Universal Postal Union (UPU)


Berne, Switzerland

Focal Point: Lovisa Selander

Email: lovisa.selander [at] upu.int


Key figures: Greenhouse Gas Emissions


Key Figures: Waste


Key Figures: Water


Director General's Message


“As requested by the Universal Postal Union member countries, I am determined to make the UPU secretariat, the International Bureau, a showcase for sustainable development for the sector it represents and among the United Nations agencies. Recognizing that our activities as secretariat have an impact on the environment, we will continue our efforts to achieve climate neutrality by regularly measuring and reducing our carbon footprint. In leading by example through the implementation of greener approaches to managing our activities, resources and facilities, we will also prove that sound environmental management makes business sense."

Bishar A. Hussein, Director General, UPU



Established in 1874, the Universal Postal Union is the primary forum for cooperation between governments, Posts and other stakeholders of the worldwide postal sector. With its 192 member countries, the UPU fulfils an advisory, mediating and liaison role, and provides technical assistance where needed. It sets the rules for international mail exchanges and makes recommendations to stimulate growth in mail, parcel and financial services volumes and improve quality of service for customers. Some 5 million postal employees and 660,000 postal offices make the postal network the largest physical distribution network in the world, delivering an estimated 350 billion letter-post items and over 6 billion parcels annually. 

The UPU has been part of the United Nations family since 1948, and as such participates in policies and actions to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals. It provides concrete responses, out in the field, which have a direct impact on the life of populations, on business activities and on the economy of its member countries.

The International Bureau – the UPU’s headquarters – provides logistical and technical support to the UPU’s bodies. It serves as an office of liaison, information and consultation, and promotes technical cooperation among Union members.

Experience so far


The UPU has implemented an ambitious agenda over the last ten years to reduce the emissions from the International Bureau. During the 2009 UN Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen, the UPU Director General pledged to reduce the International Bureau's carbon emissions by 20% by 2012 compared to 2008 levels. This was in response to the UN Secretary General's call for UN agencies, funds and programmes to lead by example by adopting greener approaches to managing their activities, resources and facilities.

The International Bureau took several steps to deliver on its promise, including renovating its building facade, cutting down on staff travel, investing in more energy-efficient IT equipment, and reducing paper consumption. As a result, the 20% reduction target was met already in 2011.

Efforts to further reduce the International Bureau's environmental footprint has since continued, as outlined under “reduction efforts” below. The UPU has also started offsetting its emissions.

EMS and Reduction efforts


The vast majority of UPU’s reduction efforts have been focused on the organization’s main sources of emissions: buildings and travels.

  • The vast majority of air travel by UPU staff is in economy class.
  • For short journeys with good connections, staff are encouraged to opt for travelling by train.
  • The UPU is fostering the use of e-communication technologies with the installation of videoconferencing rooms and the provision of teleconference and webcast tools.
  • The renovation of the façade, complying with the Swiss Minergie Label, helped decrease energy emissions by 45%.
  • The organization has opted for renewable energy through the procurement of 100% hydropower electricity with green certificate.
  • Staff awareness on environmental good practices is regularly raised through internal communication.

Other initiatives such as the replacement of the lighting system have been implemented and assessed.

Inventory Management Plans


For 2018, UPU’s inventory includes :

Greenhouse gas emissions


  • Electricity consumption
  • Heating and cooling

Air travel:

  • Air travels for missions, home leave, recruitments and repatriation of all staff.
  • Air travels for consultants, meetings’ participants and grant-holders.

Public transport:

  • Train journeys undertaken by staff, meetings’ participants and grant-holders in Switzerland and abroad.
  • Train journeys undertaken by staff to get to and from the airport when on missions.

Car travel:

  • Taxi trips to and from the airport taken by staff, meetings’ participants and grant-holders to and from the airport during missions.

Mobile sources:

  • Emissions linked to the organisation’s two official cars





The UPU is a climate neutral organisation. The greenhouse gas emissions resulting from the UPU International Bureau in 2018 have been offset in full through the purchase of 1,021 Certified Emissions Reductions (CERs) from the Adaptation Fund under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC).

Waste management


The UPU has routines in place at the IB to limit and to monitor waste. Particular emphasis has been put on addressing paper use. This resulted in a 30% reduction in paper consumption between 2008 and 2016. In 2019, a new initiative was started to look at further reducing paper use at the International Bureau.

The UPU reported on waste for the first time during the 2017 Greening the Blue Inventory. The UPU International Bureau is now looking into further improvements to its waste management, including the introduction of more recycling stations for staff.

Water Management


The UPU reported on water as part of the Greening the Blue Inventory for the first time in 2018. The results will now be evaluated to assess the potential for improving our water management.

Other environmental measures


Training has been provided to the IB staff on how to utilize video conferencing equipment and webcasting tools. In order to further raise awareness of the climate impact of air travels, staff applying for a mission/business travel, must:

  • Declare whether video conferencing was considered for the meeting requested and, if it was not adopted, explain why.
  • Estimate and state the CO2 emissions for the mission requested. This is done through the the ICAO calculator for air travel emissions.

Next steps


In 2018, UPU again delivers on its climate neutral promise, and raises the bar by also monitoring and reporting on waste and water.

In addition, the UPU supports the worldwide postal sector in their sustainability efforts. For this purpose, the UPU has developed its own online carbon accounting tool tailored to the postal sector, which is made available – including support for users – to all its member countries.

Find out more about UPU's efforts to address climate change in English, and French.

UPU case studies