World Food Programme (WFP)

HQ: Rome, Italy


Key figures



Executive Director’s message

"WFP has long recognized that measuring and managing the environmental impacts of our work, including during emergencies, is an important act of stewardship. It helps us safeguard the livelihoods of people we serve: the hungry poor. Better environmental practices can also help to reduce WFP’s operating costs, allowing us to deliver better value for money as a trusted partner in the global effort to end hunger.

We know that climate change disproportionately affects the world’s poorest people, especially women and children. I am determined that, as one of the first agencies on the ground in an emergency, WFP makes the most of opportunities to lead the deployment of innovative solutions and technologies in some of the world’s most marginal environments. WFP's Greenhouse Gas Emission Reduction strategy commits us to cost-effective improvements in how we use power in our buildings, manage our vehicle fleets and minimise our travel. We will measure our progress every year against our 2008 baseline in order to track results in a transparent and accountable manner.

Ensuring an effective, resource-efficient WFP starts at the top, with me and our executive management team. I am committed to making WFP more environmentally sustainable and resource-efficient at the same time, and will work with WFP staff across the globe to embed sustainability into our operations."

Ertharin Cousin, WFP Executive Director


The World Food Programme (WFP) is the world's largest humanitarian organization fighting hunger. In emergencies, we get food to where it is needed, saving the lives of victims of war, civil conflict and natural disasters. After the cause of an emergency has passed, we use food assistance to help communities rebuild. WFP pursues a vision in which every man, woman and child has access at all times to the food needed for an active and healthy life.

Experience so far

WFP has now completed eight global GHG footprints (2008-2015) and since 2014 has offset the emissions it could not avoid to become climate neutral.

Reported emissions that fall within the UN boundary for 2015 were 83,753 tCO2e. In addition, WFP calculates and optionally reports emissions from humanitarian air freight (food and cargo) managed by WFP Aviation, as well as fugitive emissions of ozone-depleting refrigerant gases. With these sources considered WFP’s total footprint in 2015 was 200,268 tCO2e. This difference is due to extraordinary operating conditions in some of WFP’s largest Level 3 emergencies, where emissions-intensive airborne responses were required.

South Sudan operations alone accounted for 59% of total 2015 emissions. Ongoing conflict made accessing existing supplies difficult and hindered seasonal prepositioning of food assistance stocks, meaning rotary and fixed wing aircraft were relied on extensively, consuming more than 40 million litres of fuel. Emergency operations in Central African Republic, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Iraq, Mali, Syria, Yemen, the Horn of Africa and Ebola Affected Countries also included a significant aviation component. This result shows the impact that large emergency operations have on global emissions, but it does not change WFP’s commitment to reducing GHG emissions wherever.

During 2016, WSP | Parsons Brinkerhoff conducted an independent third party review of WFP’s 2014 GHG inventory, including all Scope 1 and Scope 2 emission sources, and Scope 3 emissions from Business Travel and Upstream Transportation and Distribution. WSP provided limited assurance of the accuracy and completeness of the inventory, and its accordance with Greenhouse Gas Protocol standards.

WFP operations throughout the world continue to develop country-specific GHG reduction plans and set up environmental committees to address locally-identified issues. Systematic implementation of WFP’s new Environmental Policy will build on individual GHG-saving achievements to drive delivery at scale of a low-carbon culture.

Unlike most other UN bodies, around 95% of WFP’s GHG emissions come from field operations. In 2015 WFP directly assisted 76.7 million people in 81 countries. The 10 largest operations account for 80% of the total footprint.

Typically, more than half of all WFP’s emissions are from fuel used to run vehicles or to power generators in offices, warehouses and guesthouses in remote areas. Diesel generators provide an estimated 40% of WFP’s electricity. These totals fluctuate during large emergency operations, such as South Sudan, when aviation emissions make up a larger component.

Emissions from commercial air travel, approximately 20% of WFP’s 2015 total, make up a much lower proportion of WFP’s footprint than the UN average. While the total number of flights taken has increased, 2015 was the third year running that the number of business class flights fell.  

In 2015 WFP was selected to participate in a UNEP/Swedish EPA-led pilot project to implement Environmental Management Systems (EMS) within UN system organisations. Pilot activities began in 2016 and focus on WFP operations in Kenya, which will act as a starting point for wider EMS implementation globally in the longer term. This work is being generously supported through the secondment of an EMS expert from MSB Sweden.

Reduction efforts

WFP reduction efforts prioritize cost-effective, practical actions that will reduce operating costs at the same time as reducing GHG emissions.

WFP has established an Energy Efficiency Programme to part-fund energy-saving and GHG-reducing actions in field locations. The first step is an energy efficiency survey, which comes in the convenient form of a ‘Green Box’. The box includes tailored survey forms developed for use by non-specialists, and online energy monitoring equipment. Energy surveys have been undertaken in 82 WFP facilities across 14 different countries, with monitors now live in 35 locations. The survey responses and live energy consumption data help to identify potential energy savings. Recommended actions include a series of no-cost, low-cost and, where practical, capital investment projects.

