Interview with DB Cargo CFO Dr. Martina Niemann

"Rail can now really exploit its systemic advantage of energy efficiency"

Logistics costs are at record levels. Fuel and electricity, wage and operating costs – everything is getting more expensive. Yet it is precisely the transport and traffic sector that must invest in sustainable solutions and reduce emissions – and play a central role in achieving the set climate targets. Dr. Martina Niemann, CFO at DB Cargo, reports on this area of tension and on the most promising potential in rail freight logistics as well as in the entire transport and traffic sector.

Dr. Niemann, how can a logistics company still have enough leeway to invest sufficiently in sustainability when production costs are rising in almost all areas?

NIEMANN There is scope in two main areas. First, in the consumers' willingness to pay. Even though we operate in the B2B segment, we have to start with the expectations of the end consumers, raise awareness and hone offerings. Studies and test projects show that end customers are quite willing to pay a few cents more for goods that are transported completely sustainably. This willingness must be explored, and prominent, low-threshold options clearly aimed at sustainability must be offered. 

The second scope for action lies in the company's own value chain, its processes. In addition to the reduction of packaging and the establishment of a circular economy, the establishment of a shared economy is particularly worth mentioning here. Standardized transport options in particular, such as containers, trucks or locomotives, should in future be shared assets in a pool of cooperating companies. In this way, empty runs can be avoided. To encourage this trend, which is difficult to enforce due to strong competition in other transportation sectors, I also consider higher toll prices for empty runs to be reasonable. 

Do you discuss sustainability components in your pricing with your customers – and if so: What is the reaction to this?

NIEMANN That is exactly what we are doing. We specifically offer completely climate-neutral transportation and have many interested customers for this. Sustainable transport chains are becoming increasingly important for them. We also assume that sustainable solutions will no longer be significantly more expensive, if at all, than transports using fossil fuels in the future, as these are increasingly sanctioned.