R.S Subramanian, Managing Director, Senior Vice President for DHL Express India talked to Rusen Kumar, editor, India CSR on DHL Express’ CSR initiatives. He feels that the pandemic has placed a greater emphasis on the role of CSR in society. It taught us the importance of sticking together with each other in times of need, making Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) more than just a word.
How are Indian corporates recalibrating their CSR initiatives during the pandemic and what has DHL Express done to bring about this change in focus in recent times?
COVID-19 has changed the approach towards Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR). The pandemic has led to many corporates going beyond simply cutting a cheque to meet legal requirements and have made social responsibility a part of their business.
At DHL, we are driven by our purpose of ‘Connecting People, Improving Lives’, both in our business and social responsibility. The past year has seen the evolution of a more holistic approach with an environmental, social, and governance (ESG) framework that more and more companies are adopting. As part of our ESG framework, we are focusing on providing ‘clean operations for climate protection.’ To meet this target, globally we will be investing €7 billion until 2030 in Clean Operations (CAPEX & OPEX) to reduce our emissions to under 29m tonnes CO2e by 2030 and thereby commit to the Science-Based Targets initiative (SBTi).
The disruption caused by the pandemic has been devastating and it is in this time of great need that saw the important role of efficient logistics and supply chain management. In the last five months alone, DHL Express India has shipped over 450 tonnes of pandemic management tools ranging from medicines and medical supplies, to test kits, ancillary supplies, treatments, and personal protective equipment (PPE). Globally, DHL has shipped more than 1 billion doses of all approved vaccines to over 160 countries. With more than 350 DHL facilities involved, DHL has been a crucial part of the response strategy from the beginning of the pandemic.
Mass inoculation is the key to fighting the ongoing pandemic and in order to support this drive, DHL is working with several NGOs to vaccinate over 14,500 people from marginalized communities, Persons with Disability (PwDs), truck drivers among others. We also ran an ‘India COVID Care Fund’, which allowed our employees to contribute to the cause of Vaccination.
The pandemic affected the education system in a big way. We have worked with NGOs like Teach for India, SOS Children’s Villages India among others, to ensure continuity of education by supporting both students and teachers through CSR donation as well as donating desktops, tablets and mobile phones.
Why are CSR initiatives essential for corporations in the world we live in?
The pandemic has taught us the importance of sticking together through tough times, making Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) more than a buzzword.
At DHL, even in the pre-COVID times, we have been working with a commitment towards ‘Connecting people, Improving Lives. We are working towards our ESG goals, where we are focusing on providing ‘clean operations for climate protection and are on a mission to achieve ‘Net- Zero Emissions’ by 2050. To be able to achieve all these goals ahead of us, ESG continues to be very much a part of our business.
Furthermore, today, employees, investors and customers are all looking to engage with corporates that operate responsibly to address social and environmental issues. These factors are pushing many corporates towards having a sustainable CSR strategy.
As a key enabler of vaccine logistics, what is DHL Express doing on the vaccination drive front? What kind of COVID relief activities has the company undertaken in India?
DHL Express is an enabler of vaccine deliveries. We aim to deliver happiness and safety to the doorstep of our consumers. While on-time deliveries are a crucial aspect of quality service, we are also working towards temperature-controlled deliveries to maintain the integrity of the vaccines.
We have taken several steps to support our employees, customers as well as society in the past year:
While we continue to play a key role in vaccine distribution in our business endeavors, we also understand the need to speed up inoculation to come out of the pandemic situation. In line with this, we are supporting several NGOs working towards a vaccination drive. We are driving vaccination of over 14,700 beneficiaries which include the marginalized population, Persons with Disabilities (PwDs), armed forces and truck drivers in different parts of the country.
We have also led an India COVID Care fund across the network to mobilize funds for the country.
With customers becoming increasingly conscious about hygiene and safety protocols, DHL Express’ One Time Password (OTP)-based non-contact deliveries leverage digital platforms to reduce the need for contact between customers and couriers. The digital platforms leave little room for error, maintain safety for our couriers and customers, and contribute to the reduction of our CO2 emissions as we cut down on our usage of paper.
Even prior to the pandemic, DHL customers can pre-schedule deliveries through the On-Demand Delivery (ODD) online service. However, the pandemic has called for a shift in the way service providers interact with customers. The newly introduced non-contact delivery service harnesses the power of DHL’s ODD service and the Global Courier Application Scanners to synchronize the deliveries with OTPs.
