1 Basis of preparation

1.1 Reporting principles

Long-term value creation requires companies to steer both on the financial and non-financial aspects of business. Certain non-financial aspects contribute directly or indirectly to financial performance, and often have a greater impact over the medium to long term. At PostNL, we believe that an integrated approach towards performance management is key to ensuring the company creates stakeholder value in the long run.

Integrated Reporting as guidance

The Integrated Reporting framework of the International Integrated Reporting Council (IIRC) provides guidance on how companies should communicate about value creation. PostNL used the guiding principles and main content elements of the framework as a basis for this Annual Report. PostNL aims to further develop its corporate reporting communication about long-term value creation.

Sustainability Reporting Standards applied

PostNL prepared the non-financial information in this Annual Report in accordance with the core option of the Sustainability Reporting Standards of the Global Reporting Initiative (GRI). The GRI standards provide relevant and clear requirements for sustainability reporting on economic, social and environmental aspects, while allowing for company-specific aspects to be reported. PostNL decided to report in accordance with the core option of GRI because not all specific disclosures on material GRI topics, which are reporting requirements in the comprehensive option, are material in respect of this Annual Report.

In addition to the GRI requirements, we apply supplemental reporting criteria specific to PostNL for reporting elements which are not covered by GRI. This includes specific reporting definitions as presented in the Appendix 'Glossary and definitions'.

Commitment to UN Global Compact

As a UN Global Compact signatory since 2012, PostNL reports annually through an online submission its progress of implementing the ten UN Global Compact principles. These are related to human rights, labour, environment and anti-corruption. The Appendix 'UN Global Compact reference table' provides an overview of the ten principles and references to the descriptions of progress on those principles in this Annual Report.

OECD guidelines

In relation to our international activities, we endorse the guidelines for multinational enterprises on responsible business conduct publisehd by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD). These non-binding guidelines provide recommendations in a global context consistent with laws and internationally recognised standards.

Contributing to the SDGs

The Sustainable Development Goals are a call to action by the United Nations (UN) to make progress on 17 global challenges in relation to peace and prosperity for people and planet. While the goals are agreed at government level, the call to action also applies to businesses. The SDGs are interrelated and relevant for PostNL, as we make impact on all 17 both with our own operations and/or indirectly through our value chain. We take action on all SDGs and on group level we apply a focused approach. This helps us improve the contribution on those SDGs closest to the business activites of our company.

Based on SDG impact analysis and dialogue with our stakeholders, we identified four main SDGs on which we are focusing. We connected our contribution to these SDGs with the long-term value creation process as described in our value creation model. The most direct impact of our business operations related to SDG8 and SDG13. On SDG9 and SDG12 we look beyond our own operations and pro-actively engage with partners in our value chain to make progress.


We distinguish our impact between doing good (improving our positive impact) and avoiding harm (mitigating negative impact). For each SDG, we mapped the relevant PostNL topics to the related SDG sub goals to provide insight into where our contribution to the SDGs is to do good and where to avoid harm. The SDGs and sub goals (or sub targets as defined by the UN) are described qualitatively. We link the SDGs to our strategy through our key material topics and other relevant topics from our Materiality matrix. We defined performance indicators on all our key material topics.

PostNL SDG 8 Decent work and economic growth

PostNL topic

Link to SDG sub goal (doing good)

Link to SDG sub goal (avoiding harm)

Engaged people

8.5 Sustainable employability

8.8 Provide favourable working conditions

Labour conditions


8.8 Protecting Human Rights

Diversity and inclusion

8.5 Inclusive workforce

8.5 Reduce inequalities

Health and safety


8.8 Prevent accidents and sickness

E-commerce growth

8.1 Contribute to sector growth


Relevance of physical mail

8.2 Achieve higher levels of economic productivity

8.1 Response to market decline


8.2 Higher levels of economic productivity


Digitalisation and data

8.2 Higher levels of economic productivity

8.2 Full employment

PostNL SDG 9 Industry, innovation and infrastructure

PostNL topic

Link to SDG sub goal (doing good)

Link to SDG sub goal (avoiding harm)

