“Reduce first, then offset”: cutting carbon in Formula E logistics

The new Formula E racing car shares the Renault stage at the Frankfurt motor show with its F1 cousins

This week, logistics giant DHL was announced as an official partner and sponsor of Formula E. The open-ended partnership rolled into action last week, with DHL delivering two of the new racing cars to the Frankfurt motor show, where the official launch unveiled one of the cars from beneath a bright yellow and red drape daubed with DHL branding.  

For DHL, the partnership is an opportunity to boost its green credentials. Speaking at the motor show to Current E, Ken Allen, chief executive at DHL’s Express division, revealed that the company would help minimise the carbon footprint of Formula E operations with a “reduce first, then offset” policy.

“We’ve got 25 years of experience of moving Formula 1 and other motorsports,” Allen said. “Logistically there’s little difference to the other motorsports we’re already involved with. We have a specialised team that handles that. The added complication with Formula E is that we’ll be under the microscope from the press and from society regarding our carbon footprint. Everything that we do for Alejandro Agag and the team is focused first on how we reduce requirements to the absolute minimum.”

Allen explained that the company aims to reduce logistics with ideas such as containers which can hold more than one car. But there is still likely to be a significant carbon footprint. “What we can’t reduce, we’ll then look to offset with carbon credits,” he commented. “It’s a real commitment to a dream.”

DHL is a sizeable organisation, operating in more than 200 countries and with a staff of nearly 300,000. Its sustainability agenda is something that the company takes seriously. Allen said, “We know that the logistics industry is a large contributor to global carbon emissions. All of us want to live on a greener planet. DHL has been going green for some time. We announced our targets in 2007 to reduce emissions by 30% by 2020.”

The company is making progress on its plans. “A lot of our vehicles that deliver in Frankfurt and surrounding areas use electronic technology. We’re in the process of getting rid of old aircraft and replacing them with very efficient 777s. We’re cognisant of our need to be a responsible company from a sustainability point of view.”

Allen acknowledged that the inner city circuits that Formula E will race at will make transporting car, teams and parts challenging. “We try to work with a local of organisations and local government,” he said. “We don’t want to be a polluter. We want to limit the size of our vehicles, and use electric cars where we can. I’ve driven around London myself – it’s can be a nightmare. We understand those issues. That’s why, especially with this kind of innovation, we’ll redouble our efforts.”

When asked how much DHL is paying to see its red and yellow logo topping the Formula E roll cage and for how long, Allen just laughed. “We won’t talk about money here,” he said. “It’s an open partnership, and the opportunities are as wide as we want them to be. We’d like to help promote the sport through hits whole lifecycle. We see the whole concept.”

It’s a concept Allen is convinced will work. “I can’t explain how excited I was when I first heard about it,” he said. “Alejandro is a great guy. You can see his passion, his commitment, his entrepreneurship. When you meet him and you know his background, you know it’s going to succeed. To take an idea and within 12 months have the concept unveiled here shows what a dynamic, driven individual he is.”

The DHL deal shows that Formula E is already beginning to wield the sort of marketing clout that F1 is famed for. The company is no stranger to F1 advertising after all, having been headline sponsor of the Jordan team in 2002. But Allen sees the electric series as a better bet and is running it under the company’s sustainability flag, rather than its sports sponsorship programme.  

“This is the future, here today, in a racing car,” Allen concluded. “We’re so proud to be a founding partner and to be in from the start.”

Electric racing is, he said, “an opportunity that’s come of age”.

It would be fun if the Formula E starting line-up featured some of these DHL speed machines. Unlikely.

It would be fun if the Formula E starting line-up featured some of these DHL speed machines. Unlikely.

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