29 Oct 2020

Lieu: Webex

Organisation: Organisation Internationale du Travail

The launch of the ILO Environmental Sustainability Action Plans for 2018–21, organized within the framework of the Geneva Environment Network, took place online on 29 October 2020. This report highlights the International Labour Organization's (ILO) ambition, commitment, and far-reaching achievements across the Office in integrating environmental sustainability in ILO policy outcomes, Decent Work Country Programmes, and development cooperation projects, as well as the organization results in greening its operations. Panelists discussed the remarkable achievements of the ILO in improving environmental sustainability in its programmes, projects, facilities and operations, and will together reflect on further commitments to scale up ongoing environmental sustainability efforts in the organization, and contribute to the overall efforts of the United Nations System.

About the Report

When ILO was established in 1919, neither climate change nor environmental sustainability posed a threat to social justice. However, accelerating developments over the last decades have led ILO constituents worldwide to the strong conviction that the Organization can only pursue its mandate for social justice effectively if it integrates environmental sustainability into the Decent Work Agenda.

In 2007, the Chief Executives Board for Coordination (CEB) approved the United Nations Climate Neutral Strategy that committed the UN system to measure, reduce and offset greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from facilities, operations and travel. In 2015, UN organizations committed to becoming climate neutral by 2020, using the UN Roadmap towards Climate Neutrality by 2020,  and in 2019, the CEB endorsed the Strategy for Sustainability Management in the United Nations System (2020–2030) to intensify efforts to combat climate change through internal sustainability strategies.

In alignment with these commitments, in 2008 the ILO began calculating the annual GHG emissions of its headquarters and 48 field offices. It did so in partnership with the Sustainable UN (SUN) Secretariat of the UN Environment Programme. Emissions reductions in ILO operations were incorporated into the ILO Environmental Sustainability Policy and Environmental Management System, adopted in 2016.

In response to the Director-General’s announcement of the Environmental Sustainability Policy, an ensuing directive was issued to introduce an Environmental Management System (EMS) and an Environmental Sustainability Committee (ESC) to enable a more systematic, coordinated and integrated approach to achieving the objectives of the Environmental Sustainability Policy.

The Environmental Sustainability Action Plan was developed to record the objectives and priorities within ILO programmes, projects, and operations and establish targets, outcomes, and indicators for the biennium.

The ILO Environmental Sustainability Action Plans for 2018–21 demonstrates ambition, commitment, and far-reaching achievements across the Office in integrating environmental sustainability in ILO policy outcomes, Decent Work Country Programmes, and development cooperation projects. Similarly, important progress has been achieved in the greening of ILO operations and facilities, with reductions in water use and waste generation, and significant gains in energy efficiency.


Moustapha Kamal GUEYE

Coordinator, Green Jobs Programme, ENTERPRISES, ILO


Programme Technical Officer, Green Jobs Programme, ENTERPRISES, ILO


Deputy Chief and Principal Procurement Specialist, PROCUREMENT, ILO


Senior Specialist, Skills and Employability, SKILLS, ILO


Senior Specialist, Environment and Decent Work, ILO Bangkok

Isabella MARRAS

Coordinator, Sustainable United Nations (SUN) Initiative


Coordinator, Geneva Environment Network


The event was live on Facebook.


Introduction | Moustapha Kamal GUEYE

The ILO mandate is essentially to promote decent work for all and advance social justice. Over the past several years, the ILO constituencies made of representative of governments, employees and workers organizations have all come to the realization that it is essential to take into account environmental dimensions in the pursuit of the mandate of the organization. It is in this context that in 2016, the director general introduced a new ILO Environmental Sustainability Policy and an ILO Environmental Management System. The policy and the system bring important changes in the way the organization works in bringing the environmental dimension in the policy, the programs and operations. It has put in place an office wide environmental sustainability committee. That committee is shared by the Deputy Director General for Management and Reform, Greg Vines and involves all the directors across the policy departments, and representatives of ILO field regional and country offices. It also mandates the office to produce every biennial an environmental sustainability action plan. This plan brings together all the actions that are taken by the organization in the areas of environmental sustainability.

Presentation of the Report | Carolina FERREIRA E SILVA

The ILO Environmental Sustainability Policy introduces the commitment for the ILO to enhancing environmental sustainability, reduce and mitigate any negative impacts on the environment towards climate neutrality and improve the ILO’s environmental performance. This policy is applicable to all ILO programs, projects and operations at headquarters and in all external offices.

