Our operating context

To understand our performance over 2023, we first describe our position and role in our value chain, the market developments around us, and how we engage with stakeholders, including shareholders. We then introduce the newly defined key material topics we focus on to create long-term value.

Our operating context


PostNL has successfully transformed from a business dominated by mail, to a full-service e-commerce logistics and postal provider for customers and consumers in, to and from the Benelux. We are the designated universal service provider (USP) in the Netherlands and we play an important role in the export and import of mail and parcels.

To understand our performance over 2023, we first describe our position and role in our value chain, our broad range of e-commerce and mail products and services and our stakeholders and key partners. We then introduce key external developments around us and the defined key material topics we focus on to help us create short-, medium-, and long-term value.

Position and role in the value chain

Driven by our purpose to deliver special moments, PostNL plays a key role in the e-commerce business and postal value chain, in, to and from the Benelux and beyond. We use our wide range of physical and digital e-commerce and postal services to connect senders and receivers and deliver distinctive customer and consumer experience. In our value chain we focus on the following key elements:


The first step in the value chain is collecting parcels, mail, and goods from customers. This is vital to our entire logistics process, and requires us to match customer and consumer (end user) expectations by ensuring timely pick-up and processing.


The second step involves sorting and processing parcels and mail, based on destination and specific customer and consumer requirements. An efficient sorting process helps to ensure that we are able to deliver to the right location, on-time.


The final step is delivery, and this is when we are truly able to 'deliver special moments' to customers and consumers. Our focus is on creating a memorable connection between sender and receiver, and we help ensure this by taking into account any special delivery instructions, such as delivering to a pre-agreed location.

The way we carry out these vital steps and operate our business is heavily influenced by our customers, consumers and partners, our competitive position, as well as market and technological developments. For example, Digital Next is helping us deliver distinctive customer experiences and helping us realise our ambition to be the favourite deliverer across society. Digitalisation is helping us transform the way we do business and further develop our core activities to provide our customers with smart e-commerce solutions, improve our competitive position, and further advance customer interaction and experience. One example is the PostNL app, which consumers can use to access a range of information about their deliveries or purchase digital stamps and delivery labels for parcels.

Our position in the value chain

Our broad range of products and services

PostNL provides customers and consumers with a broad range of services, helping ensure they can access their preferred delivery option.

At Parcels, our solutions range from delivering standard parcels to more tailored solutions, such as time-critical delivery. And we offer consumers multiple delivery options, and ensure e-tailers can offer these options using our data-driven and algorithm-based digital services. These activities are supported and complemented by our range of digital capabilities and services to enhance customer experience and streamline operations.

Within logistics, we are broadening and strengthening the digital e-commerce business chain, such as by supplying e-tailers with fulfilment solutions or providing pharmacies and hospitals with medicine delivery directly to patients at home. Through our international subsidiary Spring, we provide global e-commerce solutions to international businesses and connect them to consumers around the world.

Through our mail services, we offer customers a vital physical communication means alongside their digital options, helping them better connect with consumers and their own customers. As the designated universal service provider (USP) in the Netherlands, we have the responsibility to provide accessible and reliable postal services at affordable prices.

We believe that operating a responsible value chain creates value for society

Our stakeholders and key partners

Our company is shaped by the relationship we have with business customers, partners, consumers, suppliers and society. The infographic on the previous page visualises our position in the value chain and our connection with business customers and consumers as we work to fulfil our ambition to be the favourite deliverer in the Benelux.

Our stakeholder groups are our customers, consumers, our people, works council, capital markets, government bodies, business partners, media, opinion leaders, unions, and society and other market players. PostNL engages with each of them in different ways, on different levels, and on different topics to better understand their interests and the way our activities affect their decision-making process. We also work with stakeholders who are partners along the value chain, and who help us provide our services and operate our business effectively. More information about our stakeholder engagement can be found in 'Stakeholder engagement'.

Responsible value chain

We believe that operating a responsible value chain creates value for society while addressing sustainability challenges and ensuring long-term business success. We do this in a number of ways, such as by effectively managing the environmental, social, and economic impact of our goods and services throughout their life cycle, ensuring compliance with due diligence obligations, and addressing sustainability issues to protect human and environmental rights. Across Mail in the Netherlands, last-mile delivery is carried out in almost all cases by a combination of foot and bike, or by e-bike, with mail deliverers making the largest contribution to our emission-free delivery.

