Review of mainstreaming environmental sustainability across organizations of the United Nations system (JIU/REP/2020/8)

The current context provides an opportunity for the United Nations organizations to reimagine the system by making their policies, practices and operations, including internal management, environmentally sustainable. They should move away from advocacy practices aimed merely at raising awareness and should instead assume responsibility for implementing the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development within their operations and activities. They should fully seize the opportunities arising from the ongoing global COVID-19 pandemic for serious digitalization and resource footprint reduction, including in the realm of travel. They should assume responsibility, demonstrate their commitment and set an example by making their own contributions to the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals. Instead of remaining as prisoners chained to the past, the United Nations organizations should play a pioneering role in ushering in a sustainable future for all and strive to become harbingers of a sustainable future.


Following a proposal from the United Nations Secretariat, the Joint Inspection Unit (JIU) reviewed in 2020 the topic of mainstreaming environmental sustainability across organizations of the United Nations system. The review analyzes the mechanisms for governance, accountability, and coordination for promoting environmental sustainability at the system-wide level and at the organizational level, and identifies the main challenges, obstacles and impediments in the way of mainstreaming environmental sustainability in the internal management functional areas.


Legislative mandates for addressing environmental sustainability in the internal management functional areas are missing in many organizations of the United Nations system, though some aspects are being addressed indirectly as part of the implementation of policies and procedures relating to different management areas.


Using the framework provided by the Strategy for Sustainability Management in the United Nations system (2020-2030) endorsed by the Chief Executives Board for Coordination (CEB) in May 2019, the review examines ten specific internal management functional areas in detail, and identifies good practices to mainstream environmental sustainability.

To address the principal challenges identified, the review outlines measures that include: developing a dedicated policy and related standard operating procedures for mainstreaming environmental sustainability; incorporating environmental sustainability considerations in specific internal management functional areas such as procurement action; human resources and learning, facilities and infrastructure, travel, events and conferences, Information and Communication Technologies, finance and budget, public information and communication, and, partnerships;  establishing focal points within entities as necessary; improving consideration of environmental sustainability-related costs; ensuring staff training on environmental sustainability-related matters; incorporating environmental sustainability-related questions into staff surveys; improving data collection; ensure monitoring and regular reporting on environmental sustainability to the legislative organs and governing bodies; getting oversight bodies to pay attention in their work to monitoring and evaluating environmental sustainability in the internal management areas of entities; and, improving inter- and intra- agency coordination mechanisms to share good practices.


The review makes 10 actionable formal recommendations,1addressed to the legislative organs and governing bodies and 9 to the executive heads. In addition, 55 informal recommendations addressed to the executive heads outline suggestions for effecting further improvements.


The review’s findings will be presented to the General Assembly at its 76th session, following the receipt of CEB’s comments on the report.

For the report click here

For the Review Highlights click here