Fresh from claiming the gong for Employee Engagement & Behaviour Change at the edie Sustainability Leader awards, David Waterston, Carbon Programmes Manager at Royal Mail shares his insights and top tips for delivering success in sustainability.


At Royal Mail, good environmental management supports our aim to be responsible and a more cost-efficient and competitive business. The drive for sustainability runs through everything we do, from shaping our focus, to outlining our targets, to inspiring our staff. Here are some of the ways we have brought this to life to deliver success:

Focusing on Sustainability: Our structure and targets

Sustainability at the heart of decision-making

We have an organisation-wide Environmental Governance Board which champions our Environmental Agenda and makes sure it goes all the way to the top - meaning that environmental impacts (and opportunities) are considered when Senior Management are making strategic decisions.

Empowered champions

Our environmental champions are empowered by the National Environmental Focus Group (NEFG), who discuss their local initiatives and bring success to scale by identifying those that can be expanded nationally.

Targeted waste reductions

We do not shy away from bold targets. In addition to a Carbon Reduction Target of 20% by 2020, we have set our sights on reducing the amount of waste sent to landfill. Our focus was sharpened by increasing costs associated with waste to landfill as well as a desire to operate more sustainably and improve our performance within the waste hierarchy.

Implementing sustainability: Our waste-related initiatives

National Recycling Programme

Our Contracts Manager, working with our previous waste contractor, identified more waste streams that could be recycled. Engagement with the National Environmental Focus Group improved communication and local ‘buy-in’ of the initiative, resulting in 84.6% being diverted from landfill.

Rubber bands, not rubbish

A local review of waste data by environmental champions led to ‘quick wins’ on the reuse and redistribution of rubber bands within the mail centre and local delivery offices in the North Region. The result was a significant reduction in new orders for rubber bands being placed.

Certifiable success

As a result of improved waste performance, we have successfully retained the Carbon Trust Waste Reduction Certificate.

Communicating sustainability: Top tips for success:

Know your audience, tailor your message

Identifying key stakeholders (customers, shareholders and suppliers) and their main environmental concerns will help prioritise your activities – and could add weight to business cases, helping to align sustainability to the core business strategy and cost savings.

Inspire colleagues to drive change

Act as a ‘business partner’ utilising others within the business to help drive change; do you need to empower local sites or teams through a Champion Network? Can you regularly engage with senior management to ensure decisions have a positive impact upon the environment?

Evidence your success

Provide meaningful data to support decision making, and evidence your success. Performance data at a local level helps strengthen and inspire any local champion network, maintaining motivation as they see progress from their own improvements, rather than a consolidated top-level number.

What’s next for Royal Mail?

• We’re very excited about our next sustainability phase, which will create a single integrated Safety, Health & Environment Management System (uniting two previously separate systems).

• We’re looking at expanding our Carbon Reduction Targets to include efficiency measures (volumetrics) to better represent our business operations.

• We’re establishing a close working relationship with a new Waste Service Provider which will offer new opportunities to help drive performance and efficiency.


We have found that a key to delivering success is learning from mistakes – that’s often how the best route is found. Continual improvement is a step-by-step process which involves time to reflect on things that went well and adjust things that didn’t.

We’re looking forward to our next steps on this journey; learning more, inspiring staff to engage with our work and having a responsible, sustainable relationship with our environment.