The ILO Environmental Management System oversees all the work in terms of implementation of the policy.

The Actions Plans record objectives and priorities aligned with ILO’s results-based frameworks.

The report highlights achievements and future plans. It is divided in four parts:

  • Environmental Management System,
  • Mainstreaming environmental sustainability in results-based management frameworks, policies and programmes, Decent Work Country Programmes and projects,
  • Greening the ILO operations,
  • Staff engagement, awareness and capacity building.

Key achievements and upcoming activities:

  • Country activities: ILO guidelines for a just transition towards environmentally sustainable economies and societies for all. These guidelines provide tools for countries to engage in this just transition. They had projects in the Philippines and Uruguay on implementing these guidelines.
    The ILO also participates in the Partnership for Action on Green Economy.
    The Climate Action for Jobs has been launched recently, the initiative was introduced by the UN Secretary General in 2019, to enable ambitious climate action while also promoting decent work and social justice.
  • Operations: objectives : measure, reduce and report ILO’s environmental footprint, increase energy efficiency of buildings and equipment at HQ and field, reduce water consumption, increase resource-use efficiency in internal services and operations, promote sustainable publication production and responsible use of paper, promote environmentally sustainable meetings, improve waste management practices, further promote environmentally sustainable travel practices, scale up sustainable procurement, maintain environmentally sustainable land management and biodiversity around ILO-owned premises.

In 2018, ILO emitted 14,000 tons of CO2 equivalent if 1,540 homes’ energy use for one year.  

In 2018, ILO introduces a new management waste system facility in HQ: 81% of waste is recycled. They also decrease paper use in official meeting and ILO HQ were renovated allowing a decrease of 11% in energy consumption.  

  • Upcoming targets: reduce ILO carbon footprint that comes from air travel, ILO HQ, reduce energy use and develop official meetings that use less paper with the publication of official documents electronically. 

The Action Plans 2018-21 has also a component on staff engagement, awareness and capacity building. The ILO organizes campaigns, for example, in 2019, they had the ILO Green Week. They have planned courses for staff to become more familiar on how to mainstream environmental sustainability on their day to day work.  

Sustainable Procurement | Vanja OSTOJIC 

Sustainable procurement is procurement that has the most positive environmental, social and economic impact possible across the entire life-cycle. By doing so ILO tries to minimize and address impacts. Talking about procurement refers to making benefits for the organization but not only for the organization but as well for the society and the economy while minimizing impacts on environment. The sustainability is embedded and integrated in the existing procurement processes. First, they discuss and agree on a sustainable sourcing strategy. Then, they integrate this strategy through dialogue with their clients. The contract management part is extremely important and they try to translate these sustainable criteria into contract performance indicators. After, they regularly monitor contractors’ performance. At the end, they will close this contract by concluding the full procurement cycle, with the overall review that should inform the next procurement exercise.

The office is fully committed to make sustainable procurement its standard of practice progressively and in full respect of the rights to access to the UN market for vendors from developing countries and countries with economies in transition. This commitment is reflected in the procurement governance, for instance, in the ILO procurement manual which describes the ILO’s approach to sustainable procurement and provides guidance on it.

The capacity building component is part of the effort of ILO to make staff equipped and skilled in order to not only do their jobs competently, but also, to make a greater impact both within and outside the organization.

While doing this, they try to align on the wider UN initiatives on sustainable procurement. They are an active member of the UN System Procurement Network and in particular, in the Working Group on Sustainable Procurement. ILO is part of this working group since its creation in 2007. It’s a two ways communication because they are benchmarking on the best practices that are coming from the public and UN procurement and also, they are contributing to this initiative. The UN supply code of conduct (document adopted by the Agency and Procurement Network that informs suppliers on standards that they should comply with when doing business with the UN). The ILO Labor standards, conventions, recommendations, serve as a foundation for the UN code of conduct. It is the UN expectation that any supplier providing products and services to the UN, will adhere to the principles referred to in the ILO Labor standards.

ILO also contributed to the development of “Buying for a Better World: A Guide on Sustainable Procurement for the UN system” . It was a collaborative effort within the ILO itself, but also with colleagues from other UN agencies.

