Sustainability is a central element of our business success; delivering high quality and affordable services and respecting the communities and the environment in which we operate.
This principle, which is one of our core values, guides our ongoing relationships with our customers, employees and suppliers and reflects our commitment in this regard. Sustainability at An Post is about understanding how environmental, social and economic issues drive business value.
A sustainable business, in our view, is one that has moved beyond compliance and risk mitigation to capture financial benefits from improving the social and environmental impact of business operations. We also believe that sustainable businesses enhance their long-term competitive position by continuously improving their products, processes and business models and, in so doing, minimise resource demands.
Sustainability at An Post is about understanding how environmental, social and economic issues drive business value.
So what did we do during 2008?
During 2008, a current state assessment of our activities was carried out across the workplace, the marketplace and within the communities in which we operate, as well as examining in detail our various impacts on the environment. We also identified current Sustainability activities and their performance and, while we have some way to go, we identified a number of priority areas with significant opportunities, in particular, in relation to energy in buildings, logistics and fleet, products and services, as well as procurement.
A vision and strategy for Sustainability in An Post was developed, which includes guiding principles and key areas of opportunity. We also developed an implementation roadmap to identify key actions which will allow us to implement this strategy.
We aim to put in place a structured and systematic approach to the management of our environmental impacts.
Our top priorities are to implement programmes to reduce fuel and energy consumption across the business.
An Post played, and continues to play, an active role in a major initiative organised by the International Post Corporation involving many other Postal Administrations. This project is designed to standardise the metrics to be used in reporting our carbon emissions as part of a sectoral report to be published, later this year, during the Climate Change Conference in Rotterdam. Our efforts to minimise our impact on the environment include the optimisation of materials consumption, reducing the amount of business travel through management control and the installation of video conferencing at particular locations across the country. We commenced a particularly successful waste management and recycling initiative in our headquarters. This involved the streaming of waste into paper, recyclables including plastic and general waste, the bailing of cardboard and the shipping of recyclables to Environment Protection Agency-approved outlets. This approach is now operational at 13 sites around the country.
Logistics and fleet
We are currently addressing our entire fleet management system across the country; we expect this initiative to deliver significant benefits in terms of management information, fuel efficiency, improved and more productive vehicle maintenance programmes as well as fleet utilisation.
We have also, as part of our procurement strategy, included fuel and CO2 emission ratings in vehicle assessment. We are planning to commence a further programme of driver training; this project will by its nature deliver greater driver awareness and fuel efficiency. Other fleet initiatives include telematics, route optimisation and route scheduling.
Energy in buildings
We achieved both energy and cost efficiencies in our Delivery Service Unit network by the active management of power and utilities and by the installation of motion and daylight sensors.
A single supplier of central heating oil was appointed during 2008; this will allow better management of energy usage. The building programme associated with our Quality of Service improvement programme incorporated significant energy saving initiatives including upgrades to heating, lighting and ventilation systems, and the installation of insulation and double glazing.
Another small example of this approach involved the installation of a new generation of hand dryers in a number of Company sites. These dryers have highly efficient hygienic filters. They also have quicker drying times, use 83% less energy than conventional models and eliminate the need for waste paper towel streams and the laundering of hand towels.
A pilot water management system commenced and is being implemented at a number of Company sites in Dublin. Initial results are very satisfactory. In one Dublin Delivery Service Unit, the new initiative has produced a saving of 15,000 litres of water per week.
Our marketplace may present opportunities for An Post to both increase revenues and to further reinforce our already strong brand presence.
New Products and Services
Hybrid Mail, document management, low carbon services, take back services and recycled and recyclable products are being actively investigated.We will always face the issue that, while customers may wish us to provide products and services which reduce our environmental impact, they may not necessarily be willing to pay any associated premiums.
We have made much progress in this area and continue to do so. For all tenders over €50,000, the tenderer is now required to provide information on their approach to Sustainability and they are evaluated accordingly. During the coming year, we will be identifying key product service categories and suppliers and assessing what areas we can improve on to ensure sustainable procurement is embedded into this area of our business. Two key drivers of this initiative are those of mitigating supply chain risks and realising more immediate financial benefits across the organisation.
There are few organisations which have the same level of community reach as An Post. Everyday in every townland, village, town and city, our vehicles and staff are to be seen carrying out their duties. The Universal Service Obligation, of which An Post is the designated provider, requires that we deliver to all premises five days per week and we see this as one of our core competencies. This activity brings with it many accounts of how our Postmen and Postwomen go beyond their direct responsibilities and improve the quality of life for so many.
Our Post Office Network provides services in areas which have seen population decline and more specifically, significant changes in shopping and business behaviours and this has led to the closure of many adjoining businesses. However, we remain committed to maintaining an economically viable network and we recently announced our intention to invest significantly in completing the automation of all post office outlets in the context of the broader strategy for the development of this unique network.
It is also a fact that many An Post employees play a significant role in their own local communities, a fact reinforced when approximately 60 volunteered to become tutors when the Company announced its Literacy Awareness Campaign. This initiative has so far seen approximately 10,000 individuals respond to our national advertising campaign in their efforts to access further learning.
We will continue to monitor the perceptions and expectations of our Stakeholders and implement changes, as appropriate, to the way in which we service them.
The Company has invested a significant amount in the continuing professional development of its staff. A results focused leadership development programme, which commenced during 2008, was designed specifically to equip senior and middle management with the tools necessary to successfully lead the organisation into the fully competitive and liberalised market from 2011. Equally, investment has continued under appropriate training and development programmes for front line management, administration and operations staff.
Attendance at work and safety and environment are key areas of focus and will remain so for the future. As reported earlier, we have reduced both short and long-term absence during the year as a result of increased cost focus and staff co-operation.
The Disability Act, 2005 places a duty on public organisations to ensure that their public buildings and services are, as far as is practicable, accessible to people with disabilities. In particular, those areas of buildings to which the public has access are to be made accessible not later than 2015. Overall, An Post is on target to meet its commitments with regard to access under the Act. The majority of post offices are, however, operated on a contract basis by postmasters and postmistresses appointed by An Post and the Company is not in a position to oblige them to alter their premises. However, the Company has contacted them all; informed them of the requirements of the Disability Act; and encouraged them to address any access issues that may exist on their premises. All new contracts require the postmaster or postmistress to provide accessible premises. In addition, hearing induction loops to assist the hard of hearing were installed at 47 post offices in 2008. This programme will be extended in 2009.
We also determined that Sustainability can be used to provide added leverage to the Company’s transformation agenda and to support culture change.
We believe that this can happen by enhancing An Post’s competitive position in preparation for liberalisation, by reducing operating costs, by driving incremental revenues through stronger customer and other stakeholder relationships and by motivating employees.
Such an approach will enable us to improve our already significant and positive impact on Irish society and the environment. In order to realise these benefits, An Post has decided to implement an integrated Sustainability model, aligned to core business and operations. The Company has begun the process of putting in place the systems and processes required to accurately report on our performance in relation to the four key areas of environment, marketplace, community and workplace, and we look forward to publishing this data in the years to come.