Decarbonising the Logistics Industry: A Pledge for a Sustainable Future

Decarbonisation demands a joint effort and industry-wide collaboration in establishing uniform standards

By Amadou Diallo

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Amadou Diallo, CEO of DHL Global Forwarding Middle East and Africa.
Amadou Diallo, CEO of DHL Global Forwarding Middle East and Africa.

Published: Tue 12 Dec 2023, 2:57 PM

As the world gathers to address climate change and sustainability at COP28 and demands greater accountability for our environmental footprint, industries across the board face a critical challenge: the urgent need for decarbonisation. The convergence of innovation and responsibility in the logistics and transport sector presents a significant opportunity to drive transformative change.

The logistics industry plays an important role in the global economy, connecting markets, powering trade, and ensuring goods reach their destinations efficiently. However, this also comes with significant carbon emissions. Recent findings by the International Council on Clean Transportation serve as a stark reminder of the sector’s impact on global emissions and the potential effect of concerted mitigation efforts in this sector. The study’s revelation that a 0.5-degree Celsius reduction in global warming is attainable over the next 25 years through decarbonisation of transportation also underscores the immense responsibility on the shoulders of the logistics industry. Addressing this issue is not just a matter of choice; it’s a mandate for survival and sustainable growth.

At DHL Global Forwarding, sustainability isn›t merely a buzzword—it›s a commitment deeply ingrained in our operational ethos, reflecting the strategy and values upheld by our mother company, DHL Group. We are resolute in our mission to achieve net-zero logistics-related emissions by 2050, aligning ourselves with the Paris Agreement and the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals. But this commitment isn’t just about distant goals; it’s about tangible actions here and now. That’s why we are actively exploring and implementing solutions available today.

One such solution is the use of sustainable fuels, a game-changer in reducing carbon emissions in the hard-to-abate transport sector. Our GoGreen Plus service embodies this commitment, offering sustainable alternatives and investing in solutions like sustainable aviation (SAF) and sustainable marine fuels (SMF) through partnerships, meeting the highest ethical and ecological standards. For rail freight in the Middle East, this proactive approach has yielded commendable results, with a notable 20 per cent reduction in carbon emissions, equating to approximately 350 kg of CO2 saved per container moved.

It is essential to accelerate the fuel switch in the logistics industry, and the key to achieving this is insetting – investing in solutions and fuels to reduce emissions where they are emitted. Insetting has immense potential, allowing players across the value chain to scale up and accelerate the adoption of clean solutions. However, there is a simultaneous need for a substantial scaling up of the availability of sustainable fuels, such as SAF. Combining this with an accessible ‘book & claim’ mechanism will help simplify the transition to sustainable practices within the industry. This streamlined approach will ensure that sustainability isn’t a privilege limited to large corporations but an opportunity extended to all, from small local shippers to multinational logistics companies.

In the Middle East and Africa, we are actively spearheading initiatives that mirror our global commitment. From deploying electric trucks in partnership with FAMCO and joining hands with Etihad Rail to promote multi-modal transportation to collaborating with Total Energies for comprehensive solarization of all our facilities in Dubai, and revolutionising battery recycling solutions with EnviroServe, every step reflects our dedication to shaping a cleaner, greener future. The recent Fast Forward Challenge in Dubai also exemplifies our commitment to fostering innovation for sustainability. ARC Ride, a winner in our Challenge, presented an innovative model for mass transportation in African cities. Their win signifies the potential and dedication in our region to embrace sustainable solutions.

The path to decarbonisation demands a joint effort and industry-wide collaboration in establishing uniform industry standards. Moreover, setting clear accounting standards helps in transparently measuring and reporting carbon emissions, fostering accountability and facilitating the transition towards cleaner practices. Equally important is agreeing on the quality of sustainable fuels, which involves defining parameters for their production processes, sourcing, and ecological impact. We urge fellow stakeholders to embed sustainability in their operations, incorporate sustainable solutions in tenders, and collectively drive the demand for cleaner alternatives.

The logistics industry must evolve beyond being a mere facilitator of trade. It must emerge as a beacon of sustainability, a driver of change, and a guardian of our planet’s future. Decarbonisation isn’t an option; it’s the only path forward. By uniting our efforts, investing in sustainable innovations, and setting a new standard, we can build an industry that not only sustains but thrives in a carbon-neutral world. Together, let’s pledge to decarbonise the logistics industry, not just for today but for the generations that will inherit our legacy.

— Amadou Diallo is the CEO of DHL Global Forwarding Middle East and Africa.

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