The GSB Interview: Emily Davis, Sustainability Director at DHL North America, on Logistics, Formula-E

DHL is the largest logistics and express delivery company in the world (yes, they are bigger than FedEx and UPS). Given the German-based company’s size and the businesses they’re in, it’s not surprising that their carbon emissions are massive. But those emissions have declined substantively as compared to nine years ago and those reductions will be tiny compared to what DHL will achieve over the next three to 33 years, if their aggressive projections are realized. GreenSportsBlog spoke to Emily Davis, Sustainability Program Manager at DHL North America’s Supply Chain unit, to understand how the largest logistics company in the world will go about achieving its net zero emissions goal by 2050 and how sports fits into those plans. 

 

GreenSportsBlog: I did not realize DHL was the biggest logistics company in the world. With that being the case, I am fascinated by the commitment of a company that big to get to “net zero” on carbon emissions by 2050. Before we get to the particulars of what DHL might do to get from here to there and where sports fits in, I’d like to find out how you got to DHL and its sustainability team.

Emily Davis: I have a scientific background, specifically the biological sciences. Even though I went to Notre Dame, don’t tell anybody but I’m not that big of a sports fan.

 

EmilyDavisheadshot2

Emily Davis, Sustainability Program Manager at DHL North America’s Supply Chain unit (Photo credit: Summer Safrit)

 

GSB: Oh, your secret is safe with me!

ED: I won’t hold my breath on that one. I’m more of an outdoor sports person—caving, mountaineering, paddling, that sort of thing. I started my career in the clinical medicine space and decided to make the transition to sustainability while out in Denver.

 

Emily spelunking new cave passage

Emily Davis, exploring virgin passage of a cave in Tennessee (Photo credit: Elliot Stahl)

 

GSB: Great place for outdoor sports…

ED: Exactly…And I could blend my dual passions for the environment and biology. I went back to school, getting my MBA from Vanderbilt in Nashville in environmental management to build a new skill set in this area.

GSB: What was the coursework like for an environmental management MBA?

ED: Good question. Some of it involved things like the business of forest certification standards and marketing. And that, in part, led to my getting a job at International Paper in forest resources in Savannah and then with their sustainability department in Memphis.

GSB: What was it like to work in corporate sustainability there back in the mid-to-late 2000s?

ED: Sustainability was important to a paper and packaging company as trees, the main raw material input, are a very finite resource if not appropriately managed. But not too many companies were talking about sustainability, ESG, life cycle assessment and climate change in those days. Even though sustainability was important to the culture at International Paper, I still wanted to make more of a difference. So I took a sabbatical and traveled. At some point, I decided that I needed to work for a company that believed in environmental protection at the top of the food chain and that had size and scale such that, when environmental improvements were made, the impacts would be significant.

GSB: And that company was…DHL? A company that ships stuff all over the world and, thus, must have a, sorry, yuuuugge carbon footprint?

ED: Yes, DHL North America it was. In 2011, they were looking for someone to run their North American supply chain and sustainability departments. And yes, we have a massive footprint. But that means, with a strong commitment, they—and I—could make a difference. At the time, I didn’t know much about the company. They were/are based overseas—headquartered in Germany. But I came to find out that they had ambitious sustainability goals. They believe deeply in environmental protection—it’s core to their DNA. And I thought to myself, “this is a company that has a chance to really make a positive impact on climate change.”

GSB: So what did your job entail?

ED: Many things. Meeting the company’s energy and fuel efficiency goals. Which meant accounting for and improving the efficiency of warehousing, heavy-duty trucking, aviation, express shipping and supply chain operations.

GSB: That is a BIG JOB. Seems to me like express delivery, which is what I thought was DHL’s main business, plays a smaller part in the US. So let’s go to a big part—supply chain. How does the company handle supply chain from a sustainability point of view?

ED: DHL, which tracks Scope 1, 2 and 3 emissions, is the first logistics company to report CO2 emissions and to set targets, with 2007 as the base year. Our primary goal was to reduce carbon emissions by 30 percent by 2020. We achieved this in 2016, almost four years early, which we announced on March 8 of this year.

