The sustainable use of resources is a priority for the postal sector in order to reduce our environmental impact

Introduction 

The sustainable use of resources was a focus of the original Environmental Monitoring and Management System (EMMS) from 2008 to 2019, during which participants reduced their aggregated electricity use by more than 16.5 TWh – enough to power 1.35m US homes in 20191.  

Apart from electricity use in buildings, the other key area of impact is fuel use for vehicles. In 2019, the SMMS group operated a fleet of more than 590,000 vehicles; reducing the negative environmental impact of the vehicle network is also priority for the sector. In 2019, we also introduced water as a third area of focus. We hope to report on this in future once data coverage has developed. 

Through measuring performance in this area, IPC is actively contributing to the aims of UN SDG 9 – ‘Industry, innovation and infrastructure.’ In an internal survey by IPC in 2018, SMMS participants identified target 9.4, ‘upgrade infrastructure and retrofit industries to make them sustainable, with increased resource-use efficiency and greater adoption of clean and environmentally sound technologies’ as a priority for the postal sector. The group also identified ‘the sustainable management and efficient use of natural resources’ (target 12.2) as a priority. IPC encourages posts to recognise opportunities to encourage the efficient use of resources throughout the value chain.

Emerging trends

Reducing the emissions from transport continues to be a key focus for posts. In 2019, 66% of collective carbon emissions (which includes Scope 1, 2 and 3 outsourced transport) stemmed from transport. Decarbonising low carbon long haul transport will be increasingly crucial to reduce the environmental impact of transport. Technology piloted and refined for last mile is being gradually reconfigured to meet the different needs of long-haul operations. Battery developments have put electric vehicles firmly in the driving seat in the near term, and hydrogen is on the cusp of realising its potential as a viable alternative.

The logistics sector is less water intensive than many other industries such as manufacturing and production. However, water scarcity is set to become one of the most pressing global environmental issues, and the postal sector should play its part in reducing consumption.  

Results

  • In the Sustainability Management Proficiency (SMP) questionnaire, posts scored 51.7% in Resource Efficiency, just behind the average overall group SMP score of 52.2%. A score of 51.7% demonstrates the group’s good management proficiency in Resource Efficiency, average in line with other sustainability Focus Areas. 
  • Posts scored highest in questions related to Embedding and Disclosure & Reporting. Opportunities for improvement include areas related to Strategy & Policy, such as setting targets and developing management systems across operations. 
  • Six posts consider water management to be a material issue and were therefore also assessed on questions related to water management. The remaining posts provided evidence that water management is not considered to be material to their organisation’s business performance or substantively influence the assessments and decisions of stakeholders. 

Highlights of the group’s performance in 2019 include:

  • All 19 posts engage at least some customers or suppliers on energy use in buildings and in vehicles
  • 15 out of 19 posts have a publicly stated target on energy use in buildings, and 14 posts have one on vehicles
  • 14 posts engage employees on resource efficiency through working groups or joint management-worker committees
  • 15 of the group are involved in non-governmental organisations and initiatives, such as EV100
  • 4 participants use data on energy use in vehicles as part of management incentive schemes

IPC encourages posts to continue developing their approaches to Resource Efficiency, including continuing sharing best practice with other group members and discussing a range of resource efficiency issues, including future strategies, with key stakeholder groups. 

Renewable electricity 

The group has successfully increased its use of renewable electricity from 14% of total electricity use in 2012 to 31% in 2019. Seven posts now use 100% renewable electricity, and a further six use more than 90%. 

Alternative fuel vehicles 

 

The SMMS group has grown its collective AFV fleet from 65,000 (12% of total vehicles) in 2012 to over 130,000 (22%) in 2019, a particularly impressive feat given the challenging market conditions. Reported EVs also increased from 2018 by more than 4,600, now comprising 15% of total vehicles in 2019. 

NB: 2012 to 2018 electricity and vehicles data was restated in 2020. Please see Annex 'Restatement', for more details.

1 United States Environmental Protection Agency, 2019, Greenhouse Gas Equivalencies Calculator. Available at https://www.epa.gov/energy/greenhouse-gas-equivalencies-calculator