The UN System’s Environmental Sustainability Commitments

The UN System’s journey towards climate neutrality began on 5 June 2007, when then UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon publicly called on all UN agencies, funds and programmes to ‘go green’ and become climate neutral. Many important steps were taken across the UN system from 2007 to 2019. For more on the history of “greening the UN” see more here.

In 2019, under the leadership of Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, the UN’s Chief Executives Board for Coordination endorsed the first Strategy for Sustainability Management in the United Nations system 2020-2030.

The strategy includes a vision for sustainability in the UN system:

“The UN System is a leader in integrating environmental and social sustainability considerations across its work in a systematic and coherent way, practicing the principles that it promotes and leaving a positive legacy.”

The aims of the strategy are to:

  • Create a common vision for internal sustainability
  • Align the UN’s internal operations with the environmental elements of the Sustainable Development Agenda
  • Create system-wide and entity-specific systems for environmental governance and accountability
  • Provide ambitious, clear objectives and indicators to track and prove progress
  • Support the systematic integration of environmental considerations into management functions
  • Ensure transparency and accountability in the UN’s corporate performance

Phase I of the strategy, which focuses on internal environment sustainability covers:
Five environmental impact areas:

  • Greenhouse Gas (GHG) emissions
  • Waste
  • Water
  • Air Pollution
  • Biodiversity

Six management functions:

  • Procurement
  • Human resources
  • Facilities management
  • Travel
  • Events
  • Information and Communication Technologies (ICT)

Phase II of the strategy will be developed in 2020 by the Environment Management Group and will cover the environmental and social sustainability in UN policies and programmes.