United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO)


HQ: Paris, France

Focal Point: Sachin Bhatt


Key figures: Greenhouse gas emissions 


Key figures: Waste

Key figures: water

** Please note that the following information was last updated November 2016 **



As a specialized agency of the United Nations, UNESCO contributes to the building of peace, the eradication of poverty, sustainable development and intercultural dialogue through education, the sciences, culture, communication and information.

Experience so far

Building renovations have led to savings in energy usage in heating and ventilation, and travel has been reduced, with greater use of video and teleconference facilities. Administrative and financial rules have been changed to reduce higher emissions-generating business class air travel and to prioritize train travel where appropriate. Small carbon gain policies like paper recycling and own cup usage in canteens are very visible and have high symbolic value for staff.

Reduction efforts

UNESCO has been involved in Climate Neutrality initiatives since 2007, and has also undertaken two Green Audits – in December 2007 on 2006 greenhouse gas emissions for HQ and in December 2008 to assess compliance with ISO 14001 requirement on emissions at HQ. Concrete actions implemented include:

  • Building renovations leading to environmental improvements (more efficient heating and ventilation systems in particular).
  • At the end of 2008 a paper recycling system was introduced in offices at HQ.
  • Reductions in staff restaurant prices when bringing personal cups (reducing waste on plastic cups) were agreed after negotiations between the Greening UNESCO Voluntary Group and the restaurant/cafeteria operatIons.
  • After receiving formal training in preparing vegetarian cuisine, the UNESCO restaurant/cafeteria chefs are now serving vegetarian dishes that are healthy, and whenever possible organic. They are also serving only fair trade coffee.
  • Travel costs have been reduced, with greater use of videoconference and teleconference facilities and a more rigorous approach to travel by multiple members of staff to the same events. Train travel for short distances is being prioritized and business class air travel reduced, and travel policy and administrative rules are being revised accordingly.
  • Multi‐functional devices which can print, scan, photocopy and fax as required being currently installed.They are more efficient than desk top devices (printers and scanners) on a number of fronts including energy, paper / toner use, time and cost. The new policy starts from the analysis that – previously – only 20 % of the print capacity was used, house wide. The new MFD’s can now be shared by different services and sectors, optimizing their use. A new software will manage the MFD’s from a software point of view observing the “print behavior” of the users. The results of this analysis will enable the establishment of some basic print rules that will help UNESCO HQs print more effectively and with a reduced ecological impact.
  • Within the new Desktop Printer policy, standalone printers will no longer be supported unless there are special circumstances. This means that ink cartridges for standalone printers cannot be purchased. Used toner and other components will be centrally recycled.


UNESCO is committed to following the UN strategy on climate neutrality agreed at the 2007 CEB Meeting. UNESCO’s first choice is to seek to reduce its emissions wherever possible rather than simply buying offsets. As some travel is inevitable and necessary to fulfill UNESCO’s mission, the purchase of carbon credits will, subject to Governing Bodies/Member States’ approval, be considered as a last resort once all other means of reducing emissions have been tried - including efforts to earn carbon credits rather than buy them. Any carbon credits purchased on the carbon trading market would meet Clean Development Mechanism standards. No specific purchases of carbon credits are yet planned, but costs simulations have been done for any eventual financial and operational planning.

Next steps

Based on the results of the Greenhouse Gas Emissions Inventories, UNESCO was able to identify where emissions reductions need to be made - primarily from more intelligent travel and greater use of videoconferencing, although more efficient operation of buildings and facilities, particularly in the field, will play a part. An emissions reduction target of 5% had been set, to be achieved in a variety of ways in the following main areas:

  • Travel
  • Energy usage
  • Operational processes
  • Organizational culture

Mechanisms for purchasing Clean Development Mechanism (CDM) carbon credits to cancel out UNESCO’s greenhouse gas emissions will be studied in parallel with the exploration of all possibilities for UNESCO to earn rather than purchase carbon credits.

UNESCO’s Emissions Reduction Strategy is based on developing a comprehensive Climate Neutral Policy including the implementation from 2012 of a Sustainability Management System (SMS), in line with current UN System proposals and as called for in the Green Audit. The SMS will entail a number of actions, including (i) continued updating of travel policies in the Administrative Manual and Staff Rules to reflect new environmental realities and international climate management concerns, (ii) green procurement strategies and (iii) making staff more aware of how to reduce emissions themselves. The SMS will be monitored by the UNESCO Sustainability Management Focal Point with the support of contact persons in all organizational units at and away from HQ.

The Greening UNESCO Voluntary Group, a forum for inter-sectoral discussion and organization-wide coordination of ‘green’ activities set up by interested and concerned staff, will continue working to make staff aware of how their personal actions and decisions can have a positive impact on UNESCO’s carbon footprint.

UNESCO and sustainability