Relevance of physical mail

9.1 Accessible, reliable and affordable mail


Sustainable logistics

9.4 Upgrade infrastructure, clean and environmentally sound technologies and processes


PostNL SDG 12 Sustainable production and consumption

PostNL topic

Link to SDG sub goal (doing good)

Link to SDG sub goal (avoiding harm)

Responsible supply chain

12.7 Promote sustainable supply chain

12.7 Avoid non-compliance in procurement practices

Information and interaction

12.6 Integrate sustainability in reporting cycle

12.6 Avoid cherry picking, ensure completeness

Air pollution


12.4 / 12.5 significantly reduce waste to air, soil and water to minimise adverse impacts on humans and environment

Circular economy

12.7 Collaborate with partners to promote a more sustainable supply chain

12.2 Sustainable and efficient use of natural resources

PostNL SDG 13 Climate action

PostNL topic

Link to SDG sub goal (doing good)

Link to SDG sub goal (avoiding harm)

Emission-free delivery
Sustaiinable logistics

13.2 Improve education and awareness about climate change adaptation, mitigation and impact reduction

13.2 Reduce impact on climate change by implementing measures

Energy efficiency


13.2 Reduce impact on climate change by implementing measures

EU directive on non-financial information

As a large listed company in the Netherlands, PostNL has to comply with the EU directive on non-financial information (2014/95/EU). PostNL is required to report about non-financial information in relation to environmental, social and personnel matters, in respect of human rights and combatting bribery and corruption. The mandatory disclosures include:

  • Policies and results thereof ;

  • Main risks and how these are managed ;

  • Performance indicators, to the extent that these elements exist within PostNL.

Greenhouse Gas Protocol

PostNL uses the Greenhouse Gas (GHG) Protocol to report its greenhouse gas emissions. The production of direct and indirect CO2 emissions represents the main GHG of PostNL. We also take other GHG emissions into account, such as CH4 and N2O, and report our climate change impact in CO2 equivalents.

Aligning with Taskforce on Climate related Financial Disclosures (TCFD)

PostNL recognises that climate change events can have an impact on our company and business. For many years, PostNL has included the reduction of GHG emissions in its strategy. Since 2018, we externally disclose the alignment of our climate action approach to TCFD. We addressed all four TCFD reporting recommendation elements throughout this report.

PostNL TCFD reporting recommendation

TCFD reporting recommendation

TCFD element

Link to disclosures

  • Governance

  • Board oversight

  • Role of management

  • Strategy

  • Risks and opportunities

  • Impact of risks and opportunities

  • Resilience of the organisation

  • Risk Management

  • Processes for identifying and assessing risks

  • Processes for managing risks

  • Integration into overall risk management

  • Targets

  • Metrics used to assess

  • GHG Emissions

  • Targets

1.2 Reporting criteria

Explanation of reporting criteria used

The GRI standards provided a structured approach to prepare the non-financial information in this report. This includes universal disclosures and topic-specific disclosures. The universal disclosures consist of three key elements:

  1. Foundations: Defining report content & quality, requirements for preparing a report in accordance with GRI;

  2. General standard disclosures: Contextual information about PostNL, its strategy, governance and reporting practices; and;

  3. Management approach: Information on how PostNL manages its key material topics.

PostNL uses the topic-specific disclosures to describe the company’s impact related to each key material topic, expressed in key performance indicators. In addition, PostNL has also taken into account two important elements in relation to value creation as described by the IIRC:

  • Strategic focus / future orientation: Information about the strategy and ability to create short-, medium- and long-term value and the ability to the use of and effect on the relevant capitals;

  • Connectivity: Show a holistic picture of the combination, interrelatedness and dependencies between the factors that affect the organisation’s ability to create value over time .

The GRI Content Index table in the Appendix 'GRI Content index' provides references to sections with specific information in relation to the GRI requirements in this report.

Description of reporting foundations

We follow the reporting foundations in line with the GRI standards. This includes engagement with stakeholders, putting sustainability data in context, assessing material topics and ensuring information in the report is complete.

