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 seven global GHG footprints (2008-2014) and in 2015 offset the emissions it could not avoid to become climate neutral.

Reported emissions for 2014 were more than double the 2013 result and 74,000 tCO2e more than our previous highest, in 2009. Extraordinary operating conditions in some of WFP’s largest Level 3 emergencies forced WFP to rely extensively on emissions-intensive airborne responses.

South Sudan operations alone accounted for 52% of total 2014 emissions. Conflict blocked access to existing supplies and also prevented seasonal prepositioning of food assistance stocks, meaning rotary and fixed wing aircraft flew more than 5,500 sorties, consuming almost 31 million litres of fuel. Emergency operations in Central African Republic, Iraq, Philippines, Syria and the 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 possible.  

After achieving a 10% reduction in absolute emissions from 2008 to 2013, WFP’s second Emission Reduction Strategy will build on individual GHG-saving achievements to drive delivery at scale of a low-carbon culture.

WFP operations throughout the world continue to develop country-specific GHG reduction plans and set up environmental committees to address locally-identified issues.

Unlike most other UN bodies, around 95% of WFP’s GHG emissions come from field operations. In 2014 WFP reached people in 82 countries. The 10 largest operations account for 77% 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 when aviation emissions make up a larger component.

Emissions from commercial air travel, approximately 10% of WFP’s 2014 total, make up a much lower proportion of WFP’s footprint than the UN average. While the total number of flights taken was up on the year before, 2014 was the second year running that the number of business class flights fell. Emissions from WFP-chartered freight and passenger aircraft accounted for most of the increase in overall travel emissions from 2013.  

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 will focus on WFP operations in Nairobi, which will act as a starting point for wider EMS implementation throughout Kenya and globally in the longer term. 

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. Thirty-one projects have been co-funded to date in 14 countries, including energy efficient lighting installations, solar PV, hybrid generator systems, solar water heaters and grid connections for remote sites. Combined, the projects are expected to save 2,300 tonnes of CO2e and USD 1.4 million per year.

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 300 kWp of solar panels, saving an estimated USD 78,000 and over 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 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 1700 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 700+ 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. 2014 saw an 11% reduction from 2013 in the number of business class tickets purchased.

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 2015, WFP offset its global emissions for the first time and became climate neutral for its 2014 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 household refuse, vehicle workshop outputs (tyres, motor oil, batteries) and end-of-life disposal of food aid packaging and assets in remote locations. Efforts will build on a 2014 baseline assessment of waste management practices of UN agencies in developing countries.
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.

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 2015/2016.

Starting in 2016, WFP will begin developing a methodology to quantify supply chain emissions from third-party freight contractors.    

WFP case studies