The Universal Postal Union is finally getting the attention it deserves in the news. Unfortunately, the sudden public awareness of its very existence is related to the announcement by the United States of a scheduled withdrawal from the 144 years old organization. However, resolving this first major international postal crisis could bring numerous positive developments for the levels and quality of global postal and logistics connectivity in support of sustainable international trade exchanges and the digital economy.

The UPU crisis could help dramatically reshaping the way international postal and logistics operates today. Only a stronger union of all stakeholders involved in these international exchanges, from Jack Ma to the postman, can bring back relevance and resilience to this United Nations specialized agency.

But how are Jack Ma and the postman related in this story?

In order to fully seize the reform opportunities brought over by the latest multilateral system crisis, the UPU should quickly reinvent itself. The organization certainly is one of the noblest creations in human history and has been the first to foster global communication and trade through greater postal connectivity as early as of the end of the 19th century.

And yes … Jack Ma has also been one of the first to connect with your postman in order to build up an empire and help any shopper in the world to connect and buy from thousands and thousands of small producers as never before in international trade history!

It is then clear that fragmenting and dividing networks bound together for more than a century hardly constitutes any progress for a country. However, keeping other relevant postal and logistics companies away from this system (just because they were not among what is called the historical operators) is equally wrong and dangerous.  And it is equally wrong for the UPU outsiders to sometimes voluntarily stay away from the international postal family.

We live in a fascinating yet increasingly unstable and volatile time regarding the sustainability of our economies and societies. We all want to save the planet and we should all be part of the solutions. For the UPU, this means integrating all cross-border e-commerce market participants and delivery networks in its policy and operational frameworks so as to achieve much greater green efficiency in the movements of international goods bought online. For the other global logistics networks, this should not be an invitation to be refused. A common zero-emissions package goal! A noble dream shared by all of us! A world without shopping bags!

Nobody would doubt that Jack Ma wants to save the planet, too. He will dedicate a great share of his wealth, built thanks to the millions of postmen and women of this world, for this very noble purpose soon. As a former teacher, he naturally focuses on educational projects. Sometimes an obscure international organization can help deliver more than billions of small packets. Indeed!

For the reader’s “education”, the UPU opening up has been postponed for more than two decades and even more sadly, no lesson has been learnt on the path to this crisis. So far, the organization has kept a number of logistics and delivery players away from its decision-making processes, without even talking about accessing the operational “codes” and “green lights” needed in the management of international postal operations, as if these logistics and transportation companies were not part of our planet. Being inclusive should mean finding the solution to key global challenges, such as climate change, together with the other parties moving international e-commerce and not against them. To be united as never before for a true noble common goal: saving the planet!

But sustainability is not sustainable without development at the first place. And maybe Jack Ma could give us a few advices in my next article. I’ll keep you posted, of course!