UNOPS green infrastructure projects

Wed, 29/01/14

UNOPS has been awarded the prestigious ISO 14001 certification, recognizing the organization’s commitment to protecting the environment when managing construction sites.

UNOPS implements a wide range of development projects in some of the world’s most challenging environments for its partners, providing infrastructure, project management and procurement services.

ISO 14001 is the world’s most recognized environmental management standard, awarded to organizations that actively assess and manage their environmental impacts.

Solar power street lights in Afghanistan


Taking environmental considerations into account can bring about unexpected benefits, such as in Afghanistan, where solar-powered streetlights allow students to study after dark. Photo: UNOPS/Chandima Atapattu

In order to achieve ISO 14001 certification, the UNOPS Sustainable Infrastructure Practice Group developed an Environmental Management System (EMS) to help project managers monitor and control the environmental impact of their projects. The EMS allows project managers to consider environmental factors on a day-to-day basis, from the early stages of a project. As a result, any negative effects of a project can be mitigated, and environmental benefits maximized.

Among other things, the EMS helps teams to consider how the project will handle waste, make the best use of natural resources, create opportunities for extra environmental benefits and protect plants, animals, water, air and the soil. The Environmental Management System also considers the ‘human environment’ in order to assess the impact the project may have on socio-economic issues in the area. The EMS requires project teams to consider potential challenges and opportunities the project brings to local communities.

Sorting waste in Sudan

UNOPS personnel in South Sudan have set up a simple system for separating recyclables – just one example of an Environmental Management System in action. Photo: UNOPS/Itai Mukuvari

This approach can significantly improve the long-term positive impact a peacebuilding, humanitarian or development project can have, while identifying and minimizing any negative side-effects from the start. For example, in 2012 UNOPS managed a road-building component of a large stabilization strategy in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, with funding from a range of donors. The complex socio-economic and environmental management plan on that project included working with the community to replace trees felled for the road, and training families to keep goats instead of hunting in order to control the new road’s impact on local wildlife.

UNOPS Jerusalem office was the first of UNOPS field offices to fully implement the EMS developed by UNOPS and achieve ISO 14001 certification. The EMS is now being adopted by all UNOPS field offices.

The EMS is one part of a larger drive to incorporate sustainability into every aspect of UNOPS working practice. It will help to ensure a structured approach to the implementation of the UNOPS Policy for Sustainable Infrastructure, bringing together UNOPS organizational expertise and knowledge in environmental management.

The ISO 14001 certification is a means of recognizing that the system is working in accordance with international standards and practices, ultimately ensuring the protection of the environment and improving the lives of communities.

Earlier this year, UNOPS also became the first global organization to be awarded the four most prestigious project management certifications available. Read more

Categories: Buildings