Sustainable use of resources is vital to reducing our environmental impact.

Introduction 

The sustainable use of resources is a priority for the postal sector in order to reduce our environmental impact. It was a focus of the original Environmental Monitoring and Management System (EMMS) from 2008 to 2020, during which participants reduced their aggregated electricity use by more than 17.5 TWh – enough to power 1.49m US homes in 20201.  

Apart from electricity use in buildings, the other key area of impact is fuel use for vehicles. In 2020, the SMMS group operated a fleet of more than 600,000 vehicles; reducing the negative environmental impact of the vehicle network is  a priority for the sector. In 2019, we 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

The reductions we have made in emissions associated with buildings need to be matched by improvements in vehicle fleet decarbonisation to meet our targets. Reducing the emissions from transport continues to be a key focus for posts. While total scope 1 and 2 emissions decreased from 2019 to 2020, the contribution from transport increased from 52% to 55%. When scope 3 emissions from outsourced transport are also considered, the share grew from 66% to 71%. 

There are significant challenges to reducing scope 3 emissions, although there are several reasons to be hopeful. The global electric vehicle (EV) market showed surprising resilience in 2020. Electric car sales in Europe more than doubled compared with 2019, reaching 10% of all car sales; and in China this figure reached 5%, also increasing year-on-year. Further promising was the 4% growth in EV sales in the US, despite a lack of federal support and a significant contraction of overall car sales. 

The growth in sales despite COVID-19 lockdowns can be attributed to a combination of strong policy support, targeted stimulus and particularly in Europe, 2020 was an important year for emissions targets. Outside of policy, other factors have also boosted the market. Battery costs continued to fall, commercial fleet electrification plans continued, and affluent consumers interested in buying EVs were less effected by the economic impacts of lockdowns2

Making the investments needed to decarbonise the vehicle fleet, while still meeting our duties to shareholders and customers will continue to be a challenge, but one we are confident that posts will overcome, especially as we reflect on the significant improvements they have made since 2008 and the improvement in market trends observed in 2020.  

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. High power charging technology is still being developed and standardised. Battery developments and declining costs 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. In addition, implementing electric vehicles for aviation ground operations by working with airports and airlines poses an opportunity for reducing posts’ carbon footprint in the midterm. 

Further opportunities also exist in the energy efficiency space; there are still almost 1.9 million tonnes of scope 2 emissions produced from buildings annually by the SMMS group. Growing the share of renewable electricity as costs of these energy sources come down, will also be crucial to meet our 2030 targets and address the carbon intensity of our operations. Solar PV is being adopted as a technology at some posts and we expect the rate of adoption to increase in the coming years.

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 57.3% in Resource Efficiency, just behind the average overall group SMP score of 61.2%. The group’s performance in this area ranked fifth out of the seven Focus Areas for 2020, and increased by more than five percentage points on 2019. 
  • Posts scored highest in questions related to Embedding and Disclosure & Reporting. Opportunities for improvement include areas related to Strategy & Policy, such as having a dedicated policy that includes a commitment to performance improvement and a framework for achieving objectives.
  • Eight 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 2020 include:

  • All 20 posts engage at least some customers or suppliers on energy use in buildings and in vehicles
  • 17 out of 20 posts have a publicly stated target on energy use in vehicles, and 16 posts have one on buildings
  • 17 posts engage employees on resource efficiency through working groups or joint management-worker committees
  • 16 of the group are involved in non-governmental organisations and initiatives, such as EV100
  • 13 participants commitments are tied into senior executive financial rewards and incentives. 
     

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 33% in 2020. 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 134,000 (22%) in 2020, a particularly impressive feat given the challenging market conditions. Electric vehicles (EVs) have increased in that time by 560%, from 17,000 to 95,000, and comprise 16% of total vehicles as of 2020. As a proportion of alternative fuel vehicles, EVs made up 71% in 2020.

1 United States Environmental Protection Agency, 2020, Greenhouse Gas Equivalencies Calculator. Available at https://www.epa.gov/energy/greenhouse-gas-equivalencies-calculator  

2 IEA, 2021, How global electric car sales defied Covid-19 in 2020. 28 January 2021. Available at: https://www.iea.org/commentaries/how-global-electric-car-sales-defied-covid-19-in-2020