UNFPA - Environmentally friendly male condoms

Tue, 20/06/17

In 2015 the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) procured around 700 million male condoms which have efficiently protected people against HIV aid and, in conjunction with other forms of contraception, have helped to avert 12.3 million unintended pregnancies as well as 34,000 maternal deaths, 220,000 child deaths and 4.4 million abortions (3.9 million of which would have been classified as unsafe abortions).

Yet despite the profound social benefits of UNFPA’s work, male condoms remained UNFPA’s least environmentally sustainable product due the quantities of water, chemicals and raw material required for their production. Condoms also have a large environmental footprint due to the type and amount of resources used for packaging and shipping.

The high environmental impact of condoms, which are one of UNFPA’s high-spend products, led the organization to explore the possibility of procuring a more sustainable product via a four-point strategy with measurable goals to:

  1. Reduce CO2 emissions
  2. Reduce water consumption
  3. Reduce hazardous chemical impacts
  4. Reduce raw material consumption

In implementing the strategy, UNFPA communicated with donors, governments and beneficiaries and engaged suppliers on a collaborative basis, focussing on the long-term benefits of UNFPA’s approach and clearly communicating the what, why and when of the plan.

Suppliers were asked to define an action plan in their tenders in response to UNFPA’s long- and short-term environmental goals. UNFPA then monitored the implementation of suppliers’ action plans and suggested improvements.

Following the implementation of UNFPA’s green procurement strategy for male condoms, all of their ‘long-term agreement’ (LTA) suppliers of the product are now ISO 14000 certified. As a result of this, UNFPA has seen a large reduction in the environmental impact of the product:

  • 7.8 metric tons of CO2 saved per month
  • 11.8m kg of solid waste saved each month
  • 587,598 m3 of water saved each month
  • 995,397 m3 of water treated each month
  • 1,301,554 kWh of electricity saved per month. 

Earlier this year the HLCM’s Procurement Network met, bringing together procurement experts from all over the UN system to share best practice and success stories. UNFPA’s Eric Dupont (Chief, Procurement Services Branch) used the meeting as an opportunity to share UNFPA’s experience in working towards securing the sustainable procurement of male condoms. The full presentation can be found here and more information can be found on UNFPA’s procurement and supply chain page.   

Categories: Energy, Procurement, Waste, Water