Environmental Sustainability Management

Greening the blue banner 2

The UN’s journey towards climate neutrality began on 5 June 2007 when UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon publicly called on all UN agencies, funds and programmes to ‘go green’ and become climate neutral.

At the October 2007 meeting of the UN System Chief Executives Board for Coordination (CEB), the Executive Heads of UN agencies, funds and programmes committed to move their respective organisations towards climate neutrality.

At the Rio+20 Conference in 2012, Member States requested that the UN improve management of facilities and operations, by taking into account sustainable development practices. (The Future We Want, para. 96).

A year later, the UN System Chief Executives Board for Coordination (CEB), chaired by the Secretary-General, committed to implement Environmental Management Systems (EMS) in each organization, through a gradual, voluntary and flexible process, focusing on low-investment and high-return initiatives. In addition, they committed to mainstream EMS in programming and planning processes.

In 2015, heads of UN system organisations committed to reach climate neutrality by 2020 through a combination of emission reduction initiatives and purchase of offsets, and adopted the UN Roadmap towards Climate Neutrality by 2020. Such efforts are reported in the annual ‘Greening the Blue Report‘ which is prepared by the Sustainable UN team. The current report, along with previous versions, are available on our site

In September 2018, the Senior Officials of the Environment Management Group, at their meeting EMG SOM24, decided to “establish a task team composed of interested members of the Consultative Process on Environmental and Social Sustainability in the UN system and the IMG on Environmental Sustainability Management to propose a draft UN internal sustainability vision and strategy beyond 2020.” In January 2019, in Decision 2019/05 of the UN Secretary-General’s Executive Committee (ExCom) on preparation for the September 2019 Climate Summit, it was decided, inter alia, to “raise the UN’s own ambitions and intensify internal efforts to combat climate change”.

Based on these two decisions, the EMG and Sustainable UN team formed a Task Team to develop a UN Sustainability Strategy. In 2019 the first phase of the Strategy has been adopted and endorsed by the CEB. The UN Sustainability Strategy has already begun producing concrete results in organisations within just a few months of having been implemented. The Task Team is currently working on producing the second phase of the Strategy.