ILO is providing various contributions. In response to the request coming from the UN Security Council in a resolution adopted several years ago on human trafficking in UN supplies chains, they have created within the Agency and Procurement Network a dedicated task force to develop a joint approach to combatting human trafficking enforcement in UN supply chains. With colleagues from the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, the ILO is co-sharing this task force and they have made considerable progress. They have recently adopted a project document that should lead to development of the UN wide policy framework on how to deal with human trafficking and forced labor issues in the UN supply chains.

Due to the contribution of UNEP, ILO made considerable progress on the area of the protection of the environment. Lately, the social component is getting importance and besides this task force on human trafficking and forced labor, there are other task force and initiatives such as the one on gender responsive procurement.

The ambition of ILO is to be the leader on social responsible procurement within the UN.

Skills and Employability | Olga STRIETSKA-ILINA

ILO Skills and Employability branch has been very active in the Green jobs since it started in 2008. They had two round of research, the first one implemented in 2010, and last year they repeated the research to see how countries have progress on developing skills for greening economy and the creation of green jobs. The last report, Skills for a Greener Future puts together the revision of the situation in 32 countries.

Some findings: build on the scenarios of the World Employment and Social Outlook, they look at two scenarios: transition to renewable energy and transition to circular economy to see what it means in terms of effect on occupation, skills and gender. The impact of the transition of the two scenarios is going to be positive, with the expectation of more than 100 million jobs created. Around 15 million jobs might be negatively affected requiring people to transfer from the sector they work now to the sector created due to the transition, requiring a small skill upgrading. There might be 25 million jobs negatively affected without creating jobs in a similar occupation. Many jobs will be created due to the transition but in order to capture the benefit of this job creation, those people who might lose their jobs might also need some substantial training to these jobs including requalifying new occupations and new qualifications. These jobs might concern low and middle skilled people.

Skills are an enablers of the transition to environmental sustainability but also it’s a buffer. This is a key component of the transition, to make sure that the transition is just.

Policy coherence is important. For example, at the time of the review of Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs), less than half of them had some skills development prevision. The ILO worked with UNESCO and UNFCCC on guidelines to integrate action for climate empowerment in NDCs. Now, they contain some skills development prevision.

ILO has a course on Green Jobs which is delivered in the International Training Center in Turin.

ILO works with countries on developing skills strategies at the sector level and implementing skill development. They work on green sectors such as renewable energy to help countries to identify which skills will be needed to develop them. Sometimes they help to develop green standards for example, in Myanmar, they assisted the development of a green standards for tour guides. In Mauritius, they work on a roadmap of skills to couple their greening and blue economy programming and see how skill development can contribute.

ILO achieves this by mainstreaming the green elements into the tools that they implement in countries.

Field Operations – Bangkok | Cristina MARTINEZ 

Two messages: one challenge and one opportunity based on how to inspire climate action and green behavioral change.

The opportunity: it is about recognizing green action in an organization. At the policy development level, seizing this opportunity is not difficult. The international and local staff of ILO in Asia-Pacific offers a unique combination for innovation, strategic thinking and implementation.

Changing the institutional settings and behavior is not that easy because sometimes we need to unlearn to do sometimes in order to do another one in a sustainable way. For example, converting an ILO meeting to fully sustainable by creating and implementing sustainability guidelines for the all setting is quite challenging, but it is not impossible. They created one in 2018, in Samoa. They offset the carbon emissions from the flights by planting trees. They have continue to apply the sustainability guidelines that they produced in other meetings. Scaling-up this type of meetings is a challenge and it will not happen unless we have dedicated plans and strategies.

They have a green working group which did a video “Greening the ILO in Asia Pacific” on the staff members on their actions to green their work.

Changing to a greener behavior comes easier when it is linked to a positive feeling.

Greening the Blue – Sustainable United Nations | Isabella MARRAS

Sustainable UN is an initiative of UNEP launched in 2008 to assist the UN system to reform towards climate neutrality and environmental management because the UN Secretary Generals have made ambitious commitment towards both climate neutrality and to reduce the corporate footprint.

The Sustainable UN approach, which is also implemented by ILO, is to measure the environmental impacts from facilities and operations, to reduce them via an Environmental Management System (EMS) and to offset via the purchase of carbon emission reduction certificates from the Clean Development Mechanism.

Greening the Blue is where they report the efforts done. The report comes out every year and will be launched in November. It covers approximately 290,000 UN System personnel from over 60 UN entities. Data collection effort is impressive and mobilizes staff in thousands of UN offices in 194 countries. It’s a flagship publication of Secretary General and of UNEP that shows how the UN system walks the talk.

