DHL unveils new reverse logistics model to deliver circular supply chains

Delivery services company Deutsche Post DHL has collaborated with Cranfield University and the Ellen MacArthur Foundation to develop a new 'reverse logistics' business model that will allow organisations to map out and develop closed-loop product supply chains.

In a new report titled ‘Waste not, want not: Capturing the value of the circular economy through reverse logistics’, DHL and its partners introduce the Reverse Logistics Maturity Model (RLMM). (Scroll down for report).

The RLMM is essentially a tool that provides detailed guidance on how businesses can tap into a process of moving goods after the point of sale for the purpose of re-capturing value or being disposed of properly – thus saving money and environmental resources, and eliminating waste.   

DHL head of corporate communications & responsibility Christof Ehrhart said: “Deutsche Post DHL Group recognizes the important role that the circular economy can play in contributing to a more sustainable world and we are committed to supporting and enabling its development with our knowledge and global network.

“The RLMM is a valuable tool for any organization that is committed to embedding the circular economy more integrally into their supply chain. It also highlights the opportunities that exist for logistics companies to adapt and expand their services and approaches to support the circular economy, which in turn creates additional value both for business and the environment.”

How it works…

The RLMM model has been developed based on company interviews, exploratory workshops, applied logistics expertise and scientific methods. 

Through the model, DHL has distilled three demand-driven ‘archetypes’, or requirements, for companies to be able to set up any reverse logistics processes, based on product type: low-value extended producer responsibility; service parts logistics; and advanced industrial products.

After establishing how those different archetypes can drive logistics requirements, the model examines the circular economy value chain components that are relevant for such reverse logistics to take place. This integrative approach provides a template for mapping out reverse logistics activities based on a company’s position in the circular economy value chain.

The model then looks at the reverse logistics ‘maturity’ – the level of complexity of project management that is being applied to the reverse logistics activities. According to DHL, organisations that follow this tool’s instructions will be able to identify exactly how to take a product back up through their supply chain, thus accelerating a circular economy.

The initiative makes a valuable contribution to DHL’s efforts to mainstream a circular economy, following on from the company’s partnership with JD Wetherspoon, which delivered a reverse logistics solution that increased recycling rates, reduced carbon emissions and saved costs.

‘Crucial element’

In that particular reverse logistics project, thousands of roll cages containing food, drink and other supplies – which were being delivered to Wetherspoon pubs every day – were filled with waste, collected by DHL and then backhauled to a national distribution centre for sorting and processing – some 1,600 of them every day. DHL was dually rewarded for its reverse logistics efforts at edie’s 2014 Sustainability Leaders Awards.

THe launch of the RLMM follows DHL’s recent entry into the Ellen MacArthur Foundation’s ‘Circular Economy 100’ (CE100) – a global platform bringing together leading companies, emerging innovators and regions to accelerate the transition to a circular economy.

Commenting on the RLMM model, Ellen MacArthur Foundation chief executive Andrew Morlet said: “The Reverse Logistics Maturity Model is designed to enable businesses to scale-up their reverse logistics systems, a crucial element in closing material loops in the circular economy. It is a concrete outcome of collaborative projects developed through the CE100 program.”

The model’s launch comes in the same week that fellow delivery services firm UBS has released its sustainability report. In 2015, UBS reduced emissions by 6.7% on the previous year and energy consumption by more than 13% from a 2012 baseline. The report also disclosed the UBS’s intentions to source 100% of its electricity from renewables by 2020.

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George Ogleby

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