Postal operators improve sustainability credentials across all areas, finds IPC report

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International Post Corporation (IPC) has released the results of its annual postal sector sustainability survey, with an overall increase of nearly 10% in the Sustainability Management Proficiency (SMP) score for all 20 posts participating in the program.

Referred to as the Sustainability Measurement and Management System (SMMS), a 150-question survey is used to assess four core management pillars across seven key ‘Focus Areas’, namely: climate change, health and safety (H&S), learning and development, sustainable procurement, resource efficiency, circular economy and air quality.

Although climate change and H&S were found to be the Focus Areas in which posts scored the highest, air quality was the area in which the postal performance has increased the most.

Holger Winklbauer, CEO, IPC, commented, “The good score of the posts in the SMP reflects on the postal industry’s commitment to contribute to all the pillars of society and the economy. The increase in the score also reflects the numerous initiatives taken by posts towards their employees and society during the pandemic, restating the essential social role played by the posts.”

The SMMS assesses the following four core management pillars for each Focus Area: strategy and policy, embedding, measurement and evaluation, and disclosure and reporting. The results of the Focus Areas showed that:

H&S – A collective score of 68.6% reflects that posts have good H&S management proficiency and that further improvement across the posts will be important in the upcoming years. As the Covid-19 pandemic continues to affect the world, protecting postal employees is more essential than ever. The growth of e-commerce, safety technology developments, and the use of alternative fuel/automated vehicles are all emerging trends that have an important bearing on the health and safety of the postal workforce.

Learning and development – The pandemic has not only put the postal workforce at considerable risk since early 2020, but also limited in-person training and internal communication due to lockdowns and travel restrictions. Participants have demonstrated a commitment to their workforces by continuing to prioritize L&D programs throughout this challenging environment. Training in technical skills will continue to play a prominent role due to the rise in e-commerce – accelerated even further by Covid-19 – and the digitization of the postal industry. Soft skills and management training will also be a focus, not only to develop the next generation of managers but also to remain competitive in the modern labor marketplace, a major challenge for the postal sector. The participating posts collectively scored 64.7%, nearly four percentage points ahead of the overall SMP group score of 61.2%. This score reflects the group’s focus on L&D management proficiency and its commitment to developing its workforce with 16 of the 20 participating posts having a dedicated L&D policy.

Resource efficiency – Posts scored 57.3% in resource efficiency, just behind the average overall group SMP score. Opportunities for improvement include areas related to strategy and policy, such as having a dedicated policy that includes a commitment to performance improvement and a framework for achieving objectives. Making the investments needed to decarbonize the vehicle fleet, while still meeting its duties to shareholders and customers, will continue to be a challenge, but the significant improvements made since 2008 and the improvement in market trends observed in 2020 offer the post reasons for optimism.  Decarbonizing low-carbon long-haul transportation will also be increasingly crucial to reduce the environmental impact of transportation.

Climate change – This was the highest scoring Focus Area out of the seven with 71.7%, reflecting the participating posts’ continued dedication to this issue. All 20 participating posts have a strategic focus on greenhouse gas emissions and 19 posts have discussed current and/or future climate change strategies with their supplier groups. 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.

Air quality – This was the most improved Focus Area out of the seven, with the overall score of 49.2% presenting an increase of more than 13 percentage points from 2019. Fourteen out of 20 participating posts operate smart city solutions, or initiatives involving cooperation and development with other stakeholders to improve urban air quality. It is also important to note the positive impact Covid has had on air quality. As cities stopped during its peak in the spring of 2020, there were significant improvements in air quality in major cities across the globe. This has caused a major focus on the need to implement longer term initiatives to achieve more sustained improvements.

Circular economy – The participating posts showed impressive commitment to the issue in 2020, improving its score by almost 10 points on 2019 to 56.4%. Participants again scored best in questions related to strategy and policy. This is reflective of the importance of waste management to the sector from both a sustainability perspective and as part of a broader business strategy. In 2020, participants reused or recycled an impressive 46% of total non-hazardous waste. Optimizing routes and the use of reverse logistics will be key components of a circular economy, such as reducing unnecessary fuel consumption, and providing facilities for returning containers at post offices. The postal sector can also leverage its position to engage with government and other industries to drive change. Recyclable or sustainably produced packaging continues to be a focus for consumers.

Sustainable procurement – The group scored 60.5% in Sustainable Procurement and best in 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. Sixteen posts out of 20 have a dedicated sustainable procurement policy in place. Impacts of Covid-19 have caused global organizations to rethink their business with a focus on digital, resilience and transparent supply chains.

These management efforts all contribute to systematically addressing the impact of global climate change and collaborating to reduce carbon emissions across the sector. More details can be found in the IPC Postal Sector Sustainability Results Section on our website.

The Sustainability Measurement and Management System
The IPC SMMS program was launched in 2019 to address the sustainability objectives of the postal sector for the next 10 years, and is aligned with the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). It expands on the 2009-2019 Environmental Measurement and Monitoring System (EMMS) program, which focused on reducing carbon emissions, and broadens the remit to the seven sustainability focus areas most relevant for the postal sector.

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Dan originally joined Parcel and Postal Technology International in 2014 having spent the early years of his career in the recruitment industry. As online editor, he now produces daily content for the website and supports the editor with the publication of each exciting new issue. When he’s not reporting on the latest technological developments, Dan can be found on the golf course or apprehensively planning his next DIY project.

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