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Corporate Environmental Responsibility

Background

The UN has applied sustainability principles in many areas of its operations, and it has engaged the international community to do so as well.  For example, the UN launched its Global Compact in 2000 as a strategic policy initiative for businesses that are committed to aligning their operations and strategies with ten universally accepted principles in the areas of human rights, labour, environment and anti-corruption."1

In order to stand behind this compact and considering the gravity of the situation, the UN has accepted the responsibility of improving its own internal operations towards lowering environmental impacts.

On June 5th, 2007 (World Environment Day) UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon publicly stated his commitment towards the “Organization’s direct contribution to global efforts to safeguard our planet and climate”. In the following month on July 31st, 2007 he addressed the General Assembly and conveyed his vision of a climate neutral and more sustainable UN through a “Greening the UN” initiative. In succession, the Chief Executives Board for Coordination officially decreed their commitment towards this movement in October of the same year. Under the leadership of the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), several groups were therefore engaged and/or created for the purpose, namely: the UN Environment Management Group (EMG), the Sustainable United Nations (SUN) Facility, and the Issue Management Group on Sustainability Management (IMG). The Rio+20 outcome document, “The future we want,” further proved such commitment from Member States to internal environmental responsibility. The document, endorsed by the General Assembly in July 2012 with A/Res/66/288 (para 96) and subsequently by the 2013 resolution A/Res/67/226 (para 15) “calls upon the United Nations system to improve the management of facilities and operations by taking into account sustainable development practices2, building on existing efforts and promoting cost-effectiveness, in accordance with legislative frameworks, including financial rules and regulations, while maintaining accountability to Member States”3.

In reference to Environmental Management Systems, in 2011 the Strategic Plan on Environmental Sustainability Management was approved by the EMG and served as a base for the work of the IMG on Environment management Systems. Later on, with the decision on “Environmental Sustainability Management in the UN System” (7-8 March 2013) the HLCM “committed to the development and implementation of environmental sustainability management systems in each organization, through a gradual, voluntary and flexible process as described in the ‘Strategic plan for environmental sustainability management in the UN system,’ focusing on low-investment and high-return initiatives, and through mainstreaming of EMS in the programming and planning processes and increased coordination on this subject among the relevant HLCM networks”. On 5 April 2013 In Madrid, the CEB endorsed the HLCM decision and further detailed the engagement of UN heads towards EMS.

 


1 EMG/AM.07/06/Rev.2.
2 The 2012 GA resolution on renewable energies A/RES/67/215 (para 18) also “calls upon the Secretary-General to promote renewable energy and related sustainable practices in all United Nations facilities around the world, from within existing resources”.
3 UN General Assembly Resolutions 66/288 ‘The future we want’ and GA/Res/67/226.