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R S Subramanian, Country Manager, DHL Express India on the Future of CSR

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RS Subramanian from DHL Express India
RS Subramanian from DHL Express India talks about the future of CSR
 
We spoke to R S Subramanian, Country Manager, DHL Express India and a member of the DHL Asia Pacific (excluding China) Management Board, about their ambitious goal. Deutsche Post DHL Group announced that it will reduce all logistics-related emissions to zero by the year 2050. In pursuit of this ambitious new target, the Group hopes to contribute meaningfully to achieving the goal of limiting global warming to well below 2°C established at the 2015 Paris climate conference (COP 21), as well as to the United Nations’ 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.
“The transportation sector is responsible for some 14% of global greenhouse gas emissions, in which the logistics industry is a contributor too. It is for this reason that we want to reduce our logistics-related emissions to net zero by the year 2050. With this ambitious goal, we are leading the way towards a green, sustainable future for logistics,” he said.
Prior to this, as the Vice President of Rest of South Asia (RoSA), R S Subramanian managed DHL Express’ operations across Pakistan, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Nepal, Maldives and Bhutan. His focus at DHL Express India has been on building stable teams, adopting best practices, and promoting sustainable and community-driven initiatives as a responsible corporate citizen.
He elaborated on their plan of action for climate protection and the Group’s CSR strategy in an exclusive interview with The CSR Journal:

How does the DHL Group and DHL Express India plan to achieve net zero emission logistics by 2050?

As part of our GoGreen environmental and climate protection program, we are developing innovative ways to reduce emissions, improve fuel efficiency and increase our use of alternative energy sources. These solutions are then rolled out across the Group to minimize our impact on the environment.
Our main focus lies on reducing our dependence on fossil fuels and on using alternative energy sources for our fleets and buildings. By deploying innovative pick-up and delivery solutions, we also make a contribution to improving air quality in urban areas. Our environmentally friendly products and logistics solutions – our GoGreen services – help our customers and transportation partners reduce their environmental impact.
As a leader in green logistics, we are involved in a number of industry initiatives, including efforts to standardize the measurement of greenhouse gas emissions and promote the development of alternative aviation fuels. To help realize the vision of net zero emission logistics, we have established a number of ambitious interim goals by 2025 across the main action areas of our sustainability strategy. By the year 2025, we intend to:
– Increase our carbon efficiency by 50% compared to 2007 levels. This new target is based on the approach taken by the Science Based Targets Initiative.
– Aiming to improve the lives of people right where they live and work, using clean pick-up and delivery solutions for 70% of our first and last mile services, such as bicycles and electric vehicles.
– Having more than 50% of our sales incorporate Green Solutions. In this way we also make our customers’ supply chains greener.
– Certify 80% of our employees as GoGreen specialists and get them involved in our environmental and climate protection activities. This includes joining partners to plant one million trees every year to protect our forests.
– Planting one million trees each year at the Group level to support forest conservation: In 2018, DHL India as a group planted 25,000 trees in the Sitamata Wildlife Sanctuary in Rajasthan. This year, to further reinforce DHL Express India’s commitment to the mission, 25,000 trees will be planted in the Yavatmal district of Maharashtra.

It’s been 5 years since the CSR mandate in the Companies Act 2013 came into effect. How far has CSR in India come since then?

Thanks to the CSR mandate, companies are now giving significant attention to CSR activities. According to a report by KPMG India, in 2018, the average amount spent towards CSR stood at INR 81 crores, which is an increase of 9% from 2016.
Additionally, the number of companies spending less than 2% of the mandated CSR funds has dropped from 52 in 2014-15 to 33 in 2017-18. Having said that, the future of corporate responsibility in India will be defined by how efficiently we use these funds for problem solving as well as the longevity of initiatives that they are invested in.
CSR is no longer being viewed as a mere tick box exercise as both companies and employees are getting more and more invested in being responsible citizens that give back to their communities.

What CSR strategy does the Deutsche Post DHL Group follow? What are the areas of focus?

