Ensuring sustainability deliversJanuary 2015
Mark Parsons is chief customer officer at logistics firm DHL and while heavily involved in the commercial side of the business, his remit also extends to CR and sustainability. He tells Ethical Performance about the company’s drive to deliver sustainability
How big is DHL in the UK?
We have the biggest fleet on the road (after Royal Mail) running 8000 trucks. However, most of the time you don’t see the brand as we uses branded trucks to deliver for clients such as M&S (non food items) and Sainsbury’s. We are also one of the biggest foreign employers in the country after Walmart.
Is it a top down approach?
As part of Deutsche Post, I look to ensure that the CR/sustainability values of the parent company run throughout the four strands of the UK business (PEP, a mailing business, Global Forwarding containers, Express delivery service and Supply Chain services). The board is very committed to the CR/sustainability agenda. Indeed, the ceo, Frank Appel, sits on the UN’s High-Level Advisory Group on Sustainable Transport.
Where is your focus?
There are four pillars for DHL’s strategy: Go Green (having a fleet of diesel trucks tends to mitigate your sustainability), Go Teach (the company sponsors a lot of post graduates), Go Help (a disaster recovery team which focuses on the infrastructure of a disaster zone rather than providing aid) and Global Volunteer (encouraging employees to do voluntary placements).
My role is to encourage employees to buy into the strategy too – essentially to take the boardroom ethos to the warehouse man in Coventry.
In the UK there are three key areas: road safety, employability and employee engagement. These three pillars support the sustainable business case for the UK business. Road safety is obvious given the size of our fleet. Employability is an issue because the logistics industry needs to be viewed as positive industry. It’s not necessarily the most attractive industry and it has a slightly ageing profile. We want to change that. We tackle employee engagement because it is important to demonstrate our values throughout the business, not just ride on the back of the principle of doing it.
What are you doing in employability?
We support the Prince’s Trust, through the DHL Foundation, bringing 10-16 young people for 3-10 weeks on a work placement, with a view to getting them employable. So far 300 have gone through the programme and 80% have become employed by DHL. It’s something we’ve been running since 2007. A more recent development has seen the Prince’s Trust feeding into our Apprenticeship schemes. We’ve also been consolidating 25 schemes into 4 national programmes.
Currently we’re putting a lot of effort into looking at ex-service personnel and bringing them into the business. We are trialing a programme where 6 months before they exit the service, they can sample what it would be like to work at DHL. It’s an important driving pipeline for us.
What’s your take on employee engagement?
Employee engagement combines with our road safety focus in our TACS (Trucks and Child Safety) programme which has been running since 1998. We target the under-10s. This involves a 40ft truck visiting a school. One of the devices we use is to put one child in the cab and their classmates in front of the truck. We then ask them who they can see. It’s a valuable way to demonstrate how they can’t necessarily be seen by a driver. It’s a 2-hour visit and the children are also shown how the truck works and we leave the teachers with a number of activities (connected to how to cross the road safely etc). So far 300 drivers have volunteered to run one of these activities and we’ve reached 260,000 primary school children.
On the fundraising side, we run a Match It scheme and also encourage payroll giving. Currently, 5% of the workforce is signed up to payroll giving and my goal is to get that to 10%. Employees nominate the charities they want to support, so currently there are around 275 charities supported.
Most recent initiative?
We launched a new CNG-powered concept truck for use in towns and cities at Quiet Cities, the first global summit focused on enabling quieter deliveries of freight in urban environments.
It was designed to be considerate of the environment so includes a new spark ignition ‘Otto Cycle’ engine, which can reduce engine noise by up to 50% when compared to a standard diesel engine, which is crucial for making quiet out of hours deliveries in urban environments.
As part of DHL’s work to use more environmentally friendly vehicles, the new truck uses Compressed Natural Gas (CNG) and Bio-Gas to significantly reduce its CO2 footprint and harmful pollutants. And to ensure the truck is suitable for populated, urban environments DHL has included a range of innovative safety features in the vehicle. Identifying the most dangerous blind spots around vehicles, DHL has designed the new vehicle cab to ensure vulnerable road users are more visible to drivers..
And the challenge ahead?
Logistics is a fairly new industry and there are lots of small players, so I imagine we’ll see a lot more collaboration. We could be more collaborative in road safety for example. We also need to make the industry more attractive to employees and need to promote a better image of the industry.
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