Stakeholder engagement

PostNL's main stakeholder groups, including the main topics of engagement, are outlined in the Appendix 'Our operating context' chapter . We interact with a variety of stakeholders on a regular basis to understand their expectations, needs and interests. In addition to our day-to-day engagement, we also engage with them through stakeholder dialogues. Due to the restrictions in relation to the Covid-19 pandemic, we were not able to organise our large stakeholder dialogue event in 2020. During the year, we have seen increased engagement with several stakeholder groups on specific topics in relation to sustainable development. We held a digital round table with suppliers on Human Rights and engaged with customers on climate change mitigation for example. Additionally, we use a materiality assessment to identify those topics that have the greatest influence on stakeholders' decisions, and which require management's strategic attention. In 2020, we used the matrix of prior year as the basis for our update this year.

The following table details the topics of interest and the means of engagement with each stakeholder group.

PostNL Stakeholder engagement

Stakeholder clusters

Stakeholder groups

Most relevant topics

Our engagement

Financial market

  1. Investors

  2. Capital providers

  3. Financial rating agencies

  4. Financial interest groups

  5. Sustainability benchmark agencies

  • Financial performance and position (a, b, c, d)

  • Return on capital investments

  • Short- and long-term value creation

  • ESG (a, b, d, e)

  • Meetings and conference calls with analysts and shareholders

  • Quarterly results and presentations


  1. Business customers

  2. Consumers

  3. Internal customers (intercompany)

  • Quality of services

  • Use of retail locations

  • Network capacity (a, c)

  • Accessible and reliable postal services

  • Convenient sending and receiving options

  • Sustainable delivery options

  • Daily contact about services

  • Bi-annual customer satisfaction survey

  • Customer events and knowledge sessions

  • Annual stakeholder dialogue

Our people

  1. Employees

  2. Trade unions

  3. Works councils

  • Safe and healthy work environment

  • Favourable working conditions

  • Development opportunities

  • Sustainable employability

  • Daily contact about day-to-day work

  • Regular team meetings and round table discussions

  • Regular contact with trade unions and works councils

  • Annual employee engagement surveys

  • Annual survey satisfaction delivery partners at Parcels

  • Annual stakeholder dialogue

Government bodies

  1. Policy makers (international, national and local)

  2. Regulators

  3. Politics

  • Regulatory environment (a,c)

  • Compliance with laws and regulations (b)

  • Market developments (a,c)

  • Round tables and meetings with (local) governments

  • Meetings and formal communication with regulators

  • Annual stakeholder dialogue

Business partners

  1. Operational contract parties (e.g. delivery partners and employment agencies)

  2. Suppliers

  3. Retailers

  4. International postal companies

  5. Pension fund PostNL

  6. Branch organisations

  • Collaboration and tariffs (a, b, c, d, e)

  • Labour market and working conditions (a)

  • Procurement practices (b)

  • Business ethics (a -f)

  • Sector initiatives (f)

  • Ad hoc collaboration through projects

  • Tender processes

  • Periodic contract negotiations and supplier evaluations

  • Ad hoc engagement on ethical topics

  • Annual stakeholder dialogue


  1. Traditional media

  2. Social media

  • Business events

  • Opinions about PostNL

  • Periodic and ad hoc press releases

  • Interviews

  • Ad hoc engagement on social media

Opinion leaders and society

  1. NGOs

  2. Local communities and their representatives

  3. Academic and research institutions

  • Environmental issues (a, b, c)

  • Social and societal issues (a, b, c)

  • Specific topics (e.g. Diversity, data and analytics) (c)

  • Market trends (c)

  • Ad hoc communication about events

  • Collaboration on research projects

  • Annual discussion at shareholders meeting with NGO representatives

  • Annual stakeholder dialogue

Other market players

  1. Traditional market players

  2. New market players

  • Access to networks

  • Policy influence

  • Market developments and events

  • Periodic branch and sector events

  • Planned and ad hoc engagement on access to networks

Understanding the expectations of stakeholders helps PostNL to allocate resources effectively on relevant topics while focusing on adding short-, medium- and long-term value.

