Developing supply chain responsibilities with a sustainable focus


‘Sustainable procurement’ refers to purchasing in ways that intentionally strengthen society, the environment and the economy, while meeting the needs of organisations and creating value for our customers. The rise of e-commerce is driving consumer demand for sustainable products and services, while organisations must also respond to an increasingly stringent regulatory landscape.  

Through measuring performance in this area, IPC members are actively contributing to the aims of UN SDG 12 – Ensure sustainable consumption and production patterns. In an internal survey by IPC in 2018, SMMS participants identified UN SDG target 12.7, which promotes ‘procurement practices that are sustainable’ as a priority for the postal sector. 

With roots in the public sector, the postal industry is well versed in the benefits of sustainable procurement. The return on investment can include reduced costs and waste, and improved visibility of supply chains. An integrated, effective strategy improves risk management along the value chain by working with higher risk suppliers. 

In the SMMS, Sustainable Procurement is measured qualitatively only, in the Sustainability Management Proficiency (SMP) questionnaire. Posts are asked questions on a range of subjects, such as the sustainability topics included in procurement policies, how far down the supply chain they are implemented and for which suppliers, the types of audits, public reporting, and so on. 

Emerging trends

  • As environmental issues increasingly fall under compliance standards, human rights and labour standards are becoming significantly more important for sustainable procurement.
  • The postal sector is a major employer at a global scale, providing opportunities to disclose its improvements on human rights issues such as discrimination, health and safety and gender equality. With the ability to work with organisations to ensure it continues to contribute to the UN Sustainable Development Goals, particularly those identified as material for the sector.
  • Business ethics is also an increasingly prominent category
  • As consumers continue to demand increasing levels of transparency, disclosure and reporting will be a growing area of focus.  


  • Posts achieved a score of 64.3% in Sustainable Procurement in the 2022 Sustainability Management Proficiency (SMP) questionnaire, just over one percentage point behind the overall group SMP score.
  • The group scored best in Sustainable Procurement questions related to Strategy and Policy, reflective of the prevalent use of subcontractors in the postal sector, and the importance that the group places on sustainable supply chain management.
  • Opportunities for improvement include activities related to Disclosure and Reporting. IPC recognises the significant improvement (almost seven percentage points) in this pillar since 2020, but notes a slight decline in 2022. IPC further encourages posts to demonstrate leadership by reporting their progress in the public domain and sharing best practice knowledge with other operators and sectors. We are confident this will result in higher scores in this pillar as posts continue to develop their public reporting in this area.
  • Sustainable Procurement is measured qualitatively only, given the nature of the topics involved.     

Highlights of the group’s performance in 2022 include:

  • 20 posts out of 23 have a dedicated sustainable procurement policy in place
  • 15 participants have publicly stated targets related to sustainable procurement
  • 18 posts define responsibility for sustainable procurement at the board or executive body level
  • In line with best practice, 19 collect data from suppliers on sustainability issues. 

IPC encourages posts to develop robust approaches to sustainable procurement and report on their progress. IPC is confident that the postal sector can be a leader in this area as it becomes an ever more crucial area of focus in the coming years.