Universal Postal Union (UPU)


Berne, Switzerland

Focal Point: Lovisa Selander



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 260 employees, emitted the equivalent of 983 tonnes of CO2e in 2016. That is a 10% reduction compared to 2014 when the last inventory was carried out.

The UPU has implemented an ambitious agenda over the last eight 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. UPU has also started offsetting its emissions.


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 exploring the introduction of an Environmental Management System. The UPU is also initiating a process to be able to extend the reporting scope to also include waste and water. 

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: 93% in 2016
  • 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 renewable energy through the procurement of 100% 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.

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

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.


Inventory Management Plans


For 2016, UPU’s inventory of the IB includes :

  • Electricity consumption
  • Building’s heating and AC
  • 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.
Mobile sources:
  • Emissions linked to the official cars of the organization (two)
  • Staffs’ home leaves undertaken by car
Optional emissions:
  • Staff commuting
  • Paper consumption



The 2016 emissions, including emissions from optional sources, will be offset in full. For this purpose, the UPU will acquire offsets amounting to a value of 1337 tCO2eq.

The UPU first offset its emissions in 2014, through the purchase of 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 has resulted in a 30% reduction in paper consumption between 2008 and 2016.


Other environmental measures

Staff involvement

Training has been provided to the IB staff on how to utilize the video conferencing equipment and webcasting tools.

The mission request forms have been redesigned in a way so that the staff member now must:

  • Declare whether videoconferencing 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 integration of a link to the ICAO calculator for air travel emissions.

Recycling stations for coffee capsules have been set up for those staff members that have coffee makers in their offices.


Next steps


In 2015 the UPU became an official champion of the UNFCCC's Climate Neutral Now initiative. In 2017, UPU again delivers on its climate neutral promise, and raises the bar by also initiating processes to monitor and report 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.


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