“Here at Deutsche Post, people from many different backgrounds and cultures have long worked together in an exemplary way – they help one another and see each other as equals, as colleagues. It is with that matter-of-fact attitude that many employees are now coming forward to help refugees.”

Jürgen Gerdes
Member of the Board of Management Post - eCommerce - Parcel

Interview with Jürgen Gerdes

“Innovation is part of our DNA.”

In the past year Deutsche Post has been actively involved in refugee aid activities in Germany and received, among other accolades, the German CSR Award. The Group intends to continue efforts to promote integration and offer vocational support for refugees. What will you be focusing on in the coming year?

All of our social engagement projects are of a long-term nature. We want to achieve lasting results and that naturally applies to refugee aid. That is why we will continue to focus on language acquisition and vocational preparation – the two areas we felt were of particular importance from the start. The fact that at our company alone, more than 450 refugees have been given internships to help them integrate into the German employment market and nearly 300 have been given jobs testifies to our success. We intend to continue along these lines. That includes extending our close cooperation with organizations like the German Reading Foundation (Stiftung Lesen) and working even more intensively with the Federal Employment Agency and other DAX companies like ourselves. We need to provide more and better support for refugees who received no formal training in their home countries and now face the tremendous challenge of starting a new life.

In order to be effective, the integration offerings largely rely on employee engagement. How do you motivate employees to become volunteers and are there any refugee aid activities of which you are particularly proud?

To be honest, we really don’t need to motivate our employees. Right from the outset, staff at every single branch and at almost every one of our sites in Germany – a total of over 15,000 employees – took the initiative to become actively involved. Here at Deutsche Post, people from many different backgrounds and cultures have long worked together in an exemplary way – they help one another and see each other as equals, as colleagues. It is with that matter-of-fact attitude that many employees are now coming forward to help refugees. So one of the things I am particularly proud of is our team of over 100 coordinators . In addition to performing their everyday work, they do a fantastic job of promoting more than 1,000 refugee aid projects and activities. Their work makes an important difference!

Apart from social engagement, your division also focuses on environmental protection – a topic of both social and business relevance. In 2016, Deutsche Post achieved a success story with the introduction of the StreetScooter and carbon-neutral deliveries. Can we expect to see more smart innovations made by Post - eCommerce - Parcel and will employees be involved in their making?

Yes, of course. Innovation is part of our DNA and we have found it fruitful to involve employees, many of whom played an active role in the StreetScooter’s development and design. Putting the environmental aspect aside, the StreetScooter is essentially a tool that is designed to optimize the support we provide to our employees as they perform their work each day. And it works so well, not least in terms of its ergonomic design, because during the development process a large number of couriers provided input on their needs and ideas. This is also the case with our other innovations and enhancements in the area of environmentally-friendly delivery. Thousands of our employees make their deliveries either on foot or by bicycle and a growing number now do so using electric delivery carts, e-bikes and e-trikes designed and built by us. Before these and other newly-developed items like rainwear are approved for mass production, they are tried and tested by the people who will actually use them. What this all comes down to is our ambition to provide innovative customer services, develop innovative working tools and lead the logistics sector in both of these fields.

Deutsche Post benefits especially from the growth in online trade. Does this have a proven, positive impact on the environment? In other words, how environmentally friendly is shopping online?

Linking this to the StreetScooter, I repeatedly stress the environmental aspects in many of my talks. I say, yes, we’re seeing growth in online shopping and that means growth in parcel volumes and in the logistics network needed to cope with it all. If you approach this properly and keep coming up with new ideas the way we do at Post - eCommerce - Parcel, more parcel deliveries need not mean more pressure on the environment – and especially not when final-mile delivery involves battery-operated vehicles. Our parcel logistics approach has long been both innovative and forward-looking. Take our Packstations. We have around 3,000 located throughout Germany and customers find them both practical and convenient. But looking at them from a different angle, they are also extremely environment friendly. If a recipient asks us to place a parcel in a Packstation, that’s a parcel that no longer needs to be delivered to their front door. Nor does it have to be taken back to a retail outlet for the recipient to collect at a later date because they were not at home when the courier called. Other offerings such as the Paketkasten parcel box, preferred location and preferred time delivery are all part of that same innovative approach. They make customers’ lives much easier and ensure that parcels arrive at their destination in the most environmentally friendly way.

The title of the 2016 Corporate Responsibility Report is “Seeing the bigger picture”. What aspects of responsible business management will you be concentrating on in 2017?

Looking at the big picture, I naturally have our corporate strategy in mind and particularly the GROW component. Our e-commerce and parcel business is seeing strong and sustainable growth. That was particularly evident in the record figures seen around Christmas. So I’ll be concentrating on continuing to create the conditions needed to foster that growth in a responsible way. For instance, by equipping more and more sites in Germany with StreetScooters and other modern electric vehicles – and by further optimizing our sorting logistics. This is something we have done at our new parcel center in Obertshausen – it’s truly a benchmark site in environmental terms.