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Sustainability @ ESCAP

ISO-14001 and infographic EMS + SDGs Energy efficiency (SDG 7), waste management (SDG 11), water management (SDG6), travel (SDG 11,12,13), and sustainable meetings (SDG12)

In 2017/2018, the UN Compound in Bangkok established an Environmental Management System (EMS) to systematically reduce the environmental impacts of its facilities and operations and align its in-house management with the SDGs. The EMS follows ISO 14001 standards for environmental management to seek continual improvement of its environmental performance and timely involvement of stakeholders.

With a UN Compound of over 80,000 sqm, 1,500 staff, and 80,000 visitors annually, the sustainable management of our facilities and operations is crucial to prevent avoidable environmental impacts. In the first EMS cycle (2018-2022), the EMS main target areas were:

  • Sustainable meetings
  • Waste management
  • Energy efficiency
  • Water management
  • Travel

In the second EMS cycle (2022-2026), additional areas were included:

  • EMS expansion to ESCAP offices in the region (beyond HQ)
  • EMS expansion to the ESCAP’s programmatic work (beyond facilities and operations)

Detailed action plans have been developed for each environmental aspect and are currently under implementation to translate our goals into action.

Infographic EMS

Main Initiatives & Achievements

Environmental Footprint Approach: MEASURE - REDUCE - OFFSET

Since 2008: ESCAP has been measuring and reporting on its footprint annually.

August 2017 - March 2018: The UN Bangkok established its Environmental Management System after carrying out an Initial Environmental Review and establishing its governance structure under senior management leadership.

PHASE 1

June - December 2018: The UN Bangkok bans single-use plastics and paper cups in our catering operations

This initiative aims at banning all avoidable single-use waste associated with our onsite catering operations. All single use catering items were replaced with reusable ones. Only in exceptional cases, these were replaced with more sustainable single-use options and charged at an extra fee to promote behavioral change among staff and visitors. This initiative has been preventing nearly 9 tons of waste annually by rethinking our way of working.

September 2018 - onwards: Daily Earth Hour Campaign during lunchtime

It’s lunch time, let’s take a break from pollution too! The UN Compound in Bangkok launched a new energy saving campaign to reduce its footprint by automatically switching off office lights during lunchtime. This initiative prevents around 90 tons of CO2 in a year and saves the amount of electricity averagely needed to power 280 households in Thailand.

October/November 2018: Plants with advanced air filtering properties were planted in our gardens and information on their properties made visible to staff and visitors to share greening tips for their homes.

October - Dececember 2018: In collaboration with the ESCAP Human Resources team, the Environmental Management team has been promoting Flexible Working Arrangements to reduce emissions from staff commuting.

August 2017 - ongoing: The EMS team has been helping ESCAP reduce the environmental impacts of its large onsite construction works through detailed waste prevention and management plans, and supporting the integration of energy efficiency and sustainability features into the project components.

Since 2017 - ongoing: ESCAP has been organizing green meetings to promote best practices among its participants and reduce the environmental impact of its work. What are green meetings?

  • Event-related GHG emissions reported: We measure the emissions of ESCAP intergovernmental meetings
  • Climate Neutral: We offset the emissions of large ESCAP intergovernmental meetings
  • Waste prevented & minimized:e.g. no single-use catering items
  • PaperSmart: Minimized printing, electronic versions of documents circulated to participants
  • Teleconferencing: The UN Conference Centre is equipped for video conferencing to reduce participants travel
  • Sustainable menus: Sustainable menus may be offered including plant-based and no red meat options to reduce our "foodprint". Locally grown, free-range and pesticide-free products are proposed to support local communities and protect the environment and human health.
  • Participants awareness: We use our ECO tool to inform each meeting participant of their carbon footprint to attend the event. This helps raise awareness across the region and promote more sustainable practices.

September/December 2019: The UN Secretariat officially adopts an Environmental Policy to minimize the environmental impacts of its operations and facilities!. The official commitment statement made by ESCAP Senior Leadership to make the Secretariat’s Environmental Policy a beacon in the implementation of ESCAP’s mandate in the region

November 2018 - ongoing: ESCAP is climate neutral for six years in a row (2017-2022) by offsetting its facilities and operations emissions through Certified Emissions Reduction projects in the region and through the UN Secretariat's support since 2020.

March 2020 - ongoing: Air Quality Index sensor installed at UN Garden

Starting from late November to March, several areas in Thailand experience high levels of air pollution, due to the predominance of high pressure, low wind speed, fog and mist. Air pollution poses significant health risks to everyone and different pollutants affect our bodies in different ways. Staff members living and working in Thailand and meeting participants alike run the risk of being exposed to air pollution at some point. To help minimize the risk of exposure to air pollution, everyone can access the AQI at the UN Garden and read our collaborative note.

June 2020: Sustainable menus training delivered to caterers

July 2020: New centralized waste bins and recycling centre
ESCAP's target was to exceed 50% waste recycling by 2022. ESCAP achieved 67% thanks to a new waste management strategy that included centralized recycling bins made from 100% recycled materials, replacing individual staff bins and a new waste sorting centre to improve waste segregation and recycling.

October 2020 - ongoing: 100% electricity sourcing from renewables through I-RECs

To support the local renewable energy market, ESCAP has been procuring certified International Renewable Energy Credits (I-RECs) to cover its non-renewable electricity consumption for the whole UN Compound and its regional offices since 2020. 

April 2021: Expansion of onsite solar panels

PHASE 2

May 2022 - June 2023: Environmental Emergency and Response plan & training

In compliance with ISO 14001 the plan was developed, and relevant teams were trained on how to implement it.

October 2022: EV charging stations installed at ESCAP HQ for official vehicles and personnel.

May 2023: Sustainability & Innovation Centre

Exhibition Centre completed at the United Nations Conference Centre in partnership with ESCAP teams and young artists to showcase the EMS work and inspire colleagues and visitors on how to concretely take climate action. The space was built from recycled and upcycled material.

June 2023 - ongoing: EMS expansion
Action plans for all ESCAP regional offices completed. Ongoing implementation.

Environmental performance

Since 2002, ESCAP has implemented a series of energy efficiency projects that have enabled its headquarters in Bangkok to reduce the UN Compound’s total energy consumption by 25 % between 2003 and 2017. This improvement of energy efficiency brought about the decrease of electricity and reduced greenhouse gas emissions from 7,590 to 5,692 tonnes of CO2 equivalent per year during the same period.

To bring ESCAP’s climate action to the next level, ESCAP established an Environmental Management System (EMS) in 2018 to streamline and expand its environmental work. Impressive progress is being achieved compared to the 2016 baseline year. EMS environmental sustainability reports are published annually to provide an overview of ESCAP’s environmental performance and actions.