Green kilometres

We deliver to every address across the Netherlands and Belgium. But simply delivering is not enough. Our goal is to deliver mail and parcels as efficiently and sustainably as possible. In 2019, for example, 19% of our last-mile parcels and mail delivery in the Benelux was done with zero emissions: on foot or by bike. Elsewhere, we continue to expand our biogas and electric vehicle fleets.

With the majority of our last-mile mail delivery done on foot or by bike, and therefore emission-free, our main challenge is to grow our green credentials in our Parcels business. However, strong e-commerce growth means we sometimes have to invest in options that are not as sustainable as we would like. In 2019 we acquired transport company Mostert Verkerk, increasing our fleet of diesel trucks. We remain dependent on our delivery partners, the vast majority of whom use diesel vehicles. And we rely on manufacturers being able to produce vehicles to the correct specifications at economically viable prices if we are to electrify our fleet. Despite this, we expect a significant scale up in the electrification of our fleet in the coming year.s

Sustainable delivery fleet

In 2019 we continued to expand our own fleet of biogas and electric vehicles, and now operate 846 biogas vans across our operations, 450 e-bikes, 214 e-cargo bikes, 235 electric scooters and 67 electric delivery vans. By year end, around 45% of our own fleet of delivery vans was running on biogas or electricity. In 2019 we decided to replace 300 scooters for cleaner versions, and began a hydrogen vehicle pilot. Vehicles run on hydrogen fuel cells are cleaner and more efficient than their combustion engine equivalents. And by year end, we had expanded our electric delivery fleet in Almere.

As diesel and biogas vans need replacing, we aim to switch to electric vehicles. In order to meet our goal of 60% of our fleet running on electric or renewable fuels, we are looking into opportunities to use bioLNG (bio liquefied natural gas) and biodiesel, as well as biogas . Our investment programme is aimed at meeting the Science Based Targets we have set for 2030. We are also improving the sustainability of our truck fleet, as transport between our sorting centres accounts for a substantial part of our emissions . By the end of 2019, we had 22 trucks running on LNG, which has lower GHG emissions than diesel. We will add at least 25 LNG trucks to our fleet in 2020.

Increasing the sustainability of our delivery partners' fleet is more difficult, as we have less control over when or if they switch from diesel to less polluting options. However, in 2019 we worked with delivery partners to reduce the number of inefficient journeys they make, such as with half-empty vans, as we learned from data insights that 40% of CO2 emissions come from the 20% most-inefficient journeys.

Making The Hague a cleaner, less congested city

A 100% emission-free logistics hub in The Hague. That was the goal of the city of The Hague following a tender in 2019. And in September, PostNL and four other partners were awarded the contract, which they will operate under the name SimplyMile The Hague.


Rianne van der Giessen is Post & Logistics category manager at the government department involved in exploring the initial options. “The government wants to contribute to a more sustainable, social and innovative Netherlands. The agreement with SimplyMile fits well with this strategy.

First, a logistics centre is created on the outskirts of the city, where goods are received, stored and bundled for delivery to the city. Next, the products are combined in one shipment and delivered by PostNL using electric vehicles. By bundling goods from different suppliers, fewer vehicles have to make the journey into the city, and so fewer kilometres are driven. This makes the city centre cleaner, more accessible and safer.”

As well as delivering emission-free, PostNL also picks up clean waste streams that can be reused as raw materials, such as coffee grounds, citrus peels, packaging materials and coffee cups, taking them back to the hub.

Just the beginning

So far, SimplyMile operates in Amsterdam, Groningen and Nijmegen, but it has the potential to grow, Rianne says. “If other cities can follow this example, it will help the Netherlands achieve its climate targets faster.”

Peter van Boven, a logistics contract manager who was involved in the tender process, agrees. “In the tender phase, I was a material expert and assessor. The SimplyMile consortium are providing services that can help with some of the environmental issues we are facing. For example, the new hub can save 3.4 kilograms of particulate matter every year. That is equivalent to a hundred delivery vans that drive around for a year. And they can also save 25,000 kilos of CO2, which is the equivalent of flying 175 times from Amsterdam to Paris.”

City Logistics

One of our objectives is to deliver emission-free in 25 Dutch city centres by 2025, which we view as an important step on our journey to achieving our 2030 science-based targets (SBTs). But how do we make sustainable city logistics a reality? Our answer is innovation and cooperation. We hold discussions with a range of interested parties, including local and national governments and citizens groups, to look into how we can avoid delivering in certain areas, such as schools, at certain times. Or how new neighbourhoods can be built to make parcel delivery as easy as possible.

Since 2017 we have been delivering business goods emission-free in Amsterdam city centre working with a partner that creates hubs for sustainable city distribution. In 2019 we expanded this partnership, opening sustainable delivery hubs in Groningen, The Hague, Maastricht, Utrecht and Nijmegen. The result is electric delivery for a range of business goods across six Dutch cities, and a total fleet of 57 electric vans. Winning the tender to operate city logistics in The Hague was an important milestone, as this tender was backed up by several important parties. We further developed our bike delivery network across the Netherlands, expanding to 12 cities by the end of the year.

Each year we look at the most relevant market developments and change our focus accordingly. Going forward, we will continue to expand the number of cities we deliver to emission free, while working to reduce congestion and transport journeys, and improve the air quality of cities. In 2020 we will begin using Amersfoort as our test marketplace for electric distribution, and will introduce testing of emission-free vans with our delivery partners, in Belgium and across our other networks.