The road ahead

The global sustainability agenda is rapidly evolving. The adoption of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) in 2015 initiated a transition in global sustainability action, and it has become evident that businesses have a crucial role to play in achieving these Goals by 2030. In order to support and advance sustainable development, it is the responsibility of global business to ensure that the objectives set out in the UN SDGs are integrated into long term growth strategies. With this comes an opportunity for companies to emerge as leaders in sustainability action; an opportunity that, given their front-runner status, the postal sector is well-placed to seize.

The road ahead for EMMS

Aligning the EMMS programme’s evolution with the SDGs

The global sustainability agenda is rapidly evolving. The adoption of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) in 2015 initiated a transition in global sustainability action, and it has become evident that businesses have a crucial role to play in achieving these Goals by 2030. In order to support and advance sustainable development, it is the responsibility of global business to ensure that the objectives set out in the UN SDGs are integrated into long term growth strategies. With this comes an opportunity for companies to emerge as leaders in sustainability action; an opportunity that, given their front-runner status, the postal sector is well-placed to seize.

Since the beginning of the EMMS programme in 2008, the group has been committed to improving carbon management and reducing carbon emissions across the postal sector. Owing to the continued dedication of participants, the group has made commendable progress towards the targets set eight years ago. Indeed, not only has the 20% carbon emissions reduction target already been accomplished, the group achieved 87% in Carbon Management Proficiency this year, and is therefore well on its way to achieving the 90% target ahead of the 2020 target date.

The EMMS group has also embraced the new delivery efficiency targets adopted in 2014, through which participants aim to achieve a 20% efficiency increase in Scope 1, 2, and 3 (outsourced transport) emissions per letter mail and per parcel by 2025, from a 2013 baseline. Approved by the Science Based Target initiative (a partnership between CDP (formerly the Carbon Disclosure Project), the UN Global Compact (UNGC), the World Resources Institute (WRI), and WWF (World Wide Fund for Nature) intended to increase corporate ambition on climate action), these targets place greater emphasis on efficiency, while also broadening the scope of the programme to include outsourced transport. While letter mail volumes are declining, the rapid growth of e-commerce is driving a steady increase in the volumes of packages and parcels. Amid this transitioning postal market, improving carbon efficiency is becoming ever more important and challenging.

Continuing to meet stakeholder expectations

The EMMS group’s achievements to date are indicative of the postal sector’s commitment to sustainability. IPC intends to build on these successes and evolve the programme in order to drive further sustainability action. As a first step in shaping the future direction of IPC’s sustainability strategy, we engaged with our key stakeholders to understand their future expectations for our sector. A similar exercise was undertaken in 2008 and was instrumental in developing the EMMS programme. We recognise that the sustainability priorities of our stakeholders will have changed since that point, and as we look to evolve the EMMS programme stakeholder engagement is considered a critical step. Therefore, between December 2016 and March 2017, 40 global stakeholders (including customers, suppliers, subcontractors, and NGOs) were asked for their opinion on the success of the current EMMS programme, and their view on the future strategy and direction of IPC’s sustainability programme.

In general, the achievements of the EMMS programme exceed stakeholder expectations, and the programme is viewed as a mature and successful initiative. The current programme targets are considered to be ambitious, while stakeholders also recognise the significant achievements that have been made to date. The most successful aspects were identified as encouraging positive climate action and improving carbon management. While acknowledging the progress already made in low carbon transport and reducing GHG emissions, stakeholders consider these areas also to offer the greatest opportunity for the postal sector. This further endorses the current emphasis of the EMMS programme and indicates that an enhanced focus and improvement in the area of low carbon transport in particular is anticipated.

Overall, the results of the stakeholder engagement show that the EMMS programme is viewed very positively and the postal sector is considered a front-runner in terms of its sustainability performance. However, it is clear that in order to retain that status the postal sector is expected to evolve its sustainability initiatives and strategies in a way that can support and advance the objectives of the UN SDGs. Stakeholders believe that IPC’s future sustainability strategy can have the greatest positive impact on Climate Action (Goal 13), followed by Sustainable cities and communities (Goal 11), and Responsible consumption and production (Goal 12). These same Goals, as well as Decent work and economic growth (Goal 8), and Industry, innovation and infrastructure (Goal 9), have been identified by EMMS participants as those offering the greatest opportunity for the postal sector to advance global sustainability efforts.

Building on these findings, it is IPC’s ambition to evolve its sustainability strategy in alignment with the UN SDGs. In doing so, we must ensure that sustainability considerations become integrated into business policy, processes, and long term strategy, thereby ensuring that the sector’s sustainability actions influence all aspects of the supply chain. As we have learnt from the very beginning of the EMMS programme, the key to continuing the success of our programme will be the support and collaboration of our dedicated group of participants.

The SDGs encompass a broad spectrum of sustainability issues from eliminating poverty, ensuring sustainable water use, to taking action to mitigate climate change and its impacts. IPC’s stakeholder research exercise identified the Goals which our stakeholders and participants consider to present the most significant opportunity for the postal sector to support and advance. Following on from this important step, it is now time to focus our future strategy to ensure that we deliver on these sustainability objectives.

Over the next year, through continued communication and engagement with our stakeholders we intend to take a collaborative approach to mapping the SDGs across the postal sector value chain. Following this, we will be in a position to target the issues on which the postal sector can influence the most positive change, and begin to report on our progress and action in these areas. Many individual postal companies are already undertaking this process, and through the EMMS programme are sharing experience and knowledge with other posts to help them do the same. We expect that through communication and knowledge sharing within our programme, we will be fully equipped as a sector to integrate the SDGs into our long term sustainability strategy.

IPC is also committed to strengthening our external collaboration and partnerships in order to further our positive sustainability outreach, and solidify the EMMS programme’s position as a leading sustainability initiative on the global stage. IPC already participates in successful collaborative initiatives including the UN Global Compact, the UN’s Caring for Climate, Science Based Targets, WWF’s Climate Savers, the We Mean Business coalition, and the UNFCCC’s Climate Neutral Now. As the sustainability agenda evolves, we will continue to engage in partnerships and collaborative ventures, recognising the importance of such initiatives in driving robust sustainability action.