DHL Executive Urges Private Sector Engagement in Trade Reform

Alliance Steering Group member DHL’s Steven Pope talks corporate responsibility in trade facilitation, economic growth, gender equality and poverty reduction.

Deutsche Post DHL Group (DHL) is a founding partner of the Global Alliance for Trade Facilitation (the Alliance) and has been on its Steering Group since the start, supplying strategic direction, approving projects, and authorising budgets. Steven Pope is its long-standing representative.

He joined DHL in 2011 as Vice-President of Customs & Regulatory Affairs for Europe and Head of Trade Compliance for Europe, the Middle East & Africa for DHL Express. Prior to this, he filled senior roles in UK Customs, UK Treasury, and the IMF, where he was engaged in a broad range of policy and enforcement issues.

In a wide-ranging interview with the Alliance, he discusses the role of trade facilitation in areas such as corporate responsibility, promoting small businesses in developing and least developed countries (LDCs), gender equality, globalisation, and poverty reduction.

Company: Deutsche Post DHL Group

Sector: Logistics

Employees: 590,000 (approx.) in 220 countries and territories

Revenues: €81.7 billion in financial year 2021

Name: Steven Pope

Title: Group Head of Trade Facilitation (GoTrade)

Deutsche Post DHL Group Career: DHL Express in 2011 as Vice-President, Customs & Regulatory Affairs for Europe and Head of Trade Compliance for Europe, the Middle East & Africa.

STEVEN Pope holds strong views when it comes to the need for private sector engagement in trade facilitation, believing that businesses can play a key role in helping to drive reforms that will have a real impact in improving the lives of so many people.

He says the Alliance’s goal of supporting trade reforms in developing countries and LDCs through full implementation of the World Trade Organization (WTO) Trade Facilitation Agreement is fully aligned with DHL’s commitment to corporate sustainability.

“We want to be a serious contributor not only in the debate but in the delivery of sustainable economic growth through trade facilitation,” he said. “Corporate sustainability is not about marketing. You’re either in it the whole way or you’re not in it at all – you’ve got to live it because if you don’t, you’ll get found out.”


As head of DHL’s  GoTrade initiative tasked with developing inclusive trade and sustainable growth, he has a pivotal role in the multinational’s Environmental, Social, and Governance (ESG) efforts.

“GoTrade sits at the centre of corporate sustainability in DHL: we are certainly not just a nice thing to do – we see it very much as a ‘need to do’. This is core – our board takes it very seriously.

“GoTrade draws on the company’s expertise in global trade and logistics to help developing countries and LDCs in implementing border reforms and helping local businesses to access global markets. We are placing a special emphasis on developing women-owned businesses, believing in their growth potential.

“There is a recognition that globalisation brings winners and losers, but we are looking to create greater opportunities for more winners, particularly among micro, small and medium-sized enterprises (MSMEs).”

Public Private Partnership

The Alliance’s public private partnership (PPP) approach was instrumental in attracting DHL involvement.

“PPPs are extremely important – it’s not governments that trade, it’s businesses but governments and organisations like the WTO set the rules by which we can operate in a world as fair as possible,” he said.

Referencing his decades of public sector experience, he noted: “As a policy official you don’t really know what the economic reality is on the ground – only businesses can tell you what that’s like.

“At the same time, businesses don’t always understand what the challenges are for governments.

“The advantage of PPP is that you create a better understanding of the demands of both sectors and that way you can create policies that are more fit for purpose – it gives governments what they need while at the same time giving businesses what they need to help economies to grow.


Steven Pope is a passionate advocate for greater private sector engagement through active participation in trade facilitation efforts through the Alliance.

“The Alliance is something that you should join if you want to make a difference … I don’t think the Alliance is a badge that you can just wear on Sunday: If you want to join, you need to engage and deliver.”


In-kind contributions

DHL plays a pivotal role in Alliance projects, helping to drive initiatives from start to finish. DHL has mobilised its significant resources and contributed leading-edge knowledge and expertise while opening doors to key government agencies and key private sector contacts to support our trade reform efforts, such as our ongoing projects in Cambodia.

Working with the Alliance furthers DHL’s support of sustainable development and strengthens the Alliance’s public private partnership approach to implementing trade reforms in developing countries and LDCs.

DHL is continuing to devote valuable in-kind resources including:

  • Participating in public private dialogues and key project meetings and encouraging relevant suppliers, clients, and other stakeholders to do likewise
  • Reviewing and supplying inputs to key project-related documents, such as project proposals and testing new processes
  • Sharing data and metrics to help the Alliance measure results
  • Leading knowledge exchange tours
  • Providing administrative support, such as supplying meeting rooms and translation services.