International Labour Organization (ILO)

HQ: Geneva, Switzerland

Focal Point: Carolina Ferreira


Key figures: Greenhouse gas emissions


Key Figures: Waste

Key Figures: Water


Director-General's Message


"The prevention and mitigation of climate change, more than any other single element, will distinguish the ILO’s future responsibilities and activities from those of the past”.

Guy Ryder, ILO Director-General




The International Labour Organization (ILO) is devoted to promoting social justice and internationally recognized human and labour rights, pursuing its founding mission that social justice is essential to universal and lasting peace.

Only tripartite U.N. agency, the ILO brings together governments, employers and workers representatives of 187 member States, to set labour standards, develop policies and devise programmes promoting decent work for all women and men.

Today, the ILO's Decent Work agenda helps advance the economic and working conditions that give all workers, employers and governments a stake in lasting peace, prosperity and progress.


Experience so far


The ILO is strongly committed to enhancing environmental sustainability. The ILO Environmental Sustainability Policy, signed by the ILO Director General in 2016, is an important milestone in this direction as it sets the goal of continuing to measure, reduce and report on greenhouse gas emissions, improving waste management and reducing water consumption.

The ILO calculates and reports greenhouse gas emissions of the headquarters and all 48 external offices on an annual basis, which provides comparable basis for analysis of emissions and future reduction plans.

Renovation works in the ILO headquarters’ building in Geneva are underway and on track to conclude the renovation of the main building by the Centenary of the organization in 2019. A number of improvement measures are implemented that will reduce the overall environmental impacts of the building and thereby decreasing greenhouse gas emissions. Examples of such measures include:

  1. Improved thermal efficiency of facade and roof
  2. Highly efficient glazing
  3. Automatic control of blinds to save energy
  4. LED lights throughout
  5. Dimmers for office lighting and presence detectors to switch off lights when not needed
  6. Glazed partitions to maximize the use of natural daylight
  7. Water and energy saving taps
  8. Ventilation units with high-performance heat recovery system

Staff awareness and engagement are important elements in the efforts towards greening the ILO. Campaigns and communication materials have been largely disseminated at headquarters and field offices to encourage less travel, use of video conference, smart use of natural resources, and recycling.


EMS and Reduction efforts


To implement the ILO Environmental Sustainability Policy, the ILO has established an Environmental Management System. An Environmental Sustainability Committee was formed to oversee greening activities and is composed of representatives from various departments in the headquarters and regions.

To systematically organize and prioritize action, the committee agrees on biennial Environmental Sustainability Action Plans. It has recently approved an Action Plan for 2018-19 containing targets and indicators for the biennium including:

  • Ensure sustainable restoration of headquarters’ site after renovation
  • Optimize the functioning of technical installations through building management system to further increase energy efficiency in the headquarters
  • Incorporate environmental sustainability criteria into renovation building plans of ILO-owned premises
  • Implementation of energy efficient measures in external offices 

Waste Management


Waste management is a key element in our efforts to improve environmental sustainability.

In the headquarters in Geneva, a new centralized waste management system is gradually being implemented with the purpose of increasing the recycling of major waste streams. Waste recycling centres with bins for organic, paper, glass, aluminium, PET and batteries were placed in strategic areas on each floor and replaced individual waste bins. The strategy is accompanied by campaigns for the sensitization and engagement of staff to reduce, reuse and recycle waste.

After the first period of piloting the new system in a third of the building in 2017, we can already notice that recycling rates have increased considerably. This successful piloting experience is now being replicated in other areas of the building for further improvements.

As the ILO undergoes major renovation works, specific procedures for collection, storage and treatment have been adopted to each of the various types of construction waste. All waste streams are collected and treated by certified companies compliant with applicable regulations. By reusing or recycling waste as much as possible, the intent is to divert it from landfills and incinerators. A compactor is also in use on site to minimize transportation.

The ILO has taken an office wide initiative on to improve methodologies to measure waste production and assess waste practices in the field offices. In this context, it launched a project to implement effective waste procedures at five ILO pilot offices, in line with the ILO Environmental Sustainability Policy. A second phase of the project will focus on an additional five ILO-owned premises. It is expected that the project will not only contribute to improve condition at the selected pilot offices, but will also produce useful knowledge to be replicated in other ILO external offices.


Water Management


Reducing water consumption and ensure appropriate waste water disposal is a priority in ILO premises, in particular in water-scarce locations. We monitor and report water consumption in ILO-owned premises and actively explore means to use water more efficiently.

For instance, the ILO headquarters is installing water saving features in toilets and kitchens. In external location, some owned premises are engaging in harvesting rainwater for irrigation and ponds.


Other Environmental Measures


In addition to greenhouse gases, waste and water, the ILO Environmental Sustainability Action Plan in 2016-17 successfully achieved important outcomes related to environmental performance in different areas detailed below.

Promotion of sustainable printing production and reduction in paper use:

  • More performant printers with reduced environmental impacts were installed in the print shop at the ILO headquarters;
  • The implementation of performance work plans resulted in the reduction of paper waste in the print shop
  • The use of official electronic correspondence increased 37.5% in 2016, and 41.3% in 2017.

Promotion of Ecomobility:

  • Air compressors for bikes and additional bike racks were installed
  • Charging stations for electric cars to be installed in 2018
  • A Bike to Work day took place in 2017

Measures are in place to further implement sustainable procurement practices in the ILO.

Staff engagement, capacity building and awareness raising

  • Campaigns for the World Environment Day took place in 2016 and 2017
  • Frequent communication through internal communication channels to inform staff about ILO greening efforts and

The current Environmental Sustainability Action Plan for 2018-19 brings new targets for the biennium to ensure continuous environmental improvements.


Next steps


In 2019, the International Labour Organization – the oldest UN specialized agency – celebrates its 100th anniversary. In the run up to the anniversary seven Centenary Initiatives are being implemented – part of a package of activities aimed at equipping the Organization to take up successfully the challenges of its social justice mandate in the future.

The Green Initiative is the conduit for actively greening the ILO’s own operations at Headquarters and in the Field, building on the ILO Environmental Sustainability Policy and Management System.

The Green Initiative focuses on three areas of critical importance:

  1. Advance research and understanding of the challenges and opportunities for the world of work arising from a green transition.
  2. Forge policy responses from the world of work in all sectors to ensure decent work and social justice for all.
  3. Build strategic partnerships at national, regional and international levels.

For more information, please visit ILO's website.