Australia Post’s Head of Environmental Sustainability talks about its initiatives to tackle its waste streams while helping the community and its customers achieve their environmental goals.
Securing the Outstanding Achievement in Packaging Stewardship prize at the 2016 Australian Packaging Covenant Awards, along with winning the Shipping and Transport category, was a reflection of the effort Australia Post has dedicated to its sustainability goals.
This accolade follows the organisation winning the Banksia Large Business Sustainability Leadership Award in 2015.
“Receiving the awards gives you a sense that you’re on the right track. Being recognised by your peers and across the industry provides validation that our approach is being impactful.”
So says Andrew Sellick, who is Head of Environmental Sustainability at Australia Post. He has over 15 years’ experience helping companies deliver “more good” for the environment, having previously been Group Manager – Environment at Qantas.
Andrew joined Australia Post in late 2012 as his predecessor was retiring. He says the role appealed to him as it offered the opportunity to have an impact.
“Most of us environmental sustainability professionals want to work for organisations that have the ability and the desire to do things better,” says Andrew. “Australia Post is a fantastic place to do that.”
He was encouraged to rethink and reshape Australia Post’s approach to the environment. This led to he and his team developing Environmental Sustainability Framework (ESF) and underpinning strategy, which was endorsed by the executive leadership team in October 2013.
The strategy outlines objectives linked to increased recycling and reuse, and Andrew oversaw the introduction of several initiatives that have seen Australia Post cut the waste it sent to landfill by 17 per cent in 2015/16. The current plan will see it consolidate that progress in 2016 with a target to recycle, reuse and responsibly divert 100,000 tonnes of material by 2020.
Andrew says the drivers behind Australia Post’s waste reduction programs and the overall strategy were to demonstrate value of natural resources.
“Australia Post is an extremely well-trusted brand and we take our potential impact on the environment very seriously, with a view to managing and minimising that as best as possible,” Andrew says.
The company’s operations revolve around its fleet and buildings, so carbon is its most material impact on the environment. The strategy first focused on cutting the emissions it generates, with a commitment to reducing those by 25 per cent by 2020.
Waste is its second biggest environmental impact. As a postal and logistics business, it has waste resulting from customer interaction, such as lodging parcels in bulk by pallet, as well as operational waste streams, such as tyres, e-waste from offices, plastic and paper.
“We now look to optimise recycling or resource recovery from those waste streams as much as possible,” states Andrew.
To that end, Australia Post has introduced a pallet recycling program, gained accreditation with Tyre Stewardship Australia, and worked with its IT providers and managed services to ensure its e-waste is appropriately managed.
Australia Post’s success on recycling and across its sustainability activities is underpinned by its work with suppliers.
“First, it’s sharing understanding about the impacts on our supply chain and then how we work with them more closely to deal with waste and product stewardship issues,” explains Andrew.
As a result, it has developed a take- back program for its grey mail trays, which are delivered to and picked up from workplaces across Australia. This enables them to be recycled and the design was changed recently to improve their recyclability.
It also has introduced a free mailing satchel collection program with Terracycle, providing a recycling solution for a product that cannot be dealt with by most councils’ kerbside collection services.
“They are fantastic at their job, at keeping letters and parcels dry, clean, safe and secure,” says Andrew. “We’re looking for the most sustainable solution for the material, but while we’re doing that, we’ve put in place a free recycling program.”
Australia Post customers simply register on the Terracycle website and once they have collected enough prepaid standard and padded mailing satchels, they can request a pre-paid shipping label.
In another sustainability move, Australia Post recently introduced the Australian Recycling Label (ARL) on its packaging. A Planet Ark initiative, the labelling helps consumers better understand what to do with various parts of packaging that they might have, which ideally will mean that more things go into recycling with less contamination.
“By having the ARL on all our packaging ranges, it promotes to customers that we provide a free returns program to recycle our plastic satchels,” says Andrew.
To continue reading see page 28 of Issue 9.