United Nations Office at Nairobi (UNON)


HQ: Nairobi, Kenya

Focal Point: Talia Owen-Frigyik


Key figures: Greenhouse gas emissions


Key Figures: Waste


Director General's Message

“Climate change continues to be one of the most significant threats to current and future generations.  UNON recognizes the need to help address this threat through environmentally sustainable operations, which will be achieved through exploring and expanding the use of greener sources of power, as well as improved and more efficient energy solutions.”

Sahle-Work Zewde, Director-General, UNON




UNON was established in 1996 as the common administrative and programme support office for the two United Nations (UN) programmes headquartered in Nairobi, namely the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) and the United Nations Human Settlement Programme (UN-HABITAT). In addition UNON manages the UN complex in Nairobi, providing office services to over 50 UN agencies based in the complex. Various common services are provided to most offices of the UN funds, programmes and agencies located in Kenya.


Reduction efforts


Renewable energy: solar panels to power New Office Facility

  • The New Office Facility (NOF) was completed at the end of 2010 and was occupied by staff of both UNEP and UN-HABITAT by March 2011. During the balance of 2011 an additional 800 staff from 16 UN agencies moved to the UNON complex. The NOF added an additional 20,000 sqm of built up area to the UNON complex, with a capacity for 1,200 staff (workstations). Solar panels were installed on the roof of the NOF and were commissioned in March 2011, with a target of producing 750,000 KWH of solar generated energy per annum in order to achieve an energy neutral (produce as much energy as consumed) building. As of the end of 2011, the solar panels had produced 504,060 KWH of energy.
  • The NOF benefits from a north and south orientation to minimize solar overheating of offices, eliminating or reducing the need for mechanized ventilation.
  • The building is passively and naturally ventilated through cross ventilation and by the chimney effect of warm air rising through the landscaped atrium, which in turn draws through cooler external air from offices.
  • Light wells are provided throughout the building blocks. The central atrium is covered with translucent material allowing natural light into landscaped areas and offices facing the atrium. More energy efficient light fittings with more efficient light bulbs with electronic ballast introduce energy savings of 33%. Occupancy and light sensors in all office space introduce a further 40-45% in energy savings.

Note: A professional lighting study conducted by UNON confirmed that NOF total energy consumption on lighting would be approximately 200 KWH per annum, which is in-line with global best practice for an energy efficient building.


Establishment of Environmental Management System (ISO 14001:2004)

  • The UNON Division of Administration has trained 11 staff members as implementers and auditors of an environmental management system (EMS) in compliance with international standards (specifically International Organization for Standardization ISO 14001:2004 which is the specific category that deals with Environmental Management Systems). A UNON EMS coordination team has been established, which is developing a draft Environmental Policy for UNON’s Division of Administration, which will guide and direct all efforts and activities towards the realization of an EMS in compliance with ISO 14001:2004.
  • The EMS aims to enhance efficiency in monitoring the usage of resources, such as electricity, fuels and water, which will ultimately reduce the organization’s carbon footprint.
  • The team has also developed a comprehensive Environmental Aspect Register, which outlines all key areas of focus (i.e. water, waste water, waste, purchased electricity, generators, transport and biodiversity).  An Environmental Legal Register has also been established, which compiles all relevant legislations and regulations related to the implementation and management of an EMS.
  • The UNON EMS team is also working with a voluntary UN Nairobi environmental group (Step by Step), to undertake an awareness campaign within the UNON complex to inform staff about the objectives of the Environmental Policy, including tips on how to save energy in offices, how to save water and options for solid waste separation at source.

Open office plan renovations

  • 90% of all offices have been converted to a predominantly open plan environment, which has maximized office usage and improved the use of natural light and ventilation throughout the office floors. 
  • Energy savings light fittings and occupancy sensors have been installed on some floors (e.g. executive offices). Following the success of these installations on a much larger scale in the NOF, they will be rolled out to other existing office space on the UNON complex within the next 2-3 years.

Bio-diesel pilot project, for UNON official fleet

  • UNON initiated a pilot project in 2010, fuelling 2 vehicles (a van and minibus) with bio-diesel. Results were promising and UNON maintained the running of these two vehicles on bio-diesel during 2011. UNON intends to expand the project to its wider fleet, including UNON security vehicles and potentially a trial on at least one of the staff buses. The main constraint is the availability of bio-diesel in larger quantities, and the investment required to store appropriate supplies to support wider usage. Currently, bio-diesel is purchased in small 20 litre containers, which is suitable for a small trial (e.g. 2 vehicles); however, it would not be suitable for a rollout to the wider fleet of vehicles, for which a permanent and dedicated underground bio-diesel storage tank would need to be constructed. Another constraint is the inability of the sole supplier of bio-diesel to guarantee regular delivery of larger volumes of fuel.