 

DHL Truck Windmills

Environmental protection is core to DHL’s DNA, according to Emily Davis (Photo credit: DHL)

 

GSB: Somehow I don’t imagine you and DHL are going to rest on your laurels…

ED: You’re right. We announced a new goal and that is to be a Zero Emissions Logistics company by 2050.

GSB: That seems impossible for a company that depends on flying and driving for a good chunk of its business. There have to be some assumptions of some serious technological advances over the next 30 or so years in terms of Zero Emissions fuels…

ED: It’s a huge target, no doubt about it. I mean, we’re committing to making no contribution to climate change by 2050. So, yes, we are assuming there will be wide adoption of Zero Emission fuels and equipment by that time and DHL is working on that right now.

GSB: Are there any interim targets? I mean 2050 seems like it’s a long way away—although I know, in terms of climate change, it really isn’t—but it feels like a company could put a commitment like that out there and then let things slide a bit, you know?

ED: I hear you. And we do have four interim sub-targets for 2025: 1. Make a 50 percent improvement on CO2 efficiency over the 2007 base. 2. Improve local quality of life…that will involve delivering 70% of our own first and last mile services with clean pick-up and delivery solutions like EVs. 3. An economic target: 50 percent of DHL sales will incorporate “Green Solutions,” including carbon neutral parcel delivery.

GSB: What is that percentage now?

ED: About 10 percent. Finally, #4 is a “people target.” DHL is one of the largest employers in the world, with approximately 454,000, including about 29,000 in North America. By 2025 we commit to having trained and certified 80 percent of our employees worldwide to be GoGreen specialists. Every division has a program, from express delivery to supply chain. And we have a target to plant 1 million trees each year by 2025. We’ve found, by the way, that our GoGreen initiative helps with employee retention.

GSB: I always believed that would be the case. DHL’s current sustainability and climate change actions are exemplary; its future plans even more so. My only nagging doubt is this: Many corporations take incredible sustainable actions but, when it comes to lobbying and political actions—i.e. lobbying for a price on carbon—they’re silent or in opposition. DHL is walking the climate/green walk. Is it talking the talk where it counts?

ED: It’s both. DHL is certainly talking the talk, sharing how we’re using scientific targets to do our part to keep global temperature increase to 2°C or less vs. pre-industrial levels, we report our emissions to CDP, have been a longstanding partner of the UN and promoter of Sustainable Development Goals, part of the UNEP and vigorously support the Paris Climate Agreement.

GSB: OK, let’s talk Green-Sports, specifically DHL’s involvement with Formula-E, the EV racing series.

ED: DHL has been the Official Logistics Provider for Formula 1 since 2012 and for Formula-E since its 2014 launch. Among other things, we are responsible for getting the vehicles and tires to the race venues in a timely, economical, environmentally responsible fashion. Formula-E is a perfect fit for us, especially with our push on “E-mobility” and electric vehicles (EVs). And, to be clear, our push is not limited to electric cars. We’re working on electric trucks within our own operations…

 

DHL Form-E

DHL has been a sponsor of Formula-E, the EV racing circuit, since its founding in 2014. (Photo credit: DHL)

 

GSB: Not surprising…

ED: And also electric vans, electric scooters. So promoting the electrification of racing is a natural fit. To our way of thinking, eventually—say before 2050—we hope that F-1 will move transition towards all-electric…

GSB: And so Formula E would no longer need to exist.

ED: That is our goal. And, also in the sporting world, I should tell you that one of our customers in Brazil was a sponsor of the Rio Olympics in 2016—we weren’t but they were. Anyway our EVs were used by the sponsor at the Olympics—they were one of the first ever EVs to be used at an Olympics and certainly a pioneering event for Brazil.

GSB: And, if DHL has anything to say about it, not the last.

 

 


 

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New Rules for Green Sports, Part Deux

About two years ago, I wrote a post in which I imagined myself Commissioner of (Green) Sports. In that idyllic world (at least to me), I gave myself powers to unilaterally enact any Green-Sports initiative I wanted. In a nod to the popular segment on Bill Maher’s HBO show, Real Time, I entitled the post “New Rules for Green Sports.” Despite the autocratic leanings of the current resident of 1600 Pennsylvania and my own strong love for democracy, I thought it’s time to once again put on my regal vestments and offer you, my subjects, er, readers, “New Rules for Green Sports, Part Deux.^”

 

 

Mike Francesa, the pompous, yet immensely popular host of New York’s SportsRadio WFAN’s afternoon gab fest is often termed the “Sports Pope.” I wonder, if Pope Francis is aware of Francesa’s moniker, how He feels about sharing the pontifical stage. 

