The balancing act of sustainable parcel logistics

Parcel delivery aims to be environmentally friendly, cost-effective and socially responsible – a tough set of challenges. In its third sustainability report, the GLS Group documents how it sets priorities and how it implements the guiding principle of acting sustainably.

GLS has clearly defined goals of delivering top-class parcel services for its customers, achieving economic success and taking responsibility for its employees and partners, as well as for the environment and society. It’s not always easy to strike the right balance.


Online shoppers, for example, want speedy delivery when it suits them best. Providing this service, the parcel company should generate as few emissions as possible.


Walking a strategic tightrope

The environment of these expectations is a familiar one. The European CEP market is growing all the time. As they manage the surge in parcels, parcel companies are facing high price pressure in a competitive market, as well as rising costs and contemporary environmental requirements. At the same time, profitable business operations are essential in order to be able to invest in employees, data security, new services and new sites. After all, the next peak season is never far away.


GLS regards the demands of the market as an opportunity to develop further and has transformed its sustainability commitment into a continuous strategic process. All activities are coordinated by a Group-wide CR department (with central office function) that reports directly to the CEO.

In order to better understand and weight the wishes of the various stakeholder groups, the Group conducted a materiality analysis in 2016, identifying the most important issues from the company’s point of view and from the perspective of its stakeholders. Respondents included customers, recipients, employees, transport partners and ParcelShop partners.

“The Paris climate summit demonstrates how urgent it is to find solutions for low-emission parcel transport.”

Rico Back, former CEO of the GLS Group and today CEO of Royal Mail Group

Future-proof urban logistics

A core issue in view of climate change is to reduce the environmental impact of parcel transport. Here, the focus is on urban logistics. GLS is working on ways to ease the strain on urban infrastructure and reduce emissions as well as noise. GLS city and micro depots, coupled with e-bikes and electric vans, are helping to achieve this aim.

Cargo bikes with electric pedal assist are operational in Germany, Austria, Italy, Hungary, Belgium and Spain, where they are replacing diesel vehicles. More than 180 electric vehicles and more than 320 gas-powered vans and lorries operate on behalf of GLS. Compared to the previous sustainability report, the number of vehicles that comply with the Euro 5 standard and above has risen to 43.5 per cent on a Group-wide basis.


Green depots

GLS is also mitigating the impact of its operations on the environment at its various locations, such as by digitalising processes; saving water, electricity and heating energy; and using green electricity. What’s more, all new builds and extensions are geared towards environmentally friendly operations.


The GLS sustainability report for the 2015/16 and 2016/17 financial years complies with the G4 Guidelines of the Global Reporting Initiative (GRI). This internationally recognised documentation method facilitates comparisons with other companies.


It’s well worth a look!

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Taking responsibility

The sustainability report also examines how GLS promotes the health, safety and training of its employees. In 2016, the Group launched an ongoing road safety campaign for delivery drivers employed by its transport partners, the aim being to raise awareness of road safety using a powerful, visual and emotive approach. The chapter on integrity and compliance describes the principles underpinning cooperation with business partners and the stringent voluntary commitment made by GLS in respect of all business practices.


GLS also presents its multifaceted social commitment at a national or local level, introducing more than 30 projects, which are often connected to parcel services. These include volunteering days, support for fundraising campaigns, free transport for charitable organisations and the sponsorship of sporting and cultural events.


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