Deutsche Post DHL is delivering good reporting

Deutsche Post DHL’s 2010 online corporate responsibility report is designed like a complex logistics network navigated via a sleek online route map. It starts with a home page overview showing possible routes to a mass of information in a cleverly planned navigation hierarchy. You can start at the beginning or go directly to what interests you.

Amply signposted, your journey is supported with infinite hyperlinks, in-section menus and an online mouse-over glossary for those bits of Deutsche Post DHL jargon that you might not be entirely familiar with.

The complete content of this report is downloadable in a 246-page PDF or an at-a-glance overview of 21 pages. Report assurance is indicated online on each assured page. Accessibility and seamless navigability are best-practice features of this presentation, complete with an online feedback questionnaire and a promise that Deutsche Post DHL will make a €5 donation to Plant-for-the-Planet for each of the first 200 fully completed questionnaires received.

Deutsche Post DHL has 467,000 employees and operates in 220 countries. By far the most interesting aspect of its business is how the company could use its massive infrastructure and influence to transform the transportation landscape across borders and influence customers to adopt resource-efficient practices through new business models and collaborative initiatives.

Deutsche Post DHL offers green services, including assistance for customers’ carbon emissions reporting and offsetting, carbon dashboard maps for tracking logistics carbon efficiency, green consulting services for carbon reduction strategies and a hybrid global mail service, sending documents by electronic transfer for local printing, saving energy resources and costs.

Aside from a couple of brief examples, the company does not report the extent to which greener services are actually adopted by customers, or how Deutsche Post DHL proactively markets sustainable solutions.

More interesting is the stand that Deutsche Post DHL takes on core sector issues including the need for greater regulation. The company says: “A comprehensive and global political framework is especially important to encourage CO2 efficiency improvement ambitions in our industry and in other sectors.”

In the EU, for example, many trucks operate empty due to restrictions on “cabotage” – vehicles registered in one country operating services within another. Deutsche Post DHL also makes the case for regulation to develop “common, international and industry-driven standards for carbon measurement”.

With regard to the company’s direct operational impacts, it manages a comprehensive set of performance indicators within its living responsibility strategy. This has three main pillars: Go Green (CO2 efficiency), Go Help (disaster response and preparedness) and Go Teach (improving educational quality and equity).

Go Green has a target to improve CO2 efficiency, including transportation subcontractors’ operations, by 30% by 2020, compared with 2007 levels. While absolute carbon emissions have increased every year since 2008 (5% more in 2010 than in 2008), Deutsche Post DHL’s carbon efficiency (normalised to units of operation), has improved from a baseline of 100 in 2007 to 88 in 2010 towards a target of 70 in 2020. Of course, while the company reaches its carbon efficiency target, it may well be generating more carbon emissions than at any time in its history.

Help where needed 

Go Help is Deutsche Post DHL’s programme to address disaster relief, the new de rigueur corporate responsibility platform for logistics and technology companies, given the frequency of major natural tragedies that are occurring around the globe.

Deutsche Post DHLhas established disaster response teams, which have been deployed in many countries, providing local assistance in ensuring relief supplies get through. DHL has even developed an innovative form of waterproof packaging – “DHL Speedballs” – which can hold up to 25 kilograms, withstand airdrops better and stay afloat longer than other containers. They have been used in several relief efforts.

Overall, however, it is not easy to get to what really counts in this GRI B+ level report. There is no distillation of core issues raised by stakeholders about different aspects of Deutsche Post DHL’s business and no materiality prioritisation.

The three pillars of the company’s strategy are surely worthwhile, but the lack of analysis of stakeholder expectations on a broader range of Deutsche Post DHLimpacts and performance is an omission. Apparently materiality is the road less travelled on the Deutsche Post DHLhighway to CR transparency in an otherwise impressive report.


Follows GRI?            Yes, GRI B+  

Assured?                    Yes, limited assurance using ISAE 3000.

Materiality analysis?   No

Goals?                        Yes

Targets?                     Yes 

Stakeholder input?   Yes

Seeks feedback?        Yes, with incentives.

Key strengths?           Great online format and navigation. 

Chief weakness?        Poor reporting of materiality.  

Pleasant surprise?     Nicely navigable online presentation.  

Elaine Cohen is a sustainability consultant and reporter at Beyond Business, and is a CSR blogger.  

CSR  csr reporting  DHL  report  sustainability reporting 

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