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COP26: Turning words into action

When it comes to fighting climate change, the time to act is now. And that means all of us.

When global leaders come together at international conferences, it is often the largest nations that take center stage. Not so at this month's United Nations Climate Change Conference UK 2021 (COP26) in Glasgow. At COP meetings, representatives from every nation have a chance to present their take on the climate crisis.

That means a prominent politician like US President Joe Biden shares the same stage with Prime Minister Mia Mottley of Barbados. At COP26, President Biden spoke of "standing at an inflection point in world history" and creating "an environment that raises the standard of living around the world." Prime Minister Mottley asked: "Can there be peace and prosperity if one-third of the world lives in prosperity and two-thirds live underseas and face calamitous threats to our wellbeing?" Her island country in the Caribbean is one of those facing an existential crisis due to rising sea levels; Biden's America is one of the wealthiest nations in the world.

But for all the powerful statements and heartfelt appeals issued by political leaders and climate change activists in Glasgow, it’s now time to turn those words into action. The science is clear, and we can’t wait any longer. But this task falls to everyone, including business leaders and the companies they represent.

"From attitude to action"

While many of the agreements and commitments from world leaders tout the urgent need for dramatic political action to address climate change, the truth is that governments and the international community are, collectively, a slow-moving apparatus. The efforts of individuals, from devoted climate activists on down, are essential and laudable but aren’t enough to make a significant global impact. Private sector initiatives can hasten the uptake of climate-friendly technology and promising solutions, but they are less effective in an environment that doesn’t incentivize going green. We need an actionable framework paired with the right infrastructure that supports companies willing to decarbonize.

On the business side, the problem is that many leaders want to make their companies climate neutral, but they are not taking decisive action to do so. A recent study entitled “From Attitude to Action: How Germany’s CEOs Drive Sustainability” found that nine out of ten top executives consider sustainability and digitalization to be equally crucial to success. But the results also show that most leaders still see a trade-off between sustainability and profitability.

We believe that sustainability and profitability are two sides of the same coin. What’s more, we believe sustainability can drive profitability. Companies that move fast on sustainable transition can create a competitive advantage, which can boost the bottom line. Demand for zero emission logistics solutions already outperforms supply due to limited availability of climate friendly technologies. 

Investing in climate friendly innovation

At COP26, we were proud to announce becoming founding members of the First Movers Coalition, joining a host of leading, like-minded companies that send a demand signal to make emerging clean technologies accessible and scalable. The Coalition is a public-private partnership between the US State Department (through Special Presidential Envoy for Climate John Kerry) and the World Economic Forum. It is a platform for companies to make purchasing commitments that foster supply of solutions, which are critical in the fight against climate change.

The First Movers Coalition signal demand for sustainable solutions across eight sectors, including three that are key to our business: shipping, aviation, and trucking. We will leverage our membership in the First Movers Coalition with our commitment to invest in climate friendly innovation and help suppliers develop and scale their latest green technologies.

Collaborating to cut carbon emissions

During a COP26 panel on sustainable aviation, Deutsche Post DHL CFO Melanie Kreis announced a key first step in fulfilling our duties as members of the First Movers Coalition: a new partnership with Neste. The collaboration will introduce sustainable aviation fuel (SAF) to some 200 weekly DHL airfreight flights from the UK’s East Midlands Airport and reduce our CO2 emissions by 70,000 tons per year. Neste will supply DHL Express with an innovative new fuel produced from Used Cooking Oil (UCO) while avoiding palm oil.

SAF provides an immediate and viable alternative to fossil fuels, but suppliers need partners to scale up production and bring down costs. Our deal with Neste aims to do just that while reducing our emissions right now. It’s all part of our Mission 2050 and our pledge to invest €7 billion in clean operations by 2030.

DHL & Neste

€60 million

will be invested in Sustainable Aviation Fuel.

200 flights

will transport airfreight more sustainably to and from the UK each week with 30% SAF blend.

70,000 tons

of C02 will be saved per year.

COP23 in 2017, held directly nearby the Group's headquarters, the Post Tower in Bonn, German. Negotiations continued for 14 days - in groups large and small, at working and ministerial level, or in bilateral talks.

Climate advocacy on our doorstep

Deutsche Post DHL Group has been an active participant in the UN Climate Conferences for years. The most prominent example was COP23 in 2017, held literally in our backyard in Bonn, Germany. As an official COP23 partner, we presented best-practice examples of climate-neutral logistics to global climate delegates sessions held, in some cases, at our headquarters, the Post Tower. But perhaps the most relevant climate conference for our business was 2015’s COP21, which produced the landmark international treaty on climate change known as the Paris Agreement. That document became our North Star as we developed our Sustainability Roadmap, a set of ambitious sustainability targets that builds on our past achievements and plots our future success.

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Ambitious sustainability targets

With our Sustainability Roadmap, we build on our past achievements and plot a course for future success.

Hope for the planet

We recognize that the value of our commitments is not in bold statements but bold action. We drafted an ambitions roadmap to reduce our carbon emissions, and now we’re executing it. And we’re working with partners like Neste, Volvo Trucks, Eviation Aircraft, and Lindex (to name only a few) to reach the next milestone and come closer to achieving our goals. In short: We’re turning our words into action because the time to act is now.

Hope for the planet lies in collective action that couples the political will of governments, the personal commitment of individuals, and the resources and reach of global enterprises. As these paths cross at events such as COP26, we can only hope and push for a framework for the logistics industry and other industries that rewards decarbonization with growth and signals that the world is finally taking action together.

Published: November 2021

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