From Post's point of view, Germany's parcel companies should be obliged to present their climate footprint per parcel in a consumer-oriented manner. Such a regulation would make sense to make people "transparent about the CO2 emissions of their parcels," said the responsible division manager at Deutsche Post, Ole Nordhoff, of the German Press Agency in Bonn.
He referred to animal husbandry classes for meat products and the nutritional value logo Nutri-Score, in which information on sugar, fat and salt is evaluated and classified on a scale from A to E. "We can well imagine something comparable in the parcel industry."
No overview so far
The Swiss Post's demand for an environmental label relates to the postal law reform, which should be decided by the end of this year. In a key issues paper, the Federal Ministry of Economics recently made a rather vague proposal to create "transparency and comparability for users" on the subject of carbon footprints. Swiss Post is now making a proposal as to how this should be specified.
So far, consumers have not had an overview of the carbon emissions per package when ordering online. This could change in the future: during the ordering process, consumers could see how many grams of CO2 are released on average when sending parcels, depending on the provider. This could influence the choice of shipper.
A labeling requirement would be a boost for Swiss Post. Because the Bonn-based group has invested significantly more in electromobility than its competitors Hermes, DPD and GLS and therefore has a relatively good greenhouse gas balance. According to the company, it has around 23,000 electric transporters in use, which is much more than the competition.
The CO2 information per parcel should be calculated according to clearly defined standards so that "not every company can make creative statements to give a climate-friendly impression," says Nordhoff, who works at Post
SPD open, FDP with "feeling of disturbance"
Houben doubts that the CO2 balance of the different companies would actually be comparable one-to-one. Thanks to the network delivery, Swiss Post would have an advantage over pure parcel companies anyway. This means that postal workers deliver both letters and parcels in some places - the Liberal fears that this will distort the calculation of CO2 parcels.
And what does the competition say? A Hermes spokesman basically welcomes more transparency. He thinks that information on the carbon footprint should be available in companies' sustainability reports.
However, the mandatory labeling required by the postal service is "not sensible". Nutri-Score is based on a metric for products from the food sector and suggests a level of transparency "that cannot be transferred to packages," says the Hermes spokesman. It is currently not possible to make a specific forecast for an individual package before it goes through the logistics process.
Actual carbon footprint difficult to determine
In fact, the question of how much carbon dioxide is released when a package is shipped is a difficult one. The Post reports that each DHL package in Germany produces between 400 and 500 grams, which is estimated to be at least 30 percent less than that of its competitors. However, the gram specification is only an average value. How much CO2 a package really causes depends on a variety of factors - such as the distance of the route and whether an electric vehicle or a combustion truck is used for the last mile.
The Hermes spokesman points out that the utilization of the vans and the energy use of logistics locations also play a role. All of these are "parameters that simply cannot be fixed during the checkout process in the web shop". If, on the other hand, you take average values, they would be "only of limited significance" and could not be converted into a real CO2 score. After all, in the case of a food, it can be said in advance exactly what content it contains. This is different with parcel transport. The Biek association, which represents the interests of the postal competition, expresses itself in a similar way to Hermes.
Environmentalists are skeptical
It is not surprising that Post's competitors shake their heads at Bonn's proposal. But even among environmentalists, there is not much enthusiasm. "The real problem with the booming online trade is not shipping in Germany, but the climate impact and waste of resources through the manufacture of the product itself," says Viola Wohlgemuth from Greenpeace.
Fast-moving products left a huge carbon footprint. If consumers only got an overview of the average greenhouse gas emissions of parcels, they would in most cases click on the service provider with the lowest CO2 emissions and then have a good feeling. But that would be wrong, says Wohlgemuth. "Sustainable consumption is good for the climate - in other words, a few packages with products that you use for a long time and that remain in circulation instead of being thrown away after a short time."