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An Post has created a zero-emissions postal delivery service in Dublin city center, the capital city of Ireland. An Post is currently expanding this initiative to the whole of the Republic of Ireland to align their business practices with goals 12 and 13 of the UN SDGs.
This project will specifically focus on the Irish postal service ‘An Post’s’ attempt to lower their emissions and carbon footprint to play their vital role in tackling this global issue.
An Post incorporates sustainability into the very core of its business strategy, outlining this in its Strategic Sustainability Framework, which states their ultimate aim to “maximize the positive impact we can have on Irish society, the economy, and environment,” and to act in the common good to improve the quality of life for Irish citizens now and for future generations.
An Post has the largest fleet in the country, of over 3,400 vehicles and 1,600 bicycles who collect, process, and deliver 2 million items of mail to 2.2 million business and residual addresses every day (An Post, 2019). The creation of the world’s first emissions-free delivery service in a capital city through the Carbon-Free City initiative in Dublin City Centre is a testament to An Post’s commitment to making a real and substantial effort to lower their carbon footprint. An Post has committed to assisting in the national and international issue of the fight against rising emissions by pledging to reduce their carbon emissions by 50% by 2025 and be carbon neutral by 2030, maximize resource efficiency, and promote sustainability.
On the 7th of October 2020, the Irish Government published the Climate Action and Low Carbon Development (Amendment) Bill 2020, which brought into law, a bill that commits Ireland to net-zero carbon emissions by 2050 (Irish Government, 2020).
The inspiration behind this initiative is to "improve the quality of life for people in Ireland, now and for generations to come.” But this story focuses on Sustainable Development Goals 12 ‘Responsible Consumption and Production’ and 13 ’Climate Action.’
An Post's true impact is to “improve the quality of life for people in Ireland, now and for generations to come.” By this, it hopes to deliver sustainable long-term business growth and the promise to give back what they take from the environment and invest in our communities, all for the benefit of our planet.
An Post originally began the Planned Preventative Maintenance Programme (PPMP) implementing site audits and internal communications to understand its energy usage across its business, whereby they could benchmark themselves against other businesses and most importantly comply with the government goal of 33% reduction in energy use by 2020 (IPC, 2020). Today, An Post’s successful journey continues as they are one of twelve champions of the government Champions Programme and have achieved the ISO 5001 Energy Management Standard for the second year in a row and winning the National Green Award for best public sector organization.
An Post not only wants an impact on their business but to also have a true impact on the environment, firstly aiming to achieve Goal 13, Climate Action, they hope to decarbonize operations, maximize resource efficiency and support Ireland’s transition to a low carbon future. And secondly, through Goal 12, Responsible Consumption and Production, they hope to promote sustainability through recognizing the adverse impacts a business can have on the environment and society, and therefore show their own responsibility in promoting a circular economy through ensuring their materials are purchased from responsible sources such as 100% paper FSC certified to developing strategies in place to measure, monitor and improve their own ways of operating such as weighting all bins to have accurate information of exactly how much waste is being recycled, in the hopes of other businesses seeing their success in their sustainability journey and following in their footsteps.
The main focus of An Post’s transition to a sustainable future is the “ambition to deliver products and services in a way that will enable Irish people and businesses to thrive in a sustainable future.”
The main leaders in driving this change within An Post was John Smith, the Facilities Manager at the time, and the CEO David McRedmon who from our interview with John, is very much involved as John describes their CEO as “leading from the front and being a key enabler” and a big driver in the progress of An Post's journey to zero carbon emissions operations. John’s title within the company has been evolving over the past few years, and he is now recognized as the Facilities and Sustainability Manager. John has played a vital role in the planning implementation of zero-emissions vehicles as well as promoting a circular economy through ensuring their materials are purchased from responsible sources such as 100% paper FSC certified. An Post also became a member of the IPC’s EMMS program in 2009, which is an industry body that represents the major postal companies around the world including North America, the Asian-Pacific region, and Europe, which aims at capturing data and progress of participating bodies in achieving to cut the global postal sector’s carbon emissions. The program provides a structure for measuring a company's carbon footprint, allowing participants to share their information about environmental management achievements. These two targets need to be reached by 2020: achieve a score of at least 90% in Carbon Management Proficiency (CMP) and reduce combined carbon emissions from each postal member by 20% (Sustainability Measurement and Management System, 2020).
