FAO walks the talk - Corporate Environmental Responsibility

Wed, 12/07/17

On July 6th, at the FAO Conference in Rome, FAO (Food and Agriculture Organization of the UN) launched its new Corporate Environmental Responsibility Strategy 2017-2020, which analyses the organization’s current environmental performance and identifies the key steps required to reduce its ecological footprint. The Strategy complements the FAO Strategy on Climate Change dedicated to climate action in the agricultural sector. 


Having taken part in reporting for the Moving Towards a Climate Neutral UN initiative since 2008 - one year after it was launched by Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon - the FAO has continuously demonstrated its commitment to internal sustainability. So far at FAO HQ, they have:

  • Reduced water consumption by 44%, resulting in a 7% reduction of associated costs since 2008;
  • Reduced electricity consumption by 20%, resulting in a 24% reduction of associated costs since 2012 (see lighting upgrade and solar photovoltaic projects);
  • Reduced waste production by 13% (in 2016 compared to 2015) and they now recycle over 80% of their waste;
  • Sustainably procured over 15% of goods and services (in 2016); 
  • Become the first UN organization to develop an Environmental Management System (EMS), although not ISO 14001 certified;
  • Released a Corporate Environmental Responsibility Policy to coincde with World Environment Day 2016.

More generally across the organization, there’s been a cumulative reduction of over 10,000,000kg of CO2 (and USD 1 million) since 2008, and FAO has offset its 2014 and 2015 emissions, making it carbon neutral for the past two years (reporting on 2016 emissions has yet to be conducted).

FAO’s new Corporate Environmental Responsibility Strategy for 2017-2020 focuses now on key areas of action that can help the organization reduce the environmental impacts of its functional operations (i.e. facilities management, official travel and procurement) by 2020. With over 500 global locations and more than 10,000 personnel, it is understandable that the organization requires a significant amount of natural resources in order to conduct its operations. However, FAO wants to ensure that any negative environmental impacts that result from its activities are minimized. Therefore, in line with several SDGs, FAO has committed to:

  • Continue monitoring the environmental impacts of its facilities and operations (i.e. greenhouse gas emissions, waste production and water usage) through annual inventory exercises;
  • Reduce CO2e emissions by 5.4% (using 2015 as baseline) at both HQ and Decentralized Offices (DOs) through:
    • Energy-use reduction measures (e.g. window replacements, lighting upgrades, etc.)
    • Transition from fossil fuels to renewables (e.g. solar PV installation, electric cars, etc.);
  • Continue to offset any remaining emissions that cannot be reduced;
  • Ensure sustainable water use;
  • Support the circular economy with more sustainable procurement (at least 20% of tenders) and better waste management practices; and
  • Implement EMSs for key DOs.

“Drafting this Strategy has been together a difficult but rewarding process," said Tina Mittendorf, FAO Environmental Sustainability Management Focal Point. "We assessed our work to date and found areas in which we have been traditionally active but required renewed and strengthened commitment (e.g. energy efficiency in DOs). In line with the Greening the Blue initiative, we have also explored new work streams (e.g. waste & water management and sustainable procurement) that have to be included in our work plans in a more institutional and systematic fashion. The Strategy has given us perspective and a vision of ambitious but realistic targets that can help FAO reduce its internal environmental impact in the years to come.”

“It is absolutely necessary to acknowledge the great team work between the FAO Climate, Biodiversity, Land and Water Department and the Infrastructure and Facilities Unit; the two groups have worked hard to make a stronger connection between FAO technical and administrative environmental sustainability. I must also give particular acknowledgement to Mitchell Hall and Ilary Ranalli for all of the hard work they put in to help FAO reach this great milestone.”

FAO expects that with this strategy, it will continue to be a leader within the UN system and among other global entities, by proactively working to minimize its negative environmental impacts with the support of key internal (personnel) and external (member countries) stakeholders.

Tina finished by saying, “Today FAO is an even more credible partner in the fight against climate change as it’s leading by example! We are now counting on all our colleagues in Rome and DOs to help us on this journey.”

For more information on the FAO’s work on Corporate Environmental Responsibility, please visit the FAO website.


Categories: Energy, Leadership, Offsets, Procurement, Waste, Water