Corporate responsibility is integral to Deutsche Post DHL Group’s strategy and mission of connecting people and improving lives. We are committed to meeting not only our own operational requirements and the interests of our stakeholders but also to addressing the needs of society and the environment. Our core objective is to become the Provider, Employer and Investment of Choice – and a benchmark company for responsible business.
We are committed to abiding by global standards for legal and ethical business practices, maximizing the value we generate at our local companies, assuming responsibility for our employees, and minimizing the environmental impact of our business as far as possible. In doing so, we promote the Group’s long-term growth and secure jobs worldwide.
As the world’s leading logistics provider, our goal is not just to create value for our customers, employees and investors but also for the community at large. For us, CSR is a bottom line, in the sense that responsible business is good business.
We bundle our environmental activities and the social commitment of our employees in our Group programs: GoGreen and GoHelp and GoTeach.
Our GoHelp program focuses on airport preparedness and disaster relief deployments in the wake of natural disasters. Our Disaster Response Teams (DRT) ensure in close collaboration with the United Nations that arriving relief goods are efficiently managed and received by authorized aid organizations.
In 2013, 10 DHL Express volunteers underwent the DRT training in Bangalore and are ready to act within 72 hours, in case of a disaster. Through our ‘Get Airports Ready for Disaster’ (GARD) program, we prepare airports in disaster-prone areas to handle the surge of incoming relief material during such unanticipated events.
In India, Lokpriya Gopinath Bordoloi International Airport, Guwahati was the first airport to undergo the program in December 2015, followed by Chennai International Airport in February 2016. In 2018, we helped to organize a ‘Train the Facilitator’ workshop in Kozhikode which trained 14 airport operations experts from across India in making their airports disaster-ready and for them to become national trainers for GARD workshops in India.
GoGreen addresses our Group-wide climate protection target to reduce all logistics-related emissions to net zero by 2050. Within the framework of Global Volunteer Day we partnered with Grow Trees to plant over 8,000 trees at Sitamata wildlife sanctuary in 2017, which is expected to offset 160,000 kg of carbon/year once mature. We have embarked on a massive tree planting drive in Yavatmal and have involved our employees in such activities across 14 cities in India.
GoTeach promotes greater stability and prosperity for individuals, and for the societies and markets in which we conduct business. Under this pillar, we work towards improving the employability of young people, especially those from disadvantaged socio-economic backgrounds.
We have two local partnerships with Teach for India and SOS Children’s Villages of India. They are also are our global partners. We also work with Akshaya Patra Foundation’s mid-day meal program, impacting around 10,000 beneficiaries across the country. Through our support for Sikshana Foundation, we are improving learning outcomes in Math and Language across 93 schools in 3 blocks of Yavatmal district in Maharashtra, thereby benefitting 13,500 children from grades 1-8.
Road Safety is another key focus area for DHL Express in India. Through our ‘Jeevan Rakshak’ program, we train police personnel to administer basic emergency medical care to victims of road accidents. Over 3,000 police personnel from Delhi, Gujarat, Rajasthan and Telangana have undergone this training, and around 122 lives have been saved in the Delhi NCR region alone. We also support drug rehabilitation programs.

What is GARD about? What is UNDP’s involvement in the program?

In the wake of natural disasters, airports in or around the affected area can become bottlenecks for the flow of relief supplies. In 2009, ‘Get Airports Ready For Disaster’ (GARD) was developed by Deutsche Post DHL Group in cooperation with the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) with the aim of preparing airports in disaster-prone areas to handle the surge of incoming relief goods after a natural disaster occurs.
It also enables the various organizations and aid agencies to better understand airport processes in the aftermath of a disaster, which will help facilitate relief efforts and enhance overall coordination.
We collaborated with UNDP to conduct multi-day workshops for airport personnel and local disaster management organizations. Our experienced airport trainers conduct these workshops to equip the participants for the logistical challenge of a disaster relief effort. These workshops help in improving processes for dispatching and processing large volumes of incoming relief workers and supplies at airports.
Since 2009, GARD trainings have been held in around 45 airports in 23 countries in Armenia, Bangladesh, the Dominican Republic, El Salvador, India, Indonesia, Jordan, Lebanon, Macedonia, Nepal, Panama, Peru, the Philippines, the Seychelles, Sri Lanka and Turkey. GARD trainers and training materials are provided free-of-charge by Deutsche Post DHL Group, while UNDP leads the project implementation and facilitates the coordination with government authorities.
The latest example for scaling up this initiative is the ‘Train the Facilitator’ GARD workshop. Airport operations experts gather for a five-day training to learn how to make their airports disaster-ready, and to become national trainers for GARD workshops.

In the wake of recent disasters, where have the DRTs been dispatched? Could you give some facts and figures?

The DHL Disaster Response Team’s task is to reduce bottlenecks caused by the surge in air cargo at an airport near the scene of a major sudden-onset natural disaster. If called upon by the United Nations, our DRTs can be deployed within 72 hours to manage the logistics of incoming relief supplies, including unloading, inventory and storage at local airports.
Some 500 employees serve as volunteers in our Disaster Response Teams (DRTs) in the Americas, Middle East and Africa, and Asia Pacific regions. This allows us to cover approximately 80% of disaster-prone countries.
We specially train our logistics experts for the challenges of a DRT deployment. The training simulates disaster-response workflows under difficult conditions and prepares them for the physical and psychological strain involved.
Some of the recent incidents in which DRTs have been deployed include:
– April 2019, Mozambique: We deployed our first DRT in Africa, where Cyclone Idai had damaged over 700,000 hectares of crops and destroyed close to 200,000 homes. Our team moved nearly 800 tons of incoming humanitarian aid from approximately 50 aircrafts for further distribution.
– September 2018, Indonesia: In the aftermath of the devastating earthquake and tsunami that struck the Indonesian island of Sulawesi, three teams consisting of a total of 26 employees were deployed on site for a total of 23 days to support the efficient processing of approximately 3,500 tonnes of relief supplies
– August 2018, India: Five employees of DHL Express India were deployed to Kerala after a monsoon caused the state’s worst flooding in 100 years. Among their tasks during the five-day mission: Packing 5,000 Speedballs, which relief organizations were then able to airdrop over affected areas
– June 2018, Guatemala: Two teams were deployed to Guatemala after the devastating eruption of the “Volcano of Fire”. In a warehouse near the affected area, the 30 employees assembled emergency relief packages, inventoried relief supplies and coordinated logistics in order to accelerate the distribution of supplies

Tell us about the collaboration of DHL Express India with SOS Children’s Villages. What kind of jobs are offered to the youth?