The next step for An Post was to roll out this initiative to Cork, Galway, Kilkenny, Limerick, and Waterford by the end of this year, further improving the lives of 700,00 people while achieving their mission of a zero carbon emissions delivery system. An Post invested €7.5 million in its Electric Fleet consisting of 212 electric vehicles, which they hope to increase to 900 by 2022. Our interviewee, John Smith, highlighted that one of the company's hopes was to show other businesses that a zero carbon emissions delivery system is achievable, and if they can do it, so can everyone else because the ultimate goal is to “invest in our company, colleagues and communities.” However, as with any project, issues can arise, and in the case of An Post, the lack of involvement from delivery personnel in the planning and implementation of electric vehicles resulted in a few bumps when changing over from diesel to electric vehicles. This was mainly because employees were used to bringing vans back home while using them as their own home transport, avoiding extra personal costs of the journey to and from work, and using the vans for personal use. Therefore, when the new fleet of vehicles was introduced, some employees did not like leaving vans on site for the night to charge and using their own cars. However, An Post then faced a second issue as they were also unable to retrofit employee's homes with electric charges designed for homes as this would mean each employee would have to switch providers and the issue of how much electricity would be used on the car versus home-usage. Therefore, a key lesson from this was to include employees as part of the planning procedure. Having the support and engagement from employees is a key aspect of the transition from diesel vehicles to electric).
An Post's success can be seen from their Dublin trial, whereby they made a switch to a 100% alternative fuel fleet and serviced every delivery within a 9km square area of the city’s business zone with electric vehicles and power-assisted tricycles. This trial allowed An Post to test volume capacity, vehicle range, and recharging technology, which resulted in a 75% reduction in carbon emissions. Due to the major success in the capital city, which houses the highest population range compared to the rest of the country, overcoming the challenges of volume and range, this trial laid the groundwork for An Post's plans to widen their electric fleet to other cities, such as Cork, Galway (IPC, 2018). This advancement has already contributed to saving 12.2kg CO2 per 100km traveled with the investment in renewable power. The electric vehicles already on the road will save 1.113 GWh of energy per annum at an average of 10,000 km per vehicle and reduce emissions equal to 55.4.400 kg CO2 after renewable energy. Alongside reducing CO2 emissions, electric vehicles will also reduce pollution and noise while lowering service and maintenance costs due to saved costs from oil, tire, and brake fixes. The application of this has also resulted in a definite return on investment and continual energy savings; however, the company's next challenge will be to sustain this progress.
Currently, An Post hopes to develop a purchasing procedure that covers environmental, waste management, human rights, and health and safety criteria to make sure their operations act on the sustainable development goals from every angle of operations by making sure their suppliers are also acting responsibly and supporting in their goals rather than hampering them. Part of this goal is to achieve zero waste to landfill by 2020 and ensure materials are purchased from responsible sources, including an auditing program on their top 20 suppliers. And finally, An Post’s overall purpose is to improve the quality of life for people in Ireland now and for generations to come through regenerative action. An Post has developed long-term goals to achieve this, which they call their ‘moon shots.’ These moon shots promise to care for the planet, simplify their operations while caring for their communities, people, and their future.
John Smith, Facilities Manager
An Post is the Irish postal service and is also one of Ireland’s largest companies employing nearly 9,000 people across the country. The services provided by An Post are divided into two main divisions within the organization; Mail and Parcels, which collects, processes, and delivers 2-2.2 million items of mail every day, has a fleet of over 3,400 vehicles and serves over 1.7 million customers every week. Retail, the company's retail division, handles more cash than any other business in Ireland and operates a network of over 1,000 post offices throughout the country.