Over the past 10 years within the inter-agency context they went to 1 to 25 UN entities implementation Environmental Management. They have more than 20 organizations implementing efforts towards sustainable procurement.

The UN operates in the whole world and travel is in most agencies the largest component to the greenhouse gas emission (GHG) emissions footprint. Some travels can be reduced but some can’t be reduced and when that happens offsetting is a solution for getting to net zero emission by investing in renewable projects or carbon sequestration projects. Overall, 95% of UN systems emissions are offset. From 2008 to 2019, there was a 15% reduction in the UN System GHG emissions. ILO doesn’t have a footprint that is really bigger or smaller than other agencies.

Last year, in 2019, the UN Secretary General asked the High Level Committee on Management and UNEP to come up with a vision for sustainability and a strategy for 2020-2030 in terms of the environmental footprint, both for environmental impacts and for management functions and in programs.

The ILO has a very interesting model:

  • Involvement of several hubs of expertise (procurement, facilities, policies and programmes)
  • Close attention to regional offices
  • An EMS that cuts across all activity areas
  • Strong interagency collaboration

From the very beginning in 2006-2007, the ILO has collaborate with SUN for example on sustainable procurement. The UN has now officially approved Sustainable procurement indicators framework and ILO has been determinant in the creation of this framework.

In the future, Sustainable UN seeks to continue to work with ILO and other agencies that bring forward the social component on the SDGs agenda to move from the implementation of UN Sustainability Strategy Phase I to the design to a Strategy Phase II.

Presentation of 2050Today | Diana Rizzolio

An important initiative was launched this week by Switzerland, named 2050Today, this initiative aims at reducing the CO2 emissions in International Geneva.

2050Today is jointly promoted by various permanent mission, the United Nations Office at Geneva and the United Nations Environment Programme, with the contribution of the IPCC secretariat and the support of local authorities and bodies.  An information and exchange workshop will be held on 3 November 2020. It will enable all entities interested in joining 2050Today to receive any additional information they may require. The workshop will detail the methodology used to implement 2050Today and provide examples of climate actions in Geneva. Institutions of international Geneva (Permanent Missions, IOs, NGOs) can contact directly the 2050Today secretariat.


  • Aaron Tuckey: How do you measure home energy use in CO2?

    Answer by Carolina: ILO works together with the SUN team, they collected all the information, for example, for energy, they collected information on electricity use, fuel for heating the building, and cooling system (they use the water of the lake). Then, ILO uses a calculator that is provided by SUN, the role of ILO is to collect information and processes it using the calculator provided by SUN and their methodology.

  • Maria Gonzalez (Permament Mission of Mexico): Good morning colleagues, Mexico congratulates the ILO for its SAP and the greening of ILO operations, this is a great commitment for sustainability. I would like to ask which was your biggest challenge to develop and implement the plan?

    Answer by Cristina: the plan in Bangkok was to form a greening ILO working group formed by a broader spectrum of colleagues from the administration system, finances, policy development, and decent work country teams. Through this working group they have start to think about the options on where to bring action. Greening the Blue and the working group assist each other to get the action rolling. Then, they have a partnership with the country offices. The country offices need to be brought into the conversation and action. The guidelines for sustainability are there as a check-list to organize events and are useful for implementation.

  • Casper Edmonds: Great so see so much progress since the ILO Environmental Sustainability Policy was published in 2016. When will the ILO become completely carbon neutral?

    Answer by Moustapha Kamal: 60% of ILO carbon emissions come from travel and the common practice across the UN system is to offset carbon emissions. Today, the ILO governing body is starting a session and one of the items of governing body will examine is a proposal by the office to have an authorization to offset travel related carbon emission. With a positive decision by the governing body, the ILO will be able to do what other UN agencies do and hopefully to reach carbon neutrality by the end of the year.

  • Vasiliki Takou: Shouldn’t the process of including sustainability in procurement start at the engagement stage with the donors? It is hard for procurement officials to implement sustainability in tenders if it is not agreed from the start and it is not an objective.

    Answer by Vanja: This is absolutely true. We have plenty of example, the most recent one is a German funding project in countries surrounding Syria in response to the Syrian refugee crisis where the criteria for sustainability where integrated from the outset, agreed with the donor, and it is a phenomenal project in part due to this clear definition of objectives based on sustainability from the very beginning.