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 19.7 TWh – enough to power 1.8m US homes in 2021 (2).
Apart from electricity use in buildings, the other key area of impact is fuel use for vehicles. In 2022, 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 the 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.
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. Total scope 1 and 2 emissions decreased from 2021 to 2022, but scope 3 emissions from outsourced transport saw an increase. The former shows great progress is being maintained in the SMMS programme but there is an acknowledgement that there is still improvements to be made.
There are significant challenges to reducing scope 3 emissions, although there are several reasons to be hopeful. The global electric vehicle (EV) market has grown since 2021. Indeed, global electric car sales almost doubled between 2021 and 2020, despite supply chain challenges. Electric cars represented 14% of all car sales globally in 2022; with the European market growing 15% in 2022. Further promising was the doubling of EV sales in the US.
The growth in sales may be attributed to a combination of strong policy support and targeted stimuli. Outside of policy, other factors have also boosted the market. Battery costs continued to fall and commercial fleet electrification plans continued to be expanded.
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 2022.
Decarbonising low carbon long haul transport will be increasingly crucial to reduce the environmental impact of transport. Technology piloted and refined for the 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 1.77 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 Photovoltaic 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.
- In the Sustainability Management Proficiency (SMP) questionnaire, posts scored 63.4% in Resource Efficiency, only two and a half percentage points behind the average overall group SMP score of 65.9%. The group’s performance in this area ranked fourth, up one place from 2021, out of the seven Focus Areas for 2022, and increased three percentage points in 2022.
- 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.
- Nine 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 2022 include:
- 20 posts engage at least some customers or suppliers on energy use in buildings and in vehicles
- 17 out of 23 posts have a publicly stated target on energy use in vehicles, 17 posts have one on buildings, and 16 posts have one on water use in buildings
- 19 posts engage employees on resource efficiency through working groups or joint management-worker committees
- 19 of the group are involved in non-governmental organisations and initiatives, such as EV100
- 15 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, .
The group has successfully increased its use of renewable electricity from 14.3% of total electricity use in 2012 to 37.6% in 2022. Nine posts now use 100% renewable electricity, and a further six use more than 90%.
Alternative fuel vehicles
NB: All figures rounded to nearest thousand
The SMMS group has grown its collective AFV fleet from 65,000 (12% of total vehicles) in 2012 to 165,000 (26%) in 2022, a particularly impressive feat given the challenging market conditions. Electric vehicles (EVs) have increased in that time by 647% from 17,000 to 127,000, and comprise 20% of total vehicles as of 2022. As a proportion of alternative fuel vehicles, EVs made up 77% in 2022.