Protecting our future

Introduction 

The SMMS builds on the Environmental Monitoring and Measurement System (EMMS) which has tracked and driven progress in the postal sector’s carbon management since 2008. Our participants have shown tremendous progress in that time. The original EMMS targets were set in 2009 following a pilot in 2008, with 20 participants collectively setting ambitious targets to be achieved by 2020, compared to the 2008 baseline:

  • To reduce combined carbon emissions from own operations by 20% – achieved in 2014
  • To achieve a score of at least 90% in carbon management proficiency – achieved in 2018

Following the early achievement of the first target, a new target was introduced in 2014:

  • To achieve a 20% reduction in Scope 1, 2 and 3 (from own operations and outsourced transport) carbon emissions per letter mail and per parcel by 2025, from a 2013 baseline year. 

This target was approved by the Science Based Target Initiative (SBTI) in 2016 (one of the first 12 globally) indicating that the level of decarbonisation required to achieve it is in line with the goals of the Paris Agreement. As of 2020, 13 posts now have individually committed to a Science Based Target. 

Reflecting the importance of this issue to our sector, climate change continues to be a key focus of the SMMS programme as we look towards our 2030 goals. 

 

Emerging trends

Given the size of the participant’s collective fleets, reducing the environmental impact of the group’s vehicles will be a continued focus going forward. It is estimated that the global electric vehicle market will grow 29% within the next five years, and  as discussed in the Resource Efficiency section, our participants continue to be innovative in this area. 

As the impacts of Climate Change such as the natural disasters experienced in 2020 - 2021 continue to increase and impact businesses our engagement with suppliers on ways to reduce carbon emissions will continue to be critical in order to decrease Scope 3 emissions, which contribute the majority of the group’s total carbon emissions (71% of Scope 1, 2 and 3). Posts have shown a commitment to mitigating the impact of the value chain through a variety of initiatives, with examples found in our case study library

 

Results

  • Climate Change was the highest scoring Focus Area out of the seven in the Sustainability Management Proficiency (SMP) questionnaire, reflecting the group’s continued dedication to this issue.
  • Posts scored 71.7% collectively for Climate Change, ten percentage points ahead of the group’s Overall SMP Score and three percentage points ahead of the second highest Focus Area score (Health and Safety). 
  • The group scored highest in questions related to Measurement and Evaluation just as in 2019, reflecting the group’s focus on rigorous data collection. The group also scored well in the Strategy and Policy pillar, a crucial element of effective climate change risk management. 
  • The Disclosure and Reporting and Embedding pillar scores increased the most since 2019, demonstrating the group’s commitment to continuous improvement, and reflecting the importance of improving public disclosures on climate change.  
     

Highlights of the group’s performance in 2020 include:

  • All 20 posts have a strategic focus on greenhouse gas emissions 
  • 17 posts have a dedicated policy in place that includes a commitment to performance improvement and a framework for achieving objectives
  • 15 posts have a mid-term or long-term target related to climate change, and 11 posts have an annual target
  • 19 participants define responsibility for climate change at the board or executive level of their organisation
  • 19 posts have discussed current and/or future climate change strategies with their supplier groups.

We encourage posts to continue developing their approaches to Climate Change management, including participating in initiatives to build resilience to climate change within their own organisations and in the wider community, through employee education and outreach programmes.

Scope 1 and 2 emissions

In 2020, we set a new 2030 target for absolute carbon emissions – to reduce collective scope 1 and 2 emissions by 50% compared to a 2019 baseline. In 2020, posts reported a 5.2% decrease in emissions compared to 2019. This equates to 306,000 tonnes of CO2

In 2020, posts reported a 34% reduction in Scope 1 and 2 emissions compared to a 2008 baseline. Since 2008, the group’s cumulative reduction in emissions now equals 22.8 million tonnes CO2

 

Delivery Efficiency



*Delivery efficiency for 2013 to 2019 was restated in 2021 due to one post’s improved emissions data allocation methodology. Please see Restatements section for more details. 

Having reached the absolute emissions reduction target in 2014, participants collectively agreed on a delivery efficiency target, measuring the carbon emissions associated with each delivery, and also expanding the scope to include outsourced transport: 

  • To achieve a 20% reduction in Scope 1, 2 and 3 (from own operations and outsourced transport) carbon emissions per letter mail and per parcel by 2025, from a 2013 baseline year. 

In 2020, the group reported a delivery efficiency of 40.8g CO2 per letter mail item and 513.8g per parcel item. This was an 8% increase in grams CO2 per item for letter mail and a 1% increase for parcels, compared to 2019. Since the 2013 baseline, this equates to an increase of 15% for letter mail, but a decrease of 5% for parcels. 

Posts face a significant challenge in reducing the carbon intensity of letter mail deliveries in an environment of falling letter mail demand. With the growth in parcel demand showing no signs of abating, we expect to see the inverse trend for parcel delivery efficiency. 

These trends have been accentuated by the COVID-19 pandemic and are expected to continue. We did observe a reduction in scope 3 emissions from business travel and employee commuting due to the COVID-19 pandemic however these were outweighed by rising emissions from the spike in parcel demand over the period. 

Advancements in reducing emissions from outsourced road and air transport will need to match and indeed exceed the progress made in reducing Scope 1 and 2 emissions in order to lessen the carbon intensity of deliveries.

Following the progress in building energy efficiency, the sector’s attention will turn to decarbonising the transport. IPC recognises that there is no silver bullet. In the short term, the industry will continue to draw on a host of different alternative fuel vehicle (AFV) solutions - of the total SMMS fleet, the proportion of AFVs increased from 12% in 2012 to 22% in 2020. Innovative programmes and battery developments have put electric vehicles firmly in the driving seat in the near term, with hydrogen expected to realise its potential as an alternative. Therefore, as we see the increasing penetration of low carbon transport in the sector, we expect the climate impact of these deliveries to come down again in the future.