Sustainability context

Performance data becomes information only when put into context, which is an important principle we apply to our non-financial reporting. Our performance is influenced by our strategic actions and external circumstances, which could be sector or location specific and based on relevant trends and common goals, such as the SDGs. PostNL provides context to its performance on key material topics in the Business Report of this report.

Materiality assessment

PostNL interacts with its stakeholders on a great variety of relevant but different topics. Selecting the key material topics that drive our long-term value creation is required to bring focus to the Annual Report. This materiality concept is similar to financial reporting and is applied by evaluating the extent to which a topic influences stakeholders' decisions and the significance of PostNL’s impact on its environment, including stakeholders.

Identification of topics

PostNL used the following sources to prepare a long list of topics as a first step in the assessment:

  • Desktop research including:

    • Peer review

    • Market trends

    • Topics evaluated in prior years, through our Annual Reports

    • Interests of benchmarks and guidelines (such as DJSI, CDP, GRI)

    • Media search

  • Long-term impact related to the SDGs

  • Interviews with (senior) management representing certain stakeholder groups with whom they have regular contact.

Selecting key material topics

Based on the long list of topics from different inputs, we clustered topics based on their nature as a first step in the selection process. The prioritisation of topics was performed based on the following process:

  1. Using the results of the extensive materiality assessment of 2019 as a basis;

  2. Updating the wording of topics to report on more specific topics;

  3. Updating the prioritisation of topics in the materiality matrix by the Annual Report project team. This was based on developments within PostNL and its operating environment and the relative importance of different stakeholders;

  4. Discuss the prioritisation of topics through interviews with (senior) management representing relevant stakeholder groups and those responsible for PostNL’s strategic plans;

  5. Validate the materiality matrix with the Executive Committee which includes approval of PostNL's Board of Management.

List of topics and relation to value creation

PostNL mapped its material topics to the five different domains of value creation . These topics are the starting point of our value creation model, which can be found in the 'How we create value' chapter.


The final element of the report foundations relate to completeness of topics, clear boundaries and coverage of the topics over time, to sufficiently reflect the significance of PostNL’s impact.

Through the materiality assessment, PostNL selected, to the best of its knowledge, all relevant topics to include in this report. For each topic included in the non-financial disclosures, PostNL identified the topic boundaries where PostNL’s impacts occur and how PostNL is involved in these impacts.

For all key material topics, the main impact of PostNL’s activities occur in the Benelux, with the exception of environmental impact, where the main impact is outside the Benelux due to air transport of mail and parcels. For all key material topics, PostNL influences the impact by its direct activities. For the key material topics 'Customer experience', 'Emission-free delivery' and 'Sustainable logistics', this influence is also impacted by indirect activities, mainly through activities carried out by others working for PostNL.

1.3 Safeguarding report quality

Quality principles

PostNL applied high quality standards when preparing the non-financial information in this Annual Report. This means that the company ensures that the information this report provides is:

  • Accurate: Precise and with sufficient level of detail

  • Balanced: Reflects both positive and negative aspects of performance

  • Clear: Understandable and accessible for stakeholders

  • Comparable: Consistent and allows for comparability over time

  • Reliable: Auditable

  • Timely: Allow stakeholders to make informed decisions.


PostNL has aligned the scope of reporting non-financial information with financial information. On certain areas the non-financial information scope differs from the financial reporting scope.

Acquisitions, divestments and mergers

We do not include information about joint ventures in the scope of non-financial information. New entities acquired during the reporting year will be included in the first reporting year in which the entity was part of PostNL the entire year. When we divest entities during the year, or when we classify entities as discontinued in our financial reporting, we exclude the non-financial information from the performance data in the report. For material and available information we will report the relevant non-financial performance information separately in this chapter of the report. In case of mergers, we evaluate appropriate scoping on a case-by-case basis.

We have sold 80% of the activities of Nexive on 1 July 2020. As the non-financial information of Nexive until this date was immaterial for our non-financial reporting over 2020, we do no longer report any figures on Nexive in line with the policy described above.

