Event Review: Green Logistics
• University Alliance Ruhr (UA Ruhr)
• DB Schenker
• German Center for Research and Innovation (GCRI)
Some German companies have turned this challenge into an opportunity, becoming global pioneers in sustainable logistics. Representatives from two of these companies, DB Schenker and the Volkswagen Group, spoke at the German Center for Research and Innovation (GCRI) at an event on “Green Logistics.” Experts from the Fraunhofer Institute for Material Flow and Logistics at the Technische Universität Dortmund and the METRANS Transportation Center at the Sol Price School of Public Policy at the University of Southern California (USC) also participated in the discussion.
Following welcome remarks by Brita Wagener, Consul General of the Consulate General of the Federal Republic of Germany in New York, Dr. Joann Halpern, Director of the German Center for Research and Innovation, introduced the panelists and the event’s topic. Prof. Dr. Uwe Clausen, Director of the Fraunhofer Institute for Material Flow and Logistics and of the Institute for Transport Logistics at the TU Dortmund, then spoke. He explained how the concentration of CO2 emissions has reached unprecedented levels and warned that the logistics and transportation industries are not prepared for the consequences of climate change. For this reason, the Fraunhofer IML and TU Dortmund are collaborating on a myriad of green projects, such as the EffizienzCluster Logistik Ruhr, which was one of 15 winners in Germany’s “Leading-Edge Cluster Competition.” The EffizienzCluster Logistik Ruhr tackles challenges facing tomorrow’s logistics providers and manufacturers by seeking to improve the efficiency and environmental impact of the production and transportation of goods. The Fraunhofer IML and TU Dortmund are also working with major German companies, such as DB Schenker, DHL, and Lufthansa, to develop assessment methods for green logistics. Their goal is to offer guidance for the tracking and measurement of greenhouse gases and other harmful emissions. “Logistics of the future will have to be robust, safe, and sustainable,” Prof. Dr. Clausen explained. Prof. Clausen concluded his presentation by pointing out that “climate change is a global challenge” that can only be overcome by multiple individual contributions.
Susanne Salomon’s talk then introduced DB Schenker’s integrated solutions approach for ecological supply chains. Ms. Salomon serves as Manager of Eco Excellence at DB Schenker, DB Mobility Logistics AG in Frankfurt, Germany. The company is the world’s second largest freight forwarder and logistics provider and seeks to increasingly implement green logistics strategies. To achieve its goals, which include the reduction of CO2 emissions by up to 26% by 2020, DB Schenker utilizes a three-step approach: avoid, reduce, compensate. Ms. Salomon illustrated this strategy by showcasing DB Schenker’s eco triangle. In one corner is the term ‘eco operations,’ which includes training programs for train and truck drivers on energy-efficient driving. In another corner are the terms ‘eco consulting and solutions,’ which account for customer consulting and projects like the Eco Warehouse, a greener alternative to conventional building designs. In the third corner is ‘eco procurement,’ which covers projects like the purchase of innovative locomotives and rail technologies or energy-efficient lighting. At the core of the eco triangle is the term ‘eco transparency,’ the link connecting all three sections. This term also describes DB Schenker’s ultimate goal of drastically reducing energy consumption and CO2 emissions. “We are sure to become eco-pioneer number one, which is our strategic goal,” Ms. Salomon concluded.
Fabio Freccia, Head of Logistics at the Chattanooga Operations of the Volkswagen Group of America, continued by describing his company’s ambitious targets. The Volkswagen Group strives to become the world’s most successful, sustainable automobile manufacturer. Green logistics, according to Mr. Freccia, is a key factor in achieving these goals. He described three different processes used by the Volkswagen Group to support its green logistics strategy: the balancing and reporting of emissions, development and realization of measures, and external communications. Mr. Freccia presented the “Think Blue” initiative as an example that portrays a vision for a better, more sustainable future that aims to lower emissions and to support the environment and local communities.
Another example that Mr. Freccia cited was the Volkswagen Group’s Chattanooga Operations. The plant, which opened in 2011, has implemented green logistics processes from the get-go and has already won multiple awards including recognition as the world’s first LEED® Platinum auto manufacturing plant. Volkswagen Chattanooga focuses on three main areas: CO2 emissions reduction (e.g. more efficient transportation), waste reduction (e.g. reusable packaging and use of global transportation labels), and energy savings (e.g. more efficient consumption of energy and the use of green energy). One special project that is part of the efforts at Chattanooga, for example, focuses on hydrogen as a renewable energy source for fuel cells. Mr. Freccia was enthusiastic about the project’s success and emphasized that the Volkswagen Group will continue to conduct research and tests for this and other projects to improve the company’s green logistics strategy in the future.
Dr. Genevieve Giuliano, Professor and Senior Associate Dean of Research and Technology in the Sol Price School of Public Policy at the University of Southern California (USC) and Director of the METRANS Transportation Center, concluded the evening’s presentations. Dr. Giuliano focused on public policy, speaking from an urban planning perspective. She remarked on the major differences between Germany and Europe, and the United States with regards to sustainability efforts. While climate change is regarded in Europe as a serious issue, in the U.S., much controversy surrounding the topic still exists. This lack of consensus pervades all facets of American society – from the government and companies to consumers.
As a result, European companies are not only far more enthusiastic about implementing green logistics strategies, but also far more accepting of government regulations and interventions in markets. Dr. Giuliano expects the United States’ stance to change, however, as soon as Germany and other major countries demonstrate success in this area. “Companies respond to markets,” she explained, indicating that once major European companies have proven to successfully increase efficiency, reduce harmful emissions, and still generate profit, others will follow. Dr. Giuliano also named consumer demand as another key aspect in driving change. She noted that if American consumers on the whole were to change their views on the significance of green logistics, corporations would start to change their practices and policies as well.