Francesa

Mike “Sports Pope” Francesa, pontificating. (Photo credit: Awful Announcing)

 

I have no interest in being the Green-Sports Pope. There should be only one Pope, period (sorry, Mike). And I think Francis, who has aggressively embraced the climate change fight, per his 2015 encyclical, Laudato Si, is fantastic. 

Still, I wouldn’t mind having a smidge of unilateral power, just for one day, to be able to enact some Green-Sports initiatives that would help accelerate the climate change fight.

For that, my model is not the Pope, but rather an anti-Pope of sorts: Bill Maher. Host of HBO’s Real Time with Bill MaherBorn Catholic but staunchly atheist. Maher ends each episode of his show with New Rules in which imagines enacting his own rules for politics and life in general. 

 

Bill Maher and New Rules from HBO’s Real Time with Bill Maher, original air date May 4, 2017. (Courtesy HBO and YouTube)

 

Riffing off of Maher, we ran a New Rules for Green-Sports column in February, 2015. Here are three of them:

  • Every broadcast of a sports event must air at least one 30 second Public Service Announcement (PSA) themed to the climate change fight. While this hasn’t happened yet, there have been Green-Sports themed PSAs seen on NBA TV and the NHL Network. Good start, but we need to pick up the pace.

 

NBA Green Energy All-Star video (0:58)

 

  • Auto racing (that’s NASCAR, F-1, Indy, drag racing, etc) must commit to using only Electric Vehicles (EVs) by 2030. Formula-E, the EV circuit, continues to grow. Who knows? With the power, efficiency of EVs going up and the price coming down, this could be possible.

 

  • Fans who travel to games via mass transit, drive EVs or hybrids get a rebate, paid for from parking revenues. Fans who come by bike or walk also qualify. UEFA, soccer’s governing body in Europe, ran a program during the EURO 2016 championships in France, in which fans with tickets to games in some cities could ride the Metro for free. A step in the right direction.

 


I know what you are thinking: “Lew, we need some new New Rules!” So, without further ado, we reveal our New Rules of Green-Sports, Part Deux!

New Green-Sports Rule #1Every Major League Baseball team and every Major League Soccer club must have a Climate Change Solutions Day on or around Earth Day. MLB and MLS are the only North American pro sports leagues in the midst of their regular seasons on Earth Day. Each team in those sports must host Climate Change Solutions Day at a game on or close to April 22. Climate Change Solutions Day will include:

  • Having a climate scientist throw out the first pitch/make a ceremonial first kick
  • Running a video on the scoreboard about what the team is doing to reduce carbon emissions
  • 10% of all ticket revenue will go to a climate change fighting non-profit

Might this offend some climate change skeptics or deniers? Sure but so what! Fans boo a pitching change they don’t like, some fans will boo a video. Life will go on. And young fans, for whom climate change is a priority, will, in the main, think this is cool. That is especially important for MLB, which has struggled to attract younger demographics.

 

New Green-Sports Rule #2Each stadium and arena will have at least one vegan-only food stand. As long-time readers of GreenSportsBlog know, our vote for Greenest Sports Team in the World goes to Forest Green Rovers, the fifth division (equivalent to the low minor leagues in baseball) English soccer club, owned by a renewable energy CEO. FGR, among other green innovations, only serves vegan food at its concession stands. According to club owner Dale Vince, fans were angry at first but now are supportive of the vegan-only approach (“[many fans say] it’s inspired them to go veggie – which is a great thing.”) Our rule does not look to shock the sports system here in North America so all we’re demanding is that teams have a vegan only stand, not go all-vegan. Maybe next year.

 

Eight minute video shows fan reaction to Forest Green Rovers’ greening efforts, including its vegan-only concession stands.

