Universal Postal Union (UPU)


Berne, Switzerland

Focal Point: Olivier Boussard


Key figures


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 International Bureau (Berne, Switzerland), the Union's secretariat, and its 252 employees, emitted the equivalent of 1,091 tonnes of CO2e in 2014.

A promise made, and a promise kept: 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 with 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. The renovation work alone netted energy savings of 42%, as well as a 48% reduction in heating oil consumption. In addition, the International Bureau continues to encourage its staff to use more environmentally friendly modes of transport to come to work.

Efforts to further reduce the International Bureau's environmental footprint will continue.


Reduction efforts


UPU’s first emission-reduction strategy enabled the organization to reduce its emissions. With a view to take responsibility for its all its impacts, the UPU is currently developing an Environmental Management System, to detail the necessary investments and cost savings for each initiatives. In addition to carbon emissions, the EMS, will focus on waste and water management, staff involvement and communication as well as staff mobility.

Since the inception of the UPU “Climate neutral HQ” strategy, 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: 94% in 2014
  • For short journeys with good transportation links, staff are asked to opt for travelling by train. As an incentive to their choosing this option, staff may travel in first class coaches, and the UPU offers to pay for a half-fare card for them to travel on public transport in Switzerland, including on private journeys.
  • 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 greener electricity through the procurement of hydropower electricity with green certificate.
  • Sustainable procurement is an increasing priority: the UPU has already benefited from UNEP expertise by jointly organizing a three-day training session -  Responsible procurement within the United Nations: buying for a better world.
  • Staff’s awareness on environmental good practices is regularly raised through internal communication, and the "UNite to combat climate change" logo appeared on 5 million postal stamps in circulation around the world between 2009 and 2013.

Reduction achievements


Since 2009, the Universal Postal Union has been active in mainstreaming environmental sustainability in its operations.

Recognizing that its activities as secretariat have an impact on the environment, it regularly measures and reduces its carbon footprint.

For instance, the replacement of the facade of the headquarters building led to a reduction of 45% in energy consumption and approximately 110’000CHF in annual savings.

Other initiatives such as the replacement of the lightening system have been implemented and assessed. Whenever possible, the UPU follows the “Factor four” rule to decide upon which initiative to develop and finance: those that halve the resources needed and double the financial savings.



For 2014 UPU’s inventory includes :

  • Buildings:

Electricity consumption
Building’s heating and AC

  • Air:

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

  • Public transport:

Train journeys undertaken by staff, consultants, meetings’ participants and grant-holders in Switzerland and abroad

  • Mobile sources:

Emissions linked to the official cars of the organization (two)
Staffs’ home leaves undertaken by car

  • Optional emissions:

Staff commuting
Paper consumption




In response to the United Nations Secretary General’s call to move the United Nations towards a greener future, the Universal Postal Union (UPU) secretariat achieved climate neutrality for 2014.

Following the signature of an agreement with the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) the UPU procured enough Certified Emissions Reductions (CERs) from the Adaptation Fund, to offset unavoidable emissions of its secretariat in 2014.

As proposed by the Senior Officials Meeting of the Environment Management Group in September 2015, the UPU will further analyze the financing mechanisms at its disposal to offset for unavoidable emissions on an annual basis.


Next steps


In 2015 the UPU became an official champion of the UNFCCC's Climate Neutral Now initiative.

In leading by example through the implementation of greener approaches to managing our activities, resources and facilities, the UPU will also continue to prove that sound environmental management makes business sense. It goes without saying that the UPU will continue its own environmental endeavours and promote those of the entire UN system.

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

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