Royal Mail gets SBTi’s seal of approval for net-zero strategy

Image: Royal Mail

This time last year, Royal Mail pulled its net-zero target forward from 2050 to 2040 and outlined measures to accelerate decarbonisation. These included investments in renewable electricity procurement, self-generation solutions including rooftop solar, zero-emission vehicles and vehicle efficiency technologies.

Now, the postal services provider has had its 2040 plan verified in line with the SBTi’s Net-Zero Standard. The Standard, which launched in autumn 2021, requires businesses to reduce their absolute emissions across all scopes by at least 90% by 2050 at the latest.

Royal Mail has selected a 2020 baseline year to use for its 2040 target. Demand for postal services spiked in 2020 and 2021 in the UK, with businesses and members of the public turning to products by post with stores closed during lockdowns.

The SBTi has also approved new 2030 emissions targets from Royal Mail in line with the Paris Agreement’s 1.5C trajectory. The business has committed to halving Scope 1 (direct) and Scope 2 (power-related) emissions between 2020 and 2030.

It will also aim for a 25% reduction in absolute Scope 3 (indirect) emissions within the same timeframe.

Should Royal Mail deliver these targets, the carbon footprint of each parcel it delivers should be less than one-quarter of current levels by 2040. At present, the average footprint is 218 grams per parcel. Royal Mail’s 2040 target is 50 grams.

Royal Mail’s ‘feet on the street’ network of postmen and women walk up to a billion steps a day to deliver the nation’s letters and parcels, keeping its emissions low.  Royal Mail’s average emissions per parcel is currently 218gCO2e per parcel, and the company has set a long-term target to reduce the average to 50gCO2e.

Royal Mail’s deputy director for corporate affairs and ESG, Greg Sage, called the SBTi verification “an important step”.

Sage said that the firm “knows [it] needs to go further and faster in decarbonising our business and driving wider change.”

The business has previously described the delivery of net-zero by 2040 as “transformational” for its day-to-day processes.

Net-Zero Standard

To date, more than 2,300 businesses have signalled their intention to produce a SBTi-verified net-zero plan. Businesses with verification under the SBTi’s Corporate Net-Zero Standard include Tesco, CVS, Mondi, Thai Union, SIG, Schneider Electric and Saint-Gobain.

The SBTi’s most recent progress report revealed an 87% year-on-year increase in the number of businesses setting verified targets globally. Uptake was particularly strong in the UK.

While the Net-Zero Standard is popular, questions have been raised in recent times about how effective it is at driving real-world climate action.

CDP revealed last month that 21% of UK firms with Scope 1 and 2 targets for 2030 are likely to miss them. The proportion is higher (31%) for Scope 3 targets.

Separately, more than 20 NGOs including the Changing Markets Foundation are urging the SBTi to align its Net-Zero Standards with guidance issued at COP27 by a UN-convened High-Level Expert Group. This guidance is intended to stamp out greenwashing.

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