 

New Green-Sports Rule #3Super Bowls, College Football Championship Games, NCAA Men’s and Women’s Tournament Games/Final Fours, and US (golf) Opens cannot be awarded to states whose governors do not publicly state “climate change is real, humans are the main cause and we need to take meaningful steps to solve the problems.” North Carolina lost out on hosting NCAA Men’s basketball tournament games because of its “bathroom bill” requiring transgender students to use school bathrooms corresponding to their birth gender. The Tar Heel State’s hoops addiction led the state legislature to change the law, sort of. Let’s apply that approach to climate change. Florida Governor Rick Scott (R), you want to deny climate change? Fine. No college football championship game in Tampa. Texas Governor Greg Abbott (R), you want to question the science behind climate change? Go right ahead but that Super Bowl you want for Dallas is going to go to Jerry Brown’s “carbon free by 2050” California.

 

New Green-Sports Rule #4Teams that broadcast their climate change-fighting actions receive a tax break. Teams across all sports, in all markets, are greening their games in many ways. That’s why we’ve been able to write over 400 posts about Green-Sports in less than four years. But precious few fans seem to know about it. Teams seem loath to push Green-Sports stories and, even more so, to make the link between their greening efforts and the climate change fight. We offered a stick in Green-Sports Rule #3; in Rule #4 we provide teams with carrots—dollars from the government in exchange for promoting their work on climate change to fans. In arena/stadium and on the air.

 

Now, you might say, “Lew, you are ahead of the general public here. Shouldn’t you go more slowly?” To that I say, “Go big or go home!” Plus these are my New Green-Sports Rules. I’d love to hear yours. Feel free to add some in the comments section.

 

^ Part Deux is an homage to the people of France, who said NON to xenophobia and authoritarianism and said an emphatic OUI on behalf science and the climate change fight when they elected Emmanuel Macron to the Presidency on Sunday.

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The GSB Interview: Geert Hendriks, International Academy of Sports, Science and Technology

Switzerland, the hub of European, and in some sense, world sports, is also upping its Green-Sports game. The International Olympic Committee (IOC), headquartered in Lausanne, has made sustainability a key pillar of Olympic Agenda 2020. Last summer, UEFA, the governing body of European soccer, housed in Nyon, hosted one of the most sustainable mega-sports events ever, EURO 2016. And FIFA, which resides in Zürich, is making green strides as well. To get a better sense of the Green-Sports scene on the Continent, GreenSportsBlog spoke with Geert Hendriks, Head of Projects for AISTS (International Academy of Sports Science and Technology), located in Lausanne. And, as a bonus and in the interest of broadening the sporting horizons of our readers, we get into GSB’s first-ever discussion of the sport of Korfball. 

 

GreenSportsBlog: Switzerland is certainly the place to be for European sports. Before we get into European Green-Sports, first tell us a bit about the International Academy of Sports Science and Technology, or AISTS, and also how you got there.

Geert Hendriks: Sure! AISTS was founded by the IOC, along with several leading Swiss educational institutes and the city of Lausanne. It has been in existence since 2000—I joined in 2012.  Its mission is to bring a positive contribution to the management of sport through education, consulting and a platform of connections. In terms of sustainability, we look at it as an investment, not a cost. This certainly fits in with my ethos and professional background. It sounds cliché but, really, I was meant to do this work. Before AISTS I worked in information management in the world of Emergency Relief. And before that, I worked in the banking industry…

HENDRIKSGeert

Geert Hendriks, Head of Projects at AISTS (Photo credit: AISTS)

 

GSB:…Ergo “investment”…

GH: Correct. My academic training was in Business Administration, Information Management and Sport Management. And I’m a sportsman of sorts, with korfball being my main sport.

GSB: Korfball? Uh, what the heck is THAT?

GH: It’s a combination of basketball and netball that’s played with men and women simultaneously. It’s big in the Netherlands and played in 65 – 70 other countries, including Switzerland; it’s an IOC recognized sport.

Korfball with kids 2015

Korfball clinic managed by IOC in 2015. (Photo credit: Hawley MacLean)

 

GSB: I could also ask you “What the heck is netball?” but I won’t get into that. I cannot believe there is an IOC recognized sport I’m unaware of. But korfball, which sounds fun, is for another day. Let’s get back to your work with AISTS. Talk about how sustainability fits in.