Cutting down air travel: promoting video and teleconferencing for meetings

  • UNON has had fibre optic connectivity since the fibre connection to Kenya was completed in mid-2009. This has improved the viability and reliability of video and teleconferencing as an alternative to physical meetings, workshops and conferences.  A migration to Internet Protocol (IP) telephony is underway for the UN complex.  During 2011 the NOF was opened with an IP telephony system, which all UNEP and UN-HABITAT staff located in the new building are using.  IP telephony was rolled out to other offices during 2011 (over 60% of UNON offices have been migrated), which will continue during 2012.  Following completion of the IP Telephony rollout, UNON will be able to offer a ‘Unified Communications’ system, including videoconferencing to each desk, which is expected to promote virtual conferencing.

Sustainable procurement

  • UNON is progressively and carefully integrating practical environmental considerations into its contracts for goods and services. This is aimed at reducing the climate footprint associated with goods and services procured by UNON during the life cycle of a given product.

Experience so far


An Environmental Review was conducted by UNON in 2007 to assess the current environmental performance of UNON, and to provide recommendations on further steps for the implementation of an environmental management system for the UNON complex. Recently, the UNON Division of Conference Servics (DCS) achieved ISO 14001 compliance for all printing services.


Data Collection


UNON has been collecting all data related to green house gas (GHG) emissions manually and to some extent in a  semi-automated way for air travel data. This has been difficult and there is need for better automation of the data collection process to ensure consistency and to eliminate errors.

Three GHG Inventories have been prepared by UNON (2008, 2009 and 2010, and 2011 inventories will be submitted by the required deadline in 2012), which have shown that purchased electricity (50%) and air travel (33%) still take the major share of the organization’s carbon foot print and as such remain the key target areas for the organization.




UNON is still considering the introduction of a climate surcharge at the UNON duty free fuel station. It would use the income generated from this surcharge to offset all fuel purchased, which would cover all UN offices and professional staff, as well as the diplomatic community in Kenya. However approval for this measure would be required from the established common services mechanism which includes representation from all UN funds, programmes, agencies and offices located in Nairobi. UNON will continue to pursue this as a further offsetting opportunity.

UNON is in constant consultation with UNEP on ways of establishing appropriate modalities for procuring offsets.


Next steps


UNON will continue to consult with UNEP on the most suitable offsetting mechanisms.

The 11 staff from UNON’s Division of Administrative Services trained as implementers and auditors will help with the realization of ISO 14001:2004 over the next few years.

UNON is currently working on ways to automate most data collection processes, which will include: purchased electricity data, fuel consumption by on-site generators and fuel consumption by UNON official fleet. Efforts will also be made to integrate these processes into the Enterprise Resource Planning system (UMOJA), when it is deployed.

UNON will continue to support all UN offices based at the UNON complex through the timely provision of accurate emissions data, and the introduction of environmental and emission reduction initiatives at the complex, which will benefit all agencies that use the services provided. Bike racks have been installed to encourage none-motorized transportation. UNON and UNEP successfully worked with the Kenya Urban Roads Authority (KURA) to complete a full upgrade of the main access road to the UN complex in Nairobi (UN Avenue) during 2011/12, to include bicycle lanes and pedestrian walkways, which has improved cyclist and pedestrian safety on this road, as well as offering improved options for the use of non-motorized transport.

UNON also worked with UNEP during 2010/2011 to conduct a detailed study of the parking facilities on the complex and were able to re-design a number of the existing parking facilities to gain a 10% improvement in the use of parking space (re-marking of existing tarmac areas).  UNON continues to work with UNEP on other initiatives, including expanded shuttle services, car-pooling and parking fees to reduce the vehicular traffic to and from the UNON complex.

UNON continues to work towards a climate neutral strategy, which was developed further during 2010/2011, based on the initiatives outlined above. The strategy will continue to be developed, to ensure that all data collection mechanisms are in place for power, water, waste and transport services, so that emissions can be accurately measured on a monthly and annual basis. This will form the basis for an Environmental Management System that will support continuous improvement on emission reductions and other sustainability aspects.

UNON case studies