Royal Mail delivers carbon reduction goal four years early

The UK's largest delivery company Royal Mail, has surpassed a 20% carbon reduction target four years early, and will strive to maintain carbon intensity levels over the next few years as business demands evolve.

Outlined in the company’s latest sustainability report, Royal Mail reduced carbon emissions by 4.7% last year, creating a 25% reduction against a 2004-05 baseline. A 2021 deadline was in place to reach a 20% reduction across Scope 1, 2 and 3 emissions.

“As we continue to deliver innovation and growth, and become a more efficient business, we remain committed to our corporate responsibility objectives. This is the way we will secure a sustainable future and the continued provision of good quality jobs,” Royal Mail’s chief executive Moya Greene said.

“Benchmarking and reporting on our progress helps to ensure that corporate responsibility remains embedded within our business strategy.”

Around 66% of Royal Mail’s carbon emissions come from transportation and the 48,000 vehicles in its UK fleet. The company is currently developing a carbon efficiency target for its fleet, but has already taken steps to drive efficiency in this area.

Royal Mail is working with its driver training provider Pertemps to educate drivers on a telemetry system that tracks driving habits in real time. The system has been fitted across 40% of the fleet and gives visible and audible warnings when drivers increase fuel consumption or emissions through actions like accelerating too strongly. The system has saved more than 4,600 tonnes of carbon.

Last year, Royal Mail acquired more than 2,800 new vehicles that comply with the Euro 6 standard on commercial vehicle emissions. Trials of electric vehicles (EVs) have also been implemented, with nine electric trucks operating at a central London mail centre. A dual-fuel truck is also being trialled at the company’s National Distribution Centre, and initial results suggest it will deliver efficiency savings of 20% and a payback on investment in two and a half years.

The company has saved around 2,000 tonnes of carbon by replacing air transport with road services. However, Royal Mail delivers letters and parcels to around 30m UK addresses and the company is anticipating an increase in parcel volume, and therefore a greater demand on fuel consumption and heavy truck uses.

Royal Mail will therefore keep the current 20% reduction target in place until 2021, with the aim of keeping carbon intensity at a steady level. On a normalised basis, Royal Mail decreased emissions by 4.6% per £1m revenue last year.

Efficiency deliveries

More than 30% of Royal Mail’s emissions derived from the built environment, and technological upgrades have been integrated to lower emissions in this area.

LED lights were retrofitted at a further 15 UK sites last year, and lighting control systems were implemented at 17 Mail Processing Units and Delivery Office sites. These are expected to deliver annual electricity savings of 11GWh, while solar panels at the Chelmsford Mail Centre will generate more than 87,000kWh – saving almost 36 tonnes of carbon.

Other notable actions listed in the report was a 6% increase in the amount of waste diverted from landfill, which now sits at 91%. More than 600 UK sites divert 100% of generated waste from landfill.

During the year, Royal Mail established a new water reduction target of 3% by 2019. The company has surpassed this goal, recording a 4% reduction last year. From 2019 onwards, Royal Mail is targeting a further 4% reduction in water consumption.

Royal Mail works with around 5,000 UK suppliers, and has undertaken exercises to map higher risk suppliers and offer support to mitigate issues. All procurement colleagues have been trained on anti-corruption measures and the Modern Slavery Act.

A new Environmental Legislation Register provides the company with a site-by-site compliance database to highlight potential environmental improvements. This will be deployed across the entire estate next year.

Royal Mail was the Employee Engagement & Behaviour Change winner at the latest Sustainability Leaders Awards. The company has since explained to edie how it has implemented an ambitious, company-wide engagement programme to deliver sustainability success.

Matt Mace

Action inspires action. Stay ahead of the curve with sustainability and energy newsletters from edie