In April 2020, Los Angeles, the traffic-congested city with some of the highest smog levels in the U.S., saw nitrogen levels drop significantly and rush-hour traffic vanish. In Punjab, India, people could see the snow peaks of the Himalayas, a view that for decades has been blocked by air pollution. The COVID-19 pandemic showed a silver lining that a greener future is possible, and businesses are taking steps to implement sustainable practices.

This Earth Day, consider how your business can make changes to support the planet’s health as the world returns to normal. The imperative for businesses is clear. It is important to respond to the sustainability concerns of investors and take action to limit climate risks, such as making capital investments more climate resilient or diversifying your supply chains. Here’s a closer look at key trends in sustainability that are making a difference.

Serious about going global? Your brand can reach 220 countries. Get started today.The Future is Electrification and Alternative Fuel

Gone are the days where the world needs to 100% rely on petroleum to fuel transportation. Over the next couple decades, sustainable fuels will play a critical role in efforts to reduce the impact of greenhouse gas emissions. While electrification in local transport is already making an important contribution to the achievement of the energy turnaround today, the commercial use of electric drive on long-haul and heavy-duty routes is not yet feasible. This is where sustainable fuels play a crucial role as they could be pivotal in reducing the climate impact of transport emissions. The key is a mix of these two solutions that are available now. For example, in 2021, DHL Express is planning to deploy nearly 100 electric delivery vans in the U.S. to support first and last mile services. Additionally, through a partnership with Neste, a continuous supply of sustainable aviation fuel will be available for flights departing from San Francisco International Airport (SFO). At our Hub at the Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky International Airport (CVG), we have started testing fuel cell technology that can dramatically lower the carbon footprint of ground handling equipment for aircraft.

Adapting to a Paperless World

From a digitalization standpoint, looking at ways to reduce waste is key to reducing your business’ carbon footprint. By harnessing data analytics, robotics process automation and electronic bills of lading to make operations more efficient, it not only innovates your business with the latest technology, but it has a positive impact on the environment.

Think about how much time and money your business can save by going paperless. In fact, one study suggests that in the first six months of going paperless, 28% of businesses gained a full return on investment. A further 59% achieved a full ROI in less than 12 months and 84% within an 18-month period.

Rethinking Packaging

If you own a business, chances are you have a lot of packages coming in and out of your store or facility. With the continued rise in e-commerce, online shopping is becoming more and more prevalent and therefore increasing the number of boxes and shipping materials that are circulating around the globe. Of course, packaging is fundamental to businesses, and the importance of it is clear – with 9 out of 10 companies saying packaging is high on their agenda. At the same time, companies want to find ways to incorporate eco-friendly and re-useable packing materials, and there is a demand from customers for companies to use more sustainable packaging. At DHL, we have challenged our workforce to come up with these solutions – for example, replacing shrink wrap with reusable wrap that still provides high levels of protection with less material to reduce both costs and the quantity of waste generated. You can also replace plastic envelopes with envelopes that are manufactured from post-consumer recycled material or biobased materials made using starch from sustainable sources such as corn waste, hemp, and seaweed.

In addition, we have also developed and implemented a closed-loop box system and two-way logistics process with some of our customers. Orders are delivered in boxes to stores, and empty boxes are then reciprocally sent back to the distribution center for re-use. Closed-loop packaging aims to cut waste and carbon emissions by transforming packaging from single-use to multi-use.

Carbon Neutral Buildings

If your business requires a physical building, you can leverage energy from renewable sources, such as solar, and build automation and sustainable heating to significantly reduces energy consumption. At DHL, our warehouses, sorting centers, hubs, terminals and office buildings are essential, and that’s why we have made an investment to design all our buildings to be carbon neutral.

On April 22, take the time to think about your carbon footprint and how you can make changes to your everyday business practices. Small steps like switching to sustainable fuel, going paperless and rethinking your packaging and building design can have a big impact on the environment.

How are you implementing sustainable practices within your company? Let us know on Twitter @DHLUS.

Serious about going global? Your brand can reach 220 countries. Get started today.