers understand and reduce their carbon footprint. Our carbon transparency tools allow customers to measure the impact of their operations, whilst GoGreen logistics experts can develop tailor-made recommendations for improving the carbon footprint of their supply chain – such as consolidating shipments and optimizing routes.

In addition, by purchasing CO2 credits, we support specially selected GoGreen climate protection projects around the world, which meet the highest quality standards. That way, we can ensure carbon offsetting for our customers who are using our carbon neutral GoGreen products and services.

Electric vehicles

EVs are the future of the transportation sector and, in that area, DHL has several key achievements. It has committed to deploying 80,000 e-vehicles for last-mile deliveries by 2030 – a 60% electrification rate of its fleet. And it’s not just on the roads – in August 2021, the company made aviation history by ordering 12 fully electric “Alice” e-cargo planes from aircraft manufacturer Eviation. All of which means customers shipping domestically or internationally with DHL will have their goods transported in the most eco-friendly way possible, with emissions reduced at every mile.

“We are turning our yellow Group into a green company and making an important contribution to our planet and society."

Frank Appel, former DHL Express CEO

Green packaging

Following research that 24% of the volume of an e-commerce package is empty space, DHL developed an AI-powered packaging solution to make shipments more cost-effective and environmentally friendly. “OptiCarton” combines sophisticated carton optimization algorithms with an on-demand approach to packaging within the distribution center to optimize the filling volume of boxes. This means DHL’s customers benefit from more eco-friendly shipments, with the added benefit of reduced transportation costs.    

To access all the industry-leading sustainable shipping solutions discussed above – and many more – open a DHL Express Business Account. Choose a greener future, below.