WFP has already invested USD 2.8 million in more than 40 energy efficiency projects in 13 countries. The projects will see an annual reduction in GHG emissions of around 2,600 tonnes CO2e, and annual cost savings of USD 1.35 million – equivalent to providing school meals to 14,839 students for a year. Projects include energy efficient lighting installations, solar PV, hybrid generator systems, solar water heaters and grid connections for remote sites.

Staff awareness programs in Uganda, Guatemala, Ethiopia, Peru, Kenya, Senegal, Dubai, Nepal, Rwanda, Sudan, Italy and Laos have promoted energy-smart habits such as switching off lights, computers and AC equipment when not in use, fitting timers, managing thermostats and downsizing installed printer numbers.

Generator right-sizing initiatives in Somalia and Kenya have reduced installed capacity by up to half in some locations, through a combination of load assessment, management and reduction.     

WFP sites in Afghanistan, Sudan, Kenya, Niger, Nepal, Ethiopia, Somalia, State of Palestine and Chad have installed low-energy solar security lighting, replacing traditional floodlights of up to 500 watts each.

WFP has installed over 300 kWp of solar panels, saving more than 160 tonnes of CO2e per year. Renewable energy systems are generally most cost-effective in remote areas, where mains power is not available and costs for purchasing and transporting fuel are high.

In Afghanistan, Sudan, Sierra Leone, Guinea and Chad, WFP has invested in equipment to connect to newly established electricity grids, reducing reliance on generators and cutting CO2 emissions and costs.

Through a joint tender with other Rome-based agencies—FAO and IFAD—WFP has purchased certified “green energy” at HQ premises since 2009.

A light vehicle driver training programme has, since 2009, trained over 2,000 WFP drivers from more than 50 countries in fuel efficient driving and improving vehicle maintenance, to reduce GHGs and running costs while optimizing vehicle safety. Other UN organizations have put a further 800+ drivers through WFP’s programme.

WFP Executive Director Ertharin Cousin launched a new travel policy in mid-2012 by pledging to reduce business-class travel by senior management and promote remote conferencing by all personnel. Since that time, while commercial travel has increased, the number of business class tickets purchased has halved.

By using web-conferencing to roll out new facilities management software (ARCHIBUS), WFP avoided an estimated USD 400,000 in travel costs and nearly 150 tCO2e. Similar technology allowed the offices of the ombudsman and evaluation to reach out, with near-zero emissions, to hundreds of staff globally who would otherwise have been unable to take part in interactive training programmes.


In 2016, WFP offset its global footprint, including optional emissions from air freight, to become climate neutral for its 2015 footprint. In line with UN strategy, WFP purchased carbon credits certified by the Clean Development Mechanism. Through this action, WFP recognises that humanitarian actions that save lives today still carry a climate cost tomorrow. Offsetting is one way WFP can take responsibility for those impacts, while striving to reduce them further.


Management of a range of waste streams will be a priority area for action during WFP’s EMS pilot activities: from office waste (paper, recyclable packaging and toners) in developed country locations, to general refuse, vehicle workshop outputs (tyres, motor oil, batteries) and end-of-life disposal of food aid packaging and assets in remote locations.

A total of 13 sites representing around 20% of WFP personnel were surveyed in 2016 for the UN waste inventory exercise, yielding valuable information about current waste management practices as well as data. Building on findings, WFP will conduct waste management outreach to sites with significant waste sources.

In 2016-17, WFP is undertaking environmental reviews and delivering capacity building training and guidance to improve the management of hazardous waste streams from our vehicle servicing workshops. Practical actions include improving bunding to prevent waste oil from reaching drains or local soils, finding sustainable uses for tyres and recycling or treating batteries to neutralise acids and recover materials.

WFP co-chairs, alongside DFS/DPKO, an inter-agency working group on sustainable field operations, with a focus on waste. It also participates in an NGO-led hazardous waste working group.


An Environmental Management System (EMS) Scoping Study in 2012 identified water quality, wastewater management and preventing spills to groundwater during high-impact activities (such as construction) as priority areas for WFP action. These will be picked up during EMS pilot activities in 2016 and beyond.

Next steps

WFP has committed to developing a full Environmental Management System (EMS) to optimise resource efficiency, manage environmental impacts and reduce risks. Noting that an EMS is a management framework, not just a reporting tool, WFP’s Environmental team will engage with key internal and interagency stakeholders to take this work forward through the UNEP/Swedish EPA-led EMS pilot in 2016/2017.

A new environmental policy will be presented to WFP’s Executive Board for consideration in early 2017. The policy seeks to systematically integrate environmental considerations into the organization’s work to address hunger. It focuses on mechanisms for identifying, avoiding, addressing and managing environmental risks in WFP’s interventions, while also acknowledging that WFP’s food assistance activities can generate environmental benefits. EMS development is a key component of the new policy.

WFP is one of four UN agencies piloting carbon footprinting of emergency preparedness activities, through the UK-funded Ready to Respond project. Work is also underway to develop a methodology to quantify supply chain emissions from third-party freight contractors.

WFP case studies.