For Employees and their families
With 70% of our employees on the frontlines, it is of utmost importance for us to ensure that our people and their families are safe and secure. We’ve so far conducted multiple offsite vaccination drives across locations covering 650 employees and family members in association with local hospital tie-ups. Moreover, we’re also providing vaccination reimbursement claims to all the employees and their family members. Apart from ensuring vaccination, we are also prioritizing the health and safety of our employees by providing medical insurance benefits, 24X7 telemedical consultations, and medical kits among other facilities.
What are the core focus areas for your Corporate Social Responsibility programs in India?
As a brand that stands for ‘Connecting People, Improving Lives, we at DHL Express believe in aiding not just our employees and customers but, also making a positive contribution to the society where we operate.
In line with our more diverse focus to aid and uplift varied segments of society, DHL has focused on four ‘Go programs’ which support our ESG strategy:
‘GoGreen’ supports building a greener future by reducing carbon footprint. The program focuses on promoting greener options for operations, planting trees for offsetting carbon footprint and reforestation as well as planting fruit trees that enable farmers to harvest and sell the fruits as a form of sustainable livelihood for farmers.
‘GoTrade’ aims at facilitating cross-border trade for individuals and/or SMEs, thus making it easier to carry out business operations
‘GoHelp’ promotes disaster preparedness and relief management.
‘GoTeach’ focuses on improving educational opportunities and the employability of young people, especially those from disadvantaged socio-economic backgrounds due to poverty, loss of family and fleeing.
What is the impact you are seeing through your varied programmes?
It is rightly said, “It takes to drop by drop to fill a jar.” Every individual at DHL has done and are doing their bit to give back to society. At DHL, we deliver happiness. The CSR initiatives driven by our focused ‘Go programs’ have been impactful.
With DHL’s mission of achieving net-zero emissions by 2050, we have planted 2.26 lakh trees since 2019, and achieved a carbon offset of 44 lakh kgs. The program has led to providing ~13000 workdays to the farmers. To achieve this goal, we have also set up solar panels in 9 service centers located in Pune, Delhi, Gurgaon, Mumbai, Madurai, Karur, Tirupur, Roorkee and Jalandhar as well as introduced 9 e-bikes in Delhi, Ludhiana, Ahmedabad, Surat and Mumbai to our fleet for delivery.
We are equipping students and teachers with digital knowledge through various skill development training. In the last 2 years, we have supported more than 35,000 students through educational support, mid-day meals and happiness boxes; trained 300 youth in vocational skills, and helped over 200 teachers in joyful pedagogy.
Counseling and Training
We have supported drug rehabilitation and reskilling programs of 4500 beneficiaries since 2019. As part of the program, we have trained 1600 fleet drivers in road skilling and 600 police personnel as first responders in life-saving skills.
Compared to last year, our endeavors have helped us achieve a carbon offset of 32 lakh Kgs in 2021 – a 3X increase generated 8,333 workdays for farmers through our sustainable livelihood program – a 2X jump, and 8X growth in volunteering hours to 2,896 hours by our employees. Despite the pandemic, we are proud to see that our colleagues remain committed and dedicated to creating a positive impact in our community.
During the pandemic, the education sector has suffered significantly. How is DHL Express aiding the education sector?
The pandemic put a break to the education of many young minds. To address this challenge, we used a three-pronged approach:
Financial aid to teachers & students
This year, as part of our CSR project, we are supporting teachers and students in 7 cities: Mumbai, Pune, Hyderabad, Delhi, Chennai, Ahmedabad, Bangalore to improve learning outcomes as well as ensuring students continue to get grade-level competency even in a virtual environment.
Donating desktops & mobile phones
With schools pivoting to the digital mode of imparting education, we supported several NGOs with desktop and mobile phone donations, to ensure learning continuity from home.
Our employees have also played a crucial role in supporting the cause. Understanding the need to support students in their formative stages, our employee volunteers have devoted over 400 hours in conducting online classes on several topics for students of NGO-supported schools.
About R. S. Subramanian
R. S. Subramanian is currently the Managing Director, Senior Vice President for DHL Express India, the world’s leading express logistics company. With over 25 years of experience, Subramanian has extensive knowledge in sales, strategy and marketing. Having joined DHL Express as the Head of Sales, he moved on to the position of Vice President, RoSA before taking on the role of Country Manager in 2010 for the business in India. He is the driving force behind building stable teams, adopting best practices and achieving cost efficiencies in the region. He is Gold Certified in First Choice which is Deutsche Post DHL’s internal quality programme based on the Six-Sigma DMAIC methodology. He was recognized as one of “Most Promising Business Leaders of Asia 2018”, by the Economic Times.