United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO)


HQ: Paris, France

Focal Point: M. Rudi SWINNEN (r.swinnen @ unesco.org)


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, sciences, culture, communication and information.

Experience so far

The management of environmental issues has been centralized at the level of the newly created Sector for Administration and Management, as of 2019, this makes it possible to coordinate and communicate better on the different ongoing and upcoming initiatives.
Building on previous initiatives and experiences, building maintenance and renovation, procurement, travel and events continue to take on board environmental issues.

Reduction efforts

UNESCO has been involved in climate neutrality initiatives since 2007, some recent initiatives are:

  • The UNESCO travel policy has made it possible to reduce drastically travel, also promoting online meetings by the continuous improvement of remote conference facilities.
  • Maintenance and renovation projects take on board all possible reduction efforts.
  • As of 2019, the externalized catering services integrate a very large number of criteria that reduce environmental impact have been integrated in the contract.


UNESCO is committed to following the UN strategy on climate neutrality agreed at the 2007 CEB meeting. UNESCO’s first choice was to seek to reduce its emissions wherever possible, rather than purchasing offsets. However, some specific offsets where done in relation to the printing and distribution of publications.
As of 2020, UNESCO will put in place an internal workflow that will enable the global purchasing of carbon credits.

Next steps

UNESCO created an internal structure to coordinate environmental issues, through the Working Group for Environmental Sustainability Management, headed by the Assistant Director-General for Administration and Management.
This formal working group will build on the Greening UNESCO Voluntary Group, and will have as main objective to integrate structural measures regarding environmental issues in policies and guidelines.
UNESCO is exploring in 2019 different measures to imbed structural environmental issues, especially through the implementation of an Environmental Management System. Ongoing evaluation will determine which system or systems will be implemented.


It remains a challenge for UNESCO to combine programmatic issues related to environmental issues with the more administrative aspects.

UNESCO has a relatively wide and diverse network of Field Office and Institutes, the overall objective is to improve environmental awareness and concrete measures, over all these entities, including Headquarters.

UNESCO and sustainability