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Great in theory, sustainable fuels can only help to tackle global warming once they replace fossil fuels. So how is that done? How can companies move from theory to practice? Discover the ways in which DHL Global Forwarding is driving decarbonization of transportation and fueling green seas and skies.

Today we all know that carbon emissions are blanketing the Earth and trapping the sun’s heat, causing global warming and climate change. Action is urgently required on many levels, particularly the switch from burning fossil fuels to adopting sustainable fuels such as biofuels, e-fuels (synthetic fuels), and several other promising products currently in development.

This in-depth article builds on our earlier introduction to the theory of sustainable fuels, this time looking at the practical application of this knowledge by DHL Global Forwarding (DGF).

In recent years, our decarbonization focus has been on delivering transparency and carbon optimization solutions to our customers, and today we offer sustainable fuels to truly decarbonize air and ocean freight transportation.

Here’s what we’ve learned about fueling green seas and skies.  

Why Focus On Transportation?

The world economy needs international trade, but benefits of this trade come at a high cost. Transporting goods around the globe adds to greenhouse gas emissions which, in turn, accelerates climate change. We can actually measure this and predict likely outcomes. For example, these days international transportation is contributing approximately 14% of all carbon emissions; should business simply continue as usual, this figure will double by 2050 as demand for freight shipping is anticipated to grow between now and then.

This illustrates an important point. All modes of transportation, especially the most carbon-intensive – air freight – can substantially influence the global average temperature. As the world seeks to minimize the temperature rise, the transportation and logistics industry is strengthening its contributions to sustainability.

As One Door Closes, Another Opens

For some time now, the approach in freight transportation has been to burn less. This means using less fuel to move the same amount of goods. Excellent efficiency gains have been achieved by improving conventional engines, but these gains are now starting to slow down significantly. We have fewer options for burning less. So the S-curve of burning less is coming to an end.

Meanwhile, a new direction in transportation is to burn clean. This means increasing the percentage of clean or low-carbon freight journeys in the overall network. So far, this is happening on a relatively small scale and in isolated cases. Our capabilities and alternatives for burning clean are limited, at least right now. But the good news is that the S-curve of burning clean is just beginning.

To delve deeper into this concept of two S-curves – one that’s completing its trajectory but overlaps with another that’s starting out, you may like to watch our recent video on the decarbonization of transportation: Between the S-Curves.

Tomorrow’s Achievements Start Today

Sustainable fuels and new technologies are increasingly available and it’s now technically possible for all parties in the supply chain to reach their climate goals. An effective way to largely decarbonize transportation is to use carbon insetting solutions.

Insetting means avoiding, reducing, or removing emissions within the company’s own value chain. That’s why many organizations are now using sustainable fuels in their own transportation activities and making sure to renew their own fleets with environmentally friendly aircraft, sea vessels, and vehicles.

The Greening Of Biofuels And E-Fuels

It’s worth taking a closer look at what we mean by sustainable fuels. Second-generation biofuels and e-fuels are beginning to gain a foothold in global transportation but it’s essential that their energy is derived from renewable resources. These sustainable fuels mustn’t add extra CO2 to the atmosphere. The production of plant-based biofuels – made from organic materials such as agricultural biomass – should not lead to monocultures or the destruction of crop land and rainforest. Most importantly, the lifecycle emissions of biofuels need to be significantly lower than those of fossil fuels.  

Overcoming The Cost Barrier

Sustainable fuels such as these are proving their potential for carbon reduction, but high cost and complexity remain big barriers to widespread adoption. That’s why, at DHL Global Forwarding, we’ve taken steps to ensure cost-effective, simplified access to clean fuel.

We make the sustainable fuels we buy available to customers through our GoGreen Plus service for air and ocean freight. This highly flexible service enables companies to reduce 100% of their tank-to-wake (TtW) carbon emissions – that means emissions resulting from burning or using a fuel once it’s already in the tank. This service also allows customers to reduce up to 80% of their well-to-wake (WtW) carbon emissions – the emissions related to every stage in the lifecycle of that fuel, from its production until it’s used to fuel an aircraft or vessel.

Customers choose which business scope and we facilitate a simple fuel switch – using a robust Book & Claim system – as well as a verification process. We also provide CO₂ reduction certificates, validated by an independent third-party agency, in order to document Scope 3 emission reductions. 

The Steps We Took In This Green Journey

DHL Global Forwarding has been developing these customer-centric sustainable fuel solutions for several years. And it was in January 2021 we became the first logistics service provider to offer truly climate-neutral ocean freight shipments without additional costs through our Less-than-Container Load (LCL) GoGreen Plus .

Here’s what Dominique von Orelli, DHL Global Forwarding’s Global Head of Ocean Freight, says: “Since the start of our decarbonizing process for all our less-than-container-load (LCL) ocean freight shipments, we have been using sustainable marine fuels for 370,599 shipments. We are now providing our Less-than-Container Load (LCL) GoGreen Plus service to more than 2,500 customers, supporting their carbon emission goals without extra costs. This marks an important step for us at DHL Global Forwarding and validates that we are on the right track in driving sustainable logistics solutions in the maritime sector to contribute to climate protection. Following this great success, we have decided to continue the decarbonization of all Less-than-Container Load (LCL) shipments for our customers at no extra costs.”

Since then, we expanded our offerings by launching Full-Container Load (FCL)  GoGreen Plus in June 2021 and Air Freight GoGreen Plus in February 2022. Which means today our customers can opt for truly carbon-neutral air and ocean freight shipping with DHL Global Forwarding. For an excellent summary of these sustainability solutions, watch our videos on our air solutions and our ocean solutions.

If customers also want to compensate the remaining emissions after the fuel switch, they can choose to combine DHL Global Forwarding’s insetting products with carbon offsetting.

Our Customers Are Sharing This Journey

We’ve seen a rapid uptake of these GoGreen Plus solutions in 2021 and this continues in 2022. Here are some of their sustainability stories:

We’re Simplifying Sustainable Logistics

Putting sustainable fuels into action can be as easy as that. Here at DHL Global Forwarding we’re committed to simplifying sustainable logistics.

Looking for more insights? Listen to the recording of our webinar 'Powering the future of Logistics with Sustainable Fuels'