Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO)

HQ: Rome, Italy

Focal Point: Tina Mittendorf


Key Figures: Greenhouse gas emissions

N.B. The 2015 increase in emissions is mainly due to improved air travel emissions reporting. FAO is currently performing a gap analysis to adjust previous years’ calculations and provide a more realistic picture of the actual overall emissions and related performance trends.

Key Figures: Waste


Achieving food security for all is at the heart of FAO's efforts – to make sure people have regular access to enough high-quality food to lead active, healthy lives. FAO’s three main goals are: the eradication of hunger, food insecurity and malnutrition; the elimination of poverty and the driving forward of economic and social progress for all; and, the sustainable management and utilization of natural resources, including land, water, air, climate and genetic resources for the benefit of present and future generations.

Experience so far

FAO dedicates a significant amount of resources assisting in the agricultural development of areas that are often those most vulnerable to climate change. We as an organization must effectively play our own part in combating climate change through GHG emissions reductions and sustainability management. Failing to do so would be hindering the efforts towards fulfilling FAO’s primary mandate for sustainable agriculture.

Since around 2008, the organization has incorporated many in-house sustainability initiatives, primarily related to facilities, travel, and procurement. Many efforts have been made towards being more energy efficient and improving waste management, especially at the FAO Headquarters in Rome, Italy. With the recently approved Corporate Environmental Responsibility Policy, FAO is further committing to lower its environmental impact and achieve climate neutrality, by more systematically expanding the scope of its activities to Decentralized Offices as well.

Often the success of various initiatives depends on the staff as well. These include for example proper waste separation and being conscience of energy usage (thermostat settings and turning off lights).

Drawing a clear line between how FAO operates internally and the impact on the environment helps close the gap between administrative activities and work in the field. This fosters a conscience and aware organizational culture.

Reduction efforts

Headquarters has implemented an Environmental Management System and integrated it into the standard activity plans. Energy efficiency projects are also being developed for a number of critical Decentralized Offices.

Reduction achievments

  • Installation of a Solar Photovoltaic System on the roof of the Plenary Hall at FAO Headquarters (HQ)’s.
  • Lighting upgrade of the HQ’s corridors with the installation of LED lamps and sensors.
  • Lighting upgrade in cafeteria and installation of light sensors in restrooms at FAO HQ.
  • Inclusion of sustainability criteria in FAO HQ’s procurement of goods and services (e.g. catering, cleaning and multi-service, construction works contracts).
  • Launch of the FAO Commute programme, a carpooling internet application where interested staff can connect with others in the Organization to more easily arrange carpooling and ride-sharing.
  • Installation of more than 150 biking spaces and 6 reserved parking spots for car-poolers at FAO HQ.
  • Completion of elevator upgrades at FAO HQ which substantially improve efficiency and can even generate electricity at times using the load weight and counterweights of the system.
  • Replacement of old chillers with 6 more efficient HVAC chillers at FAO HQ.
  • Renovation of three medium size meeting rooms, incorporating sustainability aspects such as:
    • solar tube lighting
    • sustainable bamboo and wood (use of red-hearted beech and naturally curved-length planks) flooring, furniture and walls
    • integrating recycling facilities
    • efficient climate-control systems
    • high-efficiency lighting and media equipment
  • Energy and efficiency audit performed at the FAO Regional Office in Accra, Ghana. Technical specifications completed for a lighting upgrade in the same office.
  • Feasibility studies for the installation of a Solar Photovoltaic system in Decentralized Offices (e.g. Sierra Leone, Madagascar).
  • Publication of the FAO Corporate Environmental Responsibility Toolkit for country offices.
  • Sustainable events (e.g. International Conference on Nutrition 2, ICN2; 42 Committee on Food Security, CFS; 32 Committee on Fisheries, COFI; 23 Committee on Forestry, COFO; 24 Committee on Agriculture, COAG).
  • Reduction of air travel due to more stringent travel policies (Yearly no. 35 and no. 60 days travel limitation for respectively senior managers and technical officers; business class threshold for official travel is 12 hours; all travel will be in economy class regardless of flight duration for consultants’ appointment and repatriation).


FAO has purchased Adaptation Fund Certified Emission Reductions from the Clean Development Mechanism for the purpose of compensating the unavoidable greenhouse gas emissions from the operations and travel of the Food and Agriculture Organization in 2014 and 2015.

Other environmental measures

  • Development of the UN Common Services Package for LED lighting Solutions Version 1.0
  • Study of UN Practices for Waste Management in field offices, in collaboration with UN Environment

Next steps

  • Potential adoption of a Sustainable Procurement Policy.
  • Publication and implementation of FAO HQ’s Environmental Management System.
  • Feasibility study on office lighting upgrade.
  • Lighting upgrade of the Plenary Hall and outdoor lighting.
  • Increased use of web-conferencing facilities for meetings and workshops.
  • Partial dismissal of office printers and introduction of the badge printing technology at FAO HQ.
  • Introduction of recycled paper as only available paper as well as green stationary at FAO HQ.
  • Feasibility study on lighting upgrade in decentralized offices.
  • Increased recycling in HQ and decentralized offices.
  • Increased availability of sustainable food in the HQ cafeteria.
  • Introduction of 30% recycled paper as only available paper as well as green stationary at HQ.
  • Purchase of an electric vehicle (EV) for the HQ official fleet.
  • Installation of EV chargers to be used by staff and for the official fleet at HQ.
  • Potential introduction of EMSs in regional offices in a simplified version.
  • Feasibility study on lighting upgrade at the FAO Regional Office in Santiago, Chile.
  • Feasibility study on installation of Solar PV projects in further FAO country offices.

FAO Corporate Environmental Responsibility Policy
FAO Corporate Environmental Responsibility Internet webpage
Greening FAO Video
FAO Corporate Environmental Responsibility Report 2015
FAO Corporate Environmental Responsibility Report 2014
FAO Corporate Environmental Responsibility Report 2013
FAO Internal Operations Sustainability Management report 2011
FAO case studies
FAO related news
FAO and Climate Change