Key supply partners

We work with a number of key supply partners in our value chain, with almost 50% of supplier costs coming from transport-related services mostly on delivery partners, followed by information and communication services, hiring and advice, human resources, and properties and facilities. Based on the amount we spend on suppliers, 95% are from the Netherlands and Belgium. We take our value chain (supplier and sub-supplier) relationships into account when including relevant criteria in our procurement practices on sustainability related topics. For example, when selecting our suppliers and setting up our procurement processes, besides price, quality and delivery times, we also take social and environmental aspects into account. Our ambitions in this area for the 2019-2030 period include scope 3 carbon reduction of 10% by 2030, waste reduction (packaging) of 20% by 2025, achieving a 75% share of contracted suppliers with certification or satisfactorily assessed/evaluated on sustainability by 2025, and working with fewer but larger delivery partners. More information on our procurement policy can be found on our website here.

Out-of-home network

We also work to strengthen the e-commerce value chain and improve our competitive position, for example by innovating and collaborating with partners. A key aspect of this is the growth of our out-of-homenetwork, which makes it particularly easy for small- and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) and consumers to collect and return parcels and enables us to efficiently carry out our services. The large retail network we operate in conjunction with partners across the Benelux is an important element in this, as is the ongoing expansion of the number of parcel lockers we operate. The lockers provide consumers with greater freedom to pick up and drop off parcels at a moment that is convenient for them.

Because we believe that an open model offers consumers a smart solution, and that it is more sustainable and economical than each carrier building its own network, in 2023 we announced that other carriers would be able to access our parcel lockers. From March 2024, GLS Netherlands will become the first party to take advantage of this, when consumers will be able to collect packages delivered by PostNL and GLS Netherlands from one of the over 900 PostNL parcel lockers located throughout the Netherlands. Many of the lockers can be found at retail partner locations, such as supermarkets or do-it-yourself (DIY) stores.

Integrator role

The logistics sector is witnessing a rise in the percentage of parcels being sent via shipping platforms, especially in the SME segment, as the e-commerce chain continues to develop. One consequence of this is that customer contact is increasingly moving from the carriers to the platforms, the most successful of which are growing rapidly by offering e-tailers a delivery choice of multiple carriers, lower rates, and good customer experience.

At PostNL, we operate an asset-light network outside the Benelux to service customers internationally, to and from the Benelux. This involves working with partners to digitally link logistics services to ensure that our customers receive exactly the services that meet their specific needs, such as the most sustainable, cheapest or highest quality delivery.

The MyParcel, Shops United and CheapCargo platforms we operate are examples of digital networks, where we offer services from various providers that best meet the needs of our customers. Offering third-party services via our digital platforms enables us to provide a value chain role, or act as an integrator, enabling us to serve a broader range of customer needs and leverage a variety of our own and third-party networks and assets.

Creating value along the chain

At PostNL, we work to create value along our value chain in different ways and for different stakeholders. We use our distinctive experience and innovative business models to help partners develop their business, for example through the use of software to synchronise data flows at a large e-tailer, which enables new orders in their system to be automatically created as a shipment in PostNL.

Industry associations

We work with industry associations, public-private initiatives, trade unions and benchmarking institutes to further the e-commerce and postal sectors. To fully contribute to the strategic focus and the expertise of some of our bigger industry associations, PostNL currently holds seats on the Board of VNO-NCW-MKB Nederland, PostEurop and IPC. We welcome membership of such organisations. For example, as a trade association that represents European public postal operators, PostEurop helps us promote postal services, including our diverse mail and parcel services, and supports us as we navigate an evolving market while promoting our interests to all relevant stakeholders.

PostNL Special Moments Fund and sponsorship

We also strengthen the value chain by looking for ways to create greater connection, contact, and consideration for one another across society. One example is the PostNL Special Moments Fund, which in 2023 continued to develop new social activities and maintain existing ones, such as by rolling out additional parcel lockers at Salvation Army community centres in the Netherlands. The Fund taps into PostNL's unique delivery network, where our mail and parcel deliverers visit every street every day, to support projects that help reduce social differences. During the year we also announced that from 2024 we will be engaging in a sport partnership with Team dsm-firmenich PostNL, a professional cycling team at UCI WorldTeam level. We view cycling as a perfect example of a sport that connects people and gets society moving, and this is a key investment in our brand and ambitions.