Performance by parties in our value chain

The primary focus in our non-financial reporting is on our own direct operations. For certain information, we extend our reporting to performance of relevant parties in our value chain. Examples include information about fatal accidents where delivery partners of PostNL may be involved in. But also the CO2 emissions and kilometres of our transport partners, both in the Benelux and beyond including truck, air and boat transport. We include all emissions for transport directly arranged by PostNL. This excludes first- and last-mile transport where PostNL is not involved in organising the logistics.

Significant estimates and judgements

PostNL strives to report the non-financial information as accurate and complete as possible. Due to inherent limitations in relation to the uncertainty of measurement equipment and/or availability of actual data, we use estimates, assumptions and judgements in our reporting. Estimates, assumptions and judgements are based on historical experience and other factors, including reasonable expectations under given circumstances.

For certain information, such as accidents, it is difficult to determine reasonable expectations. We partly depend on the reporting discipline of our people for accidents occurred during the year. Despite all measures PostNL implemented, including an open safety culture, the inherent risk of incomplete accident reporting remains.

Significant estimates in emissions reporting

Emissions reporting provides inherent limitations to the accuracy of information. The main reason is the unavailability of data from contracted parties by PostNL about their factual transport kilometres, energy consumption and CO2 emissions. Actual emissions monitoring is not common and therefore conversion factors published by external institutes are used. PostNL used the following significant estimates to report its emissions:

Fuel consumption and kilometres of contracted partners

For the contracted partners we calculate the fuel consumption using kilometres based on planning or actual route information from our operational systems and the average fuel consumption of our own fleet of comparable vehicles. In order to make conservative estimations, we assume all delivery partners use diesel vans in case we have no insight in the vehicles used. In 2019, we started to register information of vehicles used by delivery partners to obtain better insights in the vehicle mix. For the networks we have this mix available, we use it to estimate the fuel consumption per vehicle type. Contrary to our own fleet, we do not know the exact kilometres driven by delivery partners. Therefore,the calculation of these kilometres include estimations.

Kilometres transported by foot or bike to deliver mail in the Netherlands

We use several sources to calculate the amount of kilometres transported to deliver mail by foot or bike. All kilometres can be accurately determined based on actual data, except for three parts of the routes. For so-called sub-routes (between street and mailbox) we calculate the transported kilometres based on the estimated hit-rate percentage of addresses that receive mail. Secondly, the estimated distance between the street and mailbox for every individual address. This is because not every household receives mail on a daily basis. The other estimate we use is related to part of the kilometres driven by e-bikes. Finally, the kilometres in relation to re-loading of mailbags at depots. Mail deliverers may charge these bikes either at home or at a PostNL location. We estimate the kilometres to return the bike to a PostNL location based on share of routes based on an assumed share of applicable routes.

Carbon emissions for international activities

For both road and air transport, PostNL calculates the tonne-kilometres carried based on the distance travelled (between the Netherlands and the hub of the destination) and the actual weight of the mail and parcels transported. For trucks, PostNL uses publicly available route planning information, and for air travel PostNL uses publicly available information (Great Circle Mapper) to calculate the great circle distance between airports. The carbon emissions are calculated based on publicly available emission factors per tonne-kilometre.

Energy consumption, CO2, NOx and PM10 emissions

We use standard publicly available Dutch conversion factors to convert activity data from buildings and vehicles to energy consumption in Terra Joules (TJ).

To calculate CO2 emissions of our total own operations and of subcontracted operations to our delivery partners in the Benelux, we use different external sources in order to estimate the emissions as accurately as possible.

PostNL uses the tank-to-wheel (TTW) conversion factors from activity data to CO2 emissions published by the UK government department for environment, food and rural affairs (DEFRA) as a basis. These factors are based on the annual submission of the GHG inventory for the UK to the United Nations Framework Convention of Climate Change (UNFCCC) which is prepared in accordance with the guidelines of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). The conversion factors of electricity use outside the UK are not provided by DEFRA, therefore PostNL uses the factors published by the International Energy Agency (IEA), an autonomous body in the framework of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD). For the emissions of the discontinued operations in Germany and Italy, we calculate the emissions based on a combined average CO2 per euro revenue of Deutsche Post DHL and Royal Mail using data from their latest published Annual Reports.

