The crux of Appel’s philosophy is that employees are not driven by the idea of top-line company growth. Instead, companies become more profitable when workers are satisfied with their jobs and feel "love, hope and purpose". This, in turn, leads to happier customers because employees are more engaged.
For Appel, this is one of three bottom lines: revenue, employee satisfaction, and environmental targets.
Credit: Deutsche Post DHL Group
Appel has a PhD in neurobiology and previously worked for McKinsey, a management consultancy firm, where he developed his managerial outlook.
He describes globalisation as "the biggest peacemaker on this planet"—which puts an almost humanitarian slant on one of the world’s biggest international couriers. If that doesn’t quite convince, it’s certainly true that DHL has heavily promoted its own corporate social responsibilities during Appel’s tenure.
Alongside an employee satisfaction survey launched in 2009—in which 75% of DHL employees said they felt engaged, up 60% from when Appel started—Appel has launched three major initiatives: Go Teach, which educates disadvantaged young people; Go Help, a collaboration with the UN to help with crisis response; and Go Green, the ambitious goal of reducing DHL logistics’ carbon emissions to zero by 2050.
"We cannot say, listen, ‘Our strategy is to make money and if we have time left then we’ll do something which is good for the society’," Appel told the Financial Times.
"Our job is to do something good for the society, and to do that we have to make money, otherwise we can’t continue to invest."