The partnership was launched under the umbrella of Deutsche Post DHL Group’s ‘GoTeach’ program in 2011 and has since been expanded to over 40 countries. In collaboration with SOS Children’s Villages, we empower vulnerable youth aged between 15 to 25 years from disadvantaged sections of society. The focus is to impart on them employable skills in order to help them become self-sufficient and contributing members of society.
In India, we introduced ‘Project Kaushalya’ in 2017 in partnership with SOS Children’s Villages. Through this, DHL Express India helps the young people from SOS Children’s Villages to gain adequate training and provide a source of livelihood to them, which will in turn positively impact the country’s progress.
This flagship project run in Nizammuddin West in New Delhi comprises training modules such as accounting assistant using Tally, DTP and Print Publishing assistant, Web Designing and Publication assistant. The project also focuses on soft skills and entrepreneurship skills, which are necessary in the current job environment.
SOS enrolled 1,239 youth into the course, of which, 853 have successfully completed it. Out of the 853 youth, 725 (84%) are now employed in various industries whereas the others are continuing their academic pursuits. Two of them have been employed by DHL Express India.
We also provide holistic, long term, family based care to children without parents, including education, health, nutrition, clothing, and extracurricular activities in Hyderabad, Chennai, Pune, Pondicherry and Cochin.

Does DHL Express India have corporate volunteering opportunities for its employees?

Our employees are encouraged to volunteer as part of the various initiatives run under the three pillars. Employees are encouraged to organize activities that are aligned with our Group-wide initiatives: GoGreen (protecting the environment), GoHelp (delivering help) and GoTeach (improving employability). In fact, our employees have been a part of more than 20 group initiatives spanning across 15 cities in India, and close to 500 employees have volunteered more than 1,800 hours, impacting over 2,200 beneficiaries.
Our Global Volunteer Day (GVD) program provides the framework to facilitate employee volunteering at the local level in close collaboration with independent local organizations and charities. Established in Asia-Pacific in 2008 and introduced globally by 2011, GVD has become a major component and driver of employee volunteering across Deutsche Post DHL Group.
Annually, over 100,000 employees are involved in providing support to non-profit projects in their local communities as part of the GVD program, contributing in more than 100 countries around the world. The number of local volunteer projects has grown steadily in the past few years.
Through our Living Responsibility Fund, we also provide financial support for outstanding projects, which can then receive support of up to €4,000. The Living Responsibility Fund awarded a total of €200,000 to 105 projects across 32 countries over the course of 2018.
We also believe that it is important to encourage our employees to pursue causes that they personally believe in. DHL’s Got Heart is a DHL Express global competition aimed at celebrating the kind-hearted nature of employees who go above and beyond to support charitable causes close to their hearts. It is aimed at motivating our employees to take up individual causes, and in turn, receive recognition and possible funding for it as well.

Are any of the firm’s goals aligned with the SDGs? Which ones in particular?

As a longstanding partner of the United Nations we support the realization of the organization’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). The following five SDGs are most closely aligned with our CSR activities:
SDG 4 (Quality Education) – By offering our employees extensive training and development opportunities, we encourage lifelong learning and personal/professional development. We collaborate with partner organizations worldwide to improve employability for young people.
SDG 8 (Decent Work and Economic Growth) – By facilitating global trade, supporting economic growth and creating jobs around the world, we help connect people and improve their lives.
SDG 11 (Sustainable Cities and Communities) – Providing sustainable logistics solutions and clean pick-up and delivery concepts to improve air quality in urban areas. Our natural disaster management and refugee aid activities help promote sustainable communities.
SDG 13 (Climate Action) – Our ambitious Mission 2050 climate target and green logistics solutions are helping the world community reach the goals set at the UN Paris Climate Conference (COP 21).
SDG 17 (Partnerships for the Goals) – Partnerships with or memberships in national and international organizations are of strategic importance to us. As an example, we use our membership of the World Economic Forum to help shape debate and action on sustainability. We have cooperated with United Nations organizations for many years as part of our Group programs for natural disaster management.

What is your personal vision for CSR?

I personally believe that corporations can truly make a difference to the communities at large through the resources and influence they have at their disposal. It cannot be seen as a ‘nice to have’ add-on to the business but must be viewed as an absolutely integral part of the organization’s strategy.
To make a real impact in society, responsible practices must be advocated and embraced by the organization, its customers, employees and the government. As we move forward and face greater challenges to overcome in society, DHL Express India and I believe collaborative efforts will be increasingly critical.

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