GH: AISTS incorporates Open Modules in its list of annual activities, one of them being a 2-day course on sustainability in sport and events that debates the current issues, challenges and opportunities. At the last edition, Allen Hershkowitz, former President of the Green Sports Alliance, presented to the participants, as did Omar Mitchell, VP of Corporate Social Responsibility at the National Hockey League. We’ve had the Head of Sustainability from the IOC, as well as speakers from FIFA, Formula E and Coca-Cola.

AISTS Debate

Omar Mitchell (l)  and Allen Hershkowitz (2nd from left) on a panel at AISTS’ Open Module course in March. (Photo credit: AISTS)

 

GSB: I understand AISTS had its most recent course in late March. How did it go?

GH: It went very well. We had 50 people in the room: 35 people who participate in our Master of Advanced Studies in Sport Administration as well as about 15 external people from the industry that attended the course. This group of externals includes professionals from the International Volleyball Federation (FIVB), Federation of Gay Games, Formula E as well as from several corporates.

GSB: That sounds like a good mix. What were some of the topics that were discussed?

GH: The need to use sustainability in sport as a driver for the strategic objectives of your organization. Sustainability is no longer an add-on. Bartel Berkhout of Nyenrode University in the Netherlands, in his presentation about sustainable leadership, talked about “sustainability being the new normal”. This is already common in business; so it should be in sport.

GSB: Of course I agree. Now, it seems to me that Green-Sports is in its 2.0 or 3.0 phase. The first phase was greening the games: LEED certified stadiums, recycling and composting, and more. 2.0 is fan engagement. That’s starting to happen. But phase 3.0, perhaps the most important, is engaging the media on Green-Sports. Because if Green-Sports is only taking place at the stadiums and arenas and is not broadcast and streamed to the much bigger audiences who follow the games but don’t attend them, then Green-Sports won’t scale. Was the intersection of Green, Sports and the Media discussed?

GH: Not in a dedicated session. However it was brought up at one of the panels by one of the participants, a former employee of NBC Universal. She acknowledged the importance of the gap between greening on the grounds and the lack of coverage during the games. This is something we will be covering more intently as time goes on.

GSB: Beyond the course, what are some of AISTS most important Sustainability-in-Sport initiatives?

GH: AISTS jointly developed the Sustainable Sport & Events Toolkit with the organizers of the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver. This SSE Toolkit is an online how-to-guide for sustainable sport events, and is used by cities and organizers of medium size sport events across the world. It includes some basic training-modules and almost 200 examples and best practices.

Furthermore, we work with many international sports federations and event organizers, using our expertise to implement sustainability programs, write case studies and report on their impact. During the Rio 2016 Olympics, we worked with the organizing committee on capturing easy-to-understand and concrete examples of good sustainability practices. A set of 16 case studies were published in a small booklet, including the innovative waste management program of the NBA House, the energy savings of the Tokyo 2020 House and many more.

We also work with the city of Richmond (Vancouver), supporting the greening of local sport and community events, offering practical tools to help local event organizers.

GSB: Where does AISTS’ funding come from?

GH: From three sources: 1. Fees for our Educational Programs, including a full-time Masters in Sport Administration track. Right now, we have 35 people from 24 countries participating in this program. 2. Project fees from our work with international sport organizations. And 3. We receive a modest financial contribution from our eight founding partners.

GSB: How have the sports federations and governing bodies gone about engaging fans?

GH: Ah, well, fan engagement on sustainability is the million-dollar-question, isn’t it? There is no easy answer, it depends on the culture, the sport, the media, and probably a few more things. In general, many federations that are doing good work, find it difficult to communicate that engagement to their fans.

GSB: Difficult or maybe they fear the politics of green…If that’s the case, I think that fear is misguided.

GH: Regardless, I would say that in general, the nature of that communication has to be simple, factual, credible, not too “rah, rah”, relevant, and fun, somehow. In my opinion, Formula E has hit the sweet spot in a high profile fashion. It’s fun, great to watch and it is sustainable sport in action.

GSB: I’ve never been to Formula E—will have to check it out. In the meantime, I do believe that fan engagement is the next big hill for the Green-Sports movement to climb and expect that AISTS will be leading some of those climbs.

 


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