Meet the Sustainability Leader: Royal Mail, Carbon Management 2018

With entries now open for edie's revamped 2019 Sustainability Leaders Awards, this new feature series will showcase the achievements of the 2018 winners, revealing their secrets to success. Up next: our 2018 Carbon Management winners, Royal Mail.

The Royal Mail Group exceeded its carbon reduction target of 20% four years ahead of schedule, with investments into LED lighting replacements, the introduction of energy monitoring (RTO) systems and the use of telemetry to reduce fleet emissions all acting as major drivers in surpassing the carbon target while improving expected return on investments.

“Winning edie’s Carbon Management Award is a great achievement, and one Royal Mail were proud to win,” Royal Mail’s head of environmental sustainability Ron Symonds and carbon programmes manager David Waterston said in a joint statement.

“It reinforces that what we are trying to achieve is the right thing to do; an ‘independent external sense check’. It is a fantastic enabler when engaging with staff and key customers, as it’s another ‘voice’ promoting our successes not just Royal Mail.”

An increase in parcel delivery volumes saw Royal Mail revisit its carbon emissions reduction plan, setting the 20% reduction against a 2004 baseline. Despite the increase in processes and traffic volume, Royal Mail announced a 25.7% reduction earlier this year.

Reductions were delivered by combining technical and behavioural approaches to outline potential savings, before fully embedding them post-implementation as part of a business-as-usual systems approach to create a pathway for ongoing improvements to be implemented.

An LED replacement programme was issued as part of an ongoing maintenance programme, rather than a one-off initiative. LEDs were fitted across 16 sites to identify potential savings, with a further 15 sites fitted post-implementation this year.

The LED installation created an immediate cliff-edge drop in site electricity consumption. Highlighting the immediate savings to staff also acted as a behaviour change incentive, as they were able to visualise the savings and act on them further. For example, Royal Mail’s Leeds Centre demonstrated a 15.5% reduction in natural gas and electricity consumption compared to the prior year.

In total, the LED replacement programme and behavioural programme generated a reduction of 14.3Ktco2e that year, with post-implementation systems expected to deliver 11GWh of savings annually.

RTO systems were embedded in April 2016, after trials at seven sites. The programme covered Royal Mail’s top energy-consuming sites and provided staff with access to real-time energy consumption data. The data empowered unit managers and select environment champions to identify and implement low-cost, quick wins. Both the RTO and LED initiatives were focused on sites where savings would generate the biggest impact and also enable Royal Mail to use the same design and contracting teams. It has since been verified independently that the RTO programme has reduced energy demands at sites by a further 51%.

The LED and RTO system programmes were implemented to budget and time. In fact, they delivered a return on investment of 2.5 years, almost 20% better than the expected 3.1 years. These payback periods were used to create the business case for further implementation, specifically for lighting projects, for the remaining sites.

The final core aspect of Royal Mail’s carbon reduction achievement was the use of telemetry to influence driver behaviours and improve fuel efficiency. Three separate telemetry projects have been delivered into the company’s operational fleet, with each project learning from and utilising the best practices of the previous one.

While environmental improvements such as fuel consumption and emissions were the primary objectives, the behavioural aspects of the telemetry systems have improved safety performance too.

The telemetry systems provide key information regarding driving styles back to the drivers in real-time, to inform them of driving behaviours such as harsh acceleration, braking and idling times. The information is also monitored by management to create better-informed decisions on coaching.

As drivers are coached on these behaviours, they can improve fuel efficiency and drive more safely. Although minimal effort is required post-training, as drivers can react to the telemetry in real-time, the better-performing drivers communicate with management to share best practice techniques.

Delivery of the telemetry project was phased, with hardware installed first. As part of phase two, Royal Mail engaged with trade unions and third-party trainers to establish a suitable coaching process. This year, telemetry was then expanded; rolled out to around 2,900 vehicles. In total, 40% of Royal Mail’s fleet has been fitted with the technology.

The telemetry and driver behaviour programme has created a miles-per-gallon improvement of 5% to 10%, depending on vehicle type. By using the technology, Royal Mail saved approximately 1,751,05 litres of diesel in 2017, equating to more than 4,600 tonnes of CO2e.

Not just content with celebrating the progress to date, Royal Mail is able to share its best practice approaches with external companies both inside and outside of its sector. The company is involved in initiatives launched by The Carbon Trust and The International Post Corporation to share these approaches.

What the judges said: “This is a true sustainability success story and a great example of learning by doing. Royal Mail is doing an awful lot with really limited resources and – importantly – doing it at scale across a national network to drive real impact.”

edie’s 2019 Sustainability Leaders Award

Now in their 12th year, the RSA-accredited Sustainability Leaders Awards have undergone a major revamp, with a host of new categories and judges, a new Awards venue, and a new Mission Possible theme – making 6 February 2019 the biggest night of the sustainable business calendar.

The entry deadline for the 2019 Sustainability Leaders Awards is Friday, 14 September 2018. The Awards will then take place on the night of 6 February 2019 at the Park Plaza London, Westminster. 


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