2050Today Members

UNHCR – The UN Refugee Agency

Signatory institution of the 2050Today Charter

Contribution to climate action

UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency, aims to carry out its mandate of protecting displaced and stateless people in a sustainable manner, that minimizes negative impacts on the environment. Under the fourth objective of its Focus Area Strategic Plan for Climate Action, UNHCR works on reducing its own environmental footprint, including through the greening of its offices, supply chain, fleet and travel. In line with its ambitious goal to decrease its environmental impact and greenhouse gas emissions by a minimum of 30% by 2030, UNHCR is implementing greening solutions, such as solarizing its offices, transitioning to recycled materials for the highest CO2 emitting core relief items, installing energy metering systems and greening its fleet.

To track its progress and to gather and manage information on its office buildings, including its Headquarters in Geneva, UNHCR uses a cloud-based database that offers a comprehensive view of all its premises in one place. The information available through this platform allows UNHCR to better understand and manage its waste generation, water efficiency, energy consumption and carbon footprint. The organization also has a comprehensive Policy on the Environment for Buildings, Facilities, Fleet and Travel to provide direction on environmental good practices and help UNHCR personnel embrace sustainable practices.

In line with the Operational Strategy for Climate Resilience and Environmental Sustainability 2022-2025, UNHCR is improving the sustainability of its end-to-end supply chain. Among other activities, the organization has revised the technical specifications and supplier’s instructions of seven core relief items (such as sleeping mats and blankets) to procure and distribute more environmentally sustainable items, and reduce the materials’ impact on logistics, transportation, and waste.  This approach is already resulting in other UN agencies and international organisations piggybacking our practices and replicating them into their procurement processes.

Beyond infrastructure, mobility and supply, with its Climate Action Programming and  Climate Resilience Fund, UNHCR aims to ensure that forcibly displaced people fleeing from or living in climate-vulnerable countries are protected from and resilient to the impact of climate change.  This includes various projects from ensuring access to environmentally sustainable resources to building the resilience and adaptation of forcibly displaced persons against climate shocks and stresses. Programming covers areas such as climate resilient shelters, clean cooking solutions to combat deforestation, and small-scale infrastructure to better manage scarce natural resources, for example.

Thematic actions


In Geneva, as part of the canton’s climate strategy, a thermal network – lake water from the Lac Léman – is used to cool buildings, replacing other oil and gas-powered systems. UNHCR’s Headquarters in Geneva is connected to this network of renewable energy. Water is drawn from 45 metres below the surface of Lac Léman and pumped through a pipe network beneath Geneva, then around the office building via two energy exchangers in the basement. The organization is also reducing its energy consumption by lowering building temperatures, replacing lights with low-energy LEDs, installing sensors, and turning off non-essential lighting. Additionally, automatic blinds help manage temperature and lighting efficiently.

On a global level, UNHCR is transitioning its offices from fossil fuel-based energy resources to renewable energy sources through its Green Financing Facility, an innovative financing mechanism. The organization introduced automated energy monitoring by equipping its premises with energy meters, called Green Boxes. In order to achieve greater energy savings, UNHCR offices are also piloting smart air conditioning management sensors and are encouraged to switch traditional lights to LED lights.


In its Headquarters in Geneva, UNHCR contracted a catering company that diligently adheres to sustainable practices, offering daily vegetarian options, prioritizing seasonal and locally sourced ingredients, and championing organic farming practices. In an effort to decrease food waste, unsold but perfectly edible meals are made available at a reduced price through an initiative called Too Good to Waste, launched on the International Day of Awareness of Food Loss and Waste in September 2023. A strategy was also implemented to minimize plastic waste by transitioning to recyclable materials, such as glass and cartons.

On a global level, UNHCR has a guidance for greening its office meetings, in which offices are asked to prioritize sustainable catering options. When catering is required, food and beverage suppliers are to be chosen based on demonstrated eco-friendly choices, such as offering a buffet service rather than packaged meals and donating unused food and beverage products.


As part of UNHCR’s plan to gradually reduce its own carbon footprint arising from travel, the office parking space in Geneva is equipped with charging stations for electric bikes and vehicles to inspire personnel to choose zero-carbon transportation where possible. The office also participates in the Bike to Work Challenge, a campaign aimed at encouraging commuters to cycle to work during the months of May and June to reduce CO2 emissions and foster healthy habits for physical exercise.

Globally, UNHCR is transforming its large international fleet of vehicles to be more environmentally friendly. To reduce the environmental impact of necessary vehicle travel, UNHCR launched ridesharing through its Smart Fleet programme. This programme optimizes fleet usage, using an innovative booking and dispatch technology platform in partnership with the UN World Food Programme (WFP), to unite separate vehicle bookings when personnel travel to nearby locations. By reducing the number of vehicles travelling on the same route, unnecessary CO2 emissions can be avoided. The organization is also introducing fuel-efficient vehicle models and transitioning to electric vehicles where operational contexts allow.

Additionally, UN FLEET, a joint initiative by UNHCR and the World Food Programme, offers a diverse and sustainable fleet of vehicles to all UN organizations, ensuring safer and more efficient global mobility.

Waste management

At its Geneva Headquarters, desk bins have been removed to encourage personnel to sort waste in collective recycling bins on each floor. Alternatively, a Tidy Box can also be used, a portable, fully washable desk bin made from 100% recyclable PET plastic.

UNHCR encourages reusing, recycling, and separating waste when possible. To support sustainable practices, UNHCR has implemented a single-use plastic-free office strategy and a green meeting guide with best practices. Additionally, a tipsheet for Facility Managers promotes waste reduction initiatives across UNHCR’s 560 offices. To address and develop strategies on waste management, UNHCR has also published a Waste Management Concept Note, aiming to mobilize external stakeholders to collaborate in reducing  the overall supply environmental impact and optimize resource utilization.

Footprint and emissions by scope

2050Today’s greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions measurement methodology follows the GHG Protocol. The Protocol provides standards and guidance for organizations to measure and manage climate-warming emissions. It was created in 1998 through a partnership between the World Resources Institute (WRI) and the World Business Council for Sustainable Development (WBCSD).

According to the GHG Protocol, the distribution of emissions is done by scopes:

Scope 1 represents direct emissions linked to the consumption of fossil fuels.

Scope 2 represents indirect emissions from the generation of purchased electricity, steam, heating and cooling consumed by the reporting company.

Scope 3 includes all other indirect emissions that occur in a company’s value chain (i.e. purchased good or services, business travel, employee commuting).

The 2050Today carbon footprint takes into account the reported emissions generated by the activities of the institution over one year and is divided by categories:

Energy and water

It takes into account the amount of the consumed electricity produced and purchased by the institution. The energy consumed to heat and/or cool the institution’s building area and the consumed water are included as well.


It takes into consideration business travels and commuting (on a survey basis).


The CO2 impact of food includes the catering of the institution and individual consumption (on a survey basis) during working hours.

Purchased goods

The perimeter of purchased goods is set to a list of new office equipment, new mobility equipment (vehicles) and construction materials.


The perimeter of the waste inventory is set to waste production from facilities and internal operations of the institution

It has to be noted that the collected data of the 2050Today members resulting in each carbon footprint are not yet fully standardized and might not be entirely complete. Data collection is being progressively harmonized and improved. Therefore, direct comparisons between tCO2 / employee among institutions – be it in general or per sector – are not yet possible nor relevant.

To ensure the reliability, the accuracy and a recurrent updating of the carbon footprint assessment, 2050Today is advised by an international Carbon Footprint Scientific Committee.

Carbon Footprint

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