DPD’s 25-25-25 vision for a greener economy

DPD’s 25-25-25 vision for a greener economy

DPD’s former CEO Dwain McDonald on the opportunity for a green recovery.

It’s not every day that a company changes a successful and long-standing strategy. And while I was CEO at DPD UK, it’s not something I would have undertaken lightly. But after ten years of sticking to the same formula, that’s exactly what DPD did in January 2020. Since 2010, the 1-2-3 strategy had determined every decision taken in the boardroom and beyond, propelling the company from no.4 to no.1 in the market:

  1. Deliver the best service money can buy,
  2. Use the best technology available,
  3. Recruit, retain and develop the most customer-centric people.

But nearly a year ago, we developed a crucial new fourth element: ‘Be the UK’s Leader in Sustainable Delivery’, and launched a comprehensive and dedicated website to engage as many other stakeholders as possible.

The change in strategy followed DPD’s first major steps in a ‘green adventure’ – opening the UK’s first two all-electric depots in London in 2018. Since then the company moved rapidly through the gears on a journey towards decarbonisation.

This year, a massive 20% of £100m investment into new vehicles was spent on electric vehicles. 561 EVs have been added to the fleet since the start of 2020, resulting in more than 700 at 74 depots nationwide, which means that 10% of all volumes are now delivered totally emission-free. So, this year DPD should save 5,000 tonnes of CO2 versus 2019 – that’s the equivalent of planting 20,000 trees.

In short, CO2 emitted per parcel became as important to DPD as the right-first-time delivery rates.

Building back better

It felt like our new strategic direction was very in tune with the times. Thanks to the coronavirus pandemic, people took time to stop and think about how we can all deliver a more sustainable future. There has been much talk in both national and international politics of ‘building back better’, of a ‘green industrial revolution’ and of ‘creating a climate-resilient, zero-carbon economy’.

There’s a saying in the Far East that the definition of the word ‘crisis’ is ‘an opportunity riding a dangerous wind’… so perhaps the single biggest opportunity presented by Covid-19 has been the chance to take a step back and reflect on what kind of planet we want to leave behind for our children and their children?

We’re already seen huge enthusiasm for emission-free parcel delivery. Customers have absolutely loved it – shippers and shoppers alike. Companies switched to using DPD purely because the company was going green.

And this year I lost count of how many consumers took to social media to shout about their driver turning up in a quiet, clean and green DPD vehicle rather than the diesel vans that all parcel carriers have been using for decades.

25-25-25 Vision

DPD moved faster than anyone else in the sector towards decarbonisation. The company is on track to deliver over 10 million parcels emission-free by the end of 2020, up from just one million in 2019. There is a page on the DPD Green website that shows live stats of  emissions performance, including the following KPIs:

  1. Number of EVs on the road today (637);
  2. Parcels delivered YTD emission-free (nearly 7 million);
  3. YTD CO2 savings (over 3,000 tonnes) – the equivalent of planting 12,000 trees*

(*figures correct as of September 2020)

This page has also been popular with the 70,000 unique visitors who visited the site since January. If you think these figures are impressive, the 25-25-25 vision is to deliver 100m parcels a year (which will be 25% of all volumes) on all-electric vehicles in 25 UK cities by 2025.

The government needs to do more, more quickly

We hit many unexpected bumps in the road on our journey to zero emissions. Bureaucratic red tape and outdated legislation caused moments of genuine frustration. For example, getting permission to run The Paxster – an innovative EV from Norway – on the streets of London, or planning permission to use city-centre sites as electric micro-depots.

I raised these issues in a meeting with the Prime Minister last December and also asked him to encourage manufacturers to make more EVs at more affordable prices and to invest much more quickly in rolling out nationwide charging infrastructure.

DPD was also a major sponsor of the highly respected Low Carbon Vehicle Partner Annual Conference on 15 July where the keynote speaker was Grant Shapps, Secretary of State for Transport. As a result, the company started to work with the Department for Transport and other key experts on a project to decarbonise transport. The government wants to ‘eliminate greenhouse gas emissions from every stage of the whole transport system’ and DPD is on a mission to help make that happen as quickly as possible.

Innovation when the stakes are high

Pivoting a company in a new direction means taking risks. It means taking a chance on new and emerging technology. It means challenging old structures and ways of doing things. It means making sure your people are on board.

A new strategic direction to be the UK’s most sustainable carrier saw DPD taking several innovative steps forwards:

  • The first operator to begin trials of the new VN5 Electric Van manufactured in Coventry by LEVC – famous for building London’s black cabs;
  • DPD was also the first operator to begin trials of the Volta – the world’s first purpose-built full-electric 16-tonne delivery vehicle;
  • The company developed its own zero emissions electric-assist cargo bike, the EAV P1, in collaboration with an Oxfordshire company whose background is in Formula 1;
  • £52,300 was invested in EV home chargers for DPD drivers (supported by the Government’s OLEV grant scheme);
  • Through our innovative Eco-Fund, we’ve donated £140,000 this year from the sale of recycled shrink wrap and pallets to environmental good causes – mainly to support primary schools.


I’d like to think that the company made a great start. But when it comes to the environment, the stakes could not be higher and to achieve the 25-25-25 Vision will require ever greater levels of imagination, teamwork and tenacity.

To find out more visit the company’s dedicated information website DPD Green and the Green DPD Blog for the latest in green and sustainable thought leadership.