The emissions of NOx and PM10 are not directly related to the usage of combustion fuels, but depend mainly on the efficiency of the engines of vehicles. The actual emissions of NOx and PM10 are not measured, therefore we use the maximum allowed emissions for the various European emission standards of vehicles we use (Euro 5 or Euro 6) in grams per kilometre. By using the maximum allowed emissions, PostNL reports the NOx and PM10 emissions conservatively.

Significant judgements

Customer satisfaction, employee engagement, brand reputation and delivery quality are indicators measured on sample basis. PostNL aims to report performance data that provides a representative view of the population from which the sample is taken. To achieve this representativeness, PostNL ensures the sample sizes are statistically sufficient and include all different sub populations to justify our assumption that the result of the measurement represents the view of the entire population for the indicators mentioned.

Note that the numbers presented in the non-financial statements and disclosures thereto may not sum precisely to the totals provided and percentages may not precisely reflect the absolute figures due to rounding.

Data revisions

Developments in business, reporting requirements and methodology improvements influence the way PostNL measures, calculates and reports its performance data. Whenever PostNL updates its reporting scope or reporting methods, we also revise prior years’ data to keep the performance data comparable over time. In 2020, there were no material data revisions.

Reporting processes, systems and controls

PostNL uses formalised processes to record, validate and consolidate information in order to report non-financial performance data. PostNL integrated non-financials in the regular planning and control cycle, including budgeting, target setting and periodic performance monitoring. We collect and report non-financial performance data on selected key performance indicators on a monthly basis. Other indicators are reported biannually or annually depending on the nature of the indicators.

Similar to financial reporting, all reporting entities are responsible for their non-financial performance data and implement actions to steer on results. Although the majority of non-financial information is recorded in central PostNL systems, for several entities and indicators other systems are used. For our consolidation processes, we use an IT system covering both financial and non-financial data. For some performance indicators, such as employee engagement and loyalty, the data is prepared and collected centrally. We strive to report non-financial performance data based on actuals as much as possible. We focus on our key performance indicators. On other performance indicators, we may use extrapolation of results of big entities to determine the performance of smaller entities. This reduces the administrative tasks for smaller entities. We only use this method in cases where the extrapolations are reasonably predictable. In our data coverage table we provide insight into the information reported based on extrapolation.

In order to ensure that the data reported by different entities is consistent and of high quality, PostNL developed company-wide reporting definitions for each performance indicator. In addition, we implemented formal quality controls related to the reported data in the system for both the data owners (first line of defence) and control department (second line of defence). This includes decentral and central analytical procedures to evaluate the accuracy and completeness of reported data, as well as seeking explanations for unexpected trends in performance. PostNL uses its controls in a company-wide financial and non-financial internal control framework.

Forward-looking information

Some statements in this Annual Report are 'forward-looking statements'. By their nature, 'forward-looking statements' involve risk and uncertainty because they relate to and depend on circumstances that occur in the future. These statements involve known and unknown risks, uncertainties and other factors that are beyond PostNL’s control and impossible to predict and may cause actual results to differ materially from any future results expressed or implied. They are based on current expectations, estimates, forecasts, analyses and projections about the industries in which PostNL operates and PostNL management’s beliefs and assumptions about future events.

Undue reliance cannot be placed on these 'forward-looking statements' by readers of this report. These statements only speak as of the date of this Annual Report and are neither predictions nor guarantees of future events or circumstances. PostNL does not undertake any obligation to release publicly any revisions to these statements to reflect events or circumstances after the date of this Annual Report or to reflect the occurrence of unanticipated events, except as may be required under applicable securities laws.


PostNL’s Internal Audit department includes selected non-financial information and related controls in the scope of their work. In addition to the internal controls and internal audit, PostNL engaged EY as our independent external auditor for our financial statements to provide reasonable assurance on the non-financial information in this Annual Report.

The scope of EY’s assurance includes the non-financial information in the following sections of this Annual Report:

  • Introduction

  • Business report (excluding the 'Financial value' and 'Opportunity and risk management' chapters)

  • Non-financial performance statements (excluding Assurance report of the independent auditor).