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    Climate neutrality, between wishes and reality: The ITC experience


    International Trade Forum - Issue 1/2010

    Reducing carbon emissions and mitigating climate change are high on the global agenda and, as a development agency, ITC has embarked on the path to climate neu-trality.

    Environmental sustainability is one of the Millennium Development Goals and one of the highest priorities of the United Nations. The UN Environment Management Group (EMG), established by the UN Secretary-General, is the leading mechanism in "greening" the UN and making it climate neutral.

    The question is: what can be done? And how? There are no easy answers. The solution requires some tough decision-making and the need to create new sustainable policies, develop technical expertise and capacity, and dedicate human and financial resources.

    Measuring carbon footprint

    Our first priority at ITC was to determine the environmental impact of ITC's operations. Three operational areas were found to have the biggest environmental impact: business travel, building facilities and staff transport. An audit of these three areas, done in accordance with UN and accepted international standards, helped establish what the mitigation priorities should be.

    Impact of business travel

    Air travel has a very high footprint in organizations where travel is core business.

    Business travel is the main cause of the total greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions for ITC (almost 90 per cent) and is the area with real potential for significant carbon footprint reductions. Travel is an important aspect of any development organization with international outreach and reducing emissions is a cross-cutting issue requiring a strong commitment to change.

    Dependent on business travel services, ITC relies on the pace and the capacity of the industry to transform itself and provide greener travel services, operational processes and solutions. The positive impact of the current UN travel policy ("most direct route") is that it minimizes unnecessary stopovers or transit and therefore reduces GHG emissions.

    Towards ecological travel

    Our first goal is to revisit the way we travel and reduce unnecessary travel. We asked ourselves the following questions:

    • Are we using videoconferencing whenever possible for meetings and candidate interviews?
    • Are our travel plans sufficiently coordinated to optimize the number of staff travelling to the same locations ("bundling" of travel and missions)?
    • When selecting event venues, do we consider the distance to the location and the CO2 emissions needed to get there?

    Secondly, we have put in place information systems to assist decisions on how to travel more ecologically. For example, ITC's travel agent now provides CO2 data on passenger tickets. Also, the total CO2 amount for ITC is quantified in monetary terms.

    As mentioned earlier, addressing travel emissions requires strong support from the organization in terms of priority and supporting resources. A strategy for a sustainable travel policy should include the following elements:

    • A coherent policy and strong commitment to reduce the environmental impact of travel
    • Taking decisions and developing policies on reduced travel and/or more efficient travel options
    • Developing mechanisms to implement corporate decisions
    • Clear designation of responsibilities, operational modalities and financial resources
    • Management, monitoring and reporting.

    Greening ITC's building: the roadmap

    Facilities management includes both the ITC building and the vast range of support services, from catering services, the management of network copiers and cleaning services to waste management and office supplies. ITC has carried out several energy-saving projects including:

    • Installation of a mixed gas and fuel heating system (more environmentally friendly than traditional systems)
    • Switching to clean, green electricity or hydropower-sourced energy
    • Installation of a comprehensive recycling programme to enable the recycling of 40 tonnes of paper every year
    • Selection of paper with the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) label, made from sustainable forests, and 100 per cent recycled paper
    • Recto-verso printing and the introduction of an automatic switch-off device for network copiers after hours
    • Replacement of ITC vehicles by hybrid and/or 100 per cent electric vehicles
    • Standardization of office supplies to reduce the amount of packaging and post-consumer waste
    • Installation of videoconferencing facilities to reduce travel
    • Communication to staff of energy-saving measures and guidelines for reduced energy consumption
    • Promoting good environmental practices from ITC suppliers and contractors via mandatory environmental requirements.

    Transport: greener mobility

    A comprehensive survey on staff mobility was conducted to quantify the carbon footprint of ITC staff from transport and to establish the needs of staff regarding mobility issues when coming to work. This will allow further carbon savings in the future.

    The only way forward

    Our experience shows that introducing and implementing environmentally sustainable policies and business practices is not a simple process. Yet, given the urgency of mitigating climate change, we must invest in inserting environmental sustainability in all our operations.



    The United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) provides many resources and publications in support of "greening efforts".

    UNEP's Kick the Habit - A UN Guide to Climate Neutrality provides a comprehensive overview of the challenges of climate change, as well as useful references and advice. You can download this booklet from UNEP's web site at www.unep.org (Publications).

    Exploring environmental
    market opportunities

    ITC's Trade, Climate Change and Environment Programme aims to strengthen the competitiveness of developing countries in environmental markets and to overcome barriers that might result from environment-related standards. ITC therefore builds the capacity of small and medium-sized enterprises and trade support institutions related to the environmental market, with a focus on organic products, biodiversity products and carbon standards for agricultural exports.

    Trade in organic and biodiversity products offers export opportunities for developing countries and plays an important role in reducing poverty in rural areas. Sustainable production also has important environmental benefits such as carbon sequestration and biodiversity gains and it helps farmers to mitigate and adapt to climate change. However, exporters face a number of obstacles, including meeting buyers' demands on quality, a lack of information about requirements and standards, dealing with certification and building relationships with buyers. Difficulties also arise with labels that convey information on the carbon footprint of products as methods to calculate emissions are complex and costly.

    ITC works on overcoming these obstacles and on improving developing countries' access to international markets by providing technical assistance, i.e., ITC trains exporters, smallholders and collectors in developing countries in compliance with standards and prepares exporters for participation in business fairs such as BioFach, the world's largest trade fair for organic products.

    ITC also provides market information and analysis and publishes research and technical papers, e.g., on organic farming and climate change or the environmental impact of airfreight transport of fruit and vegetables. The web portal Organic Link, established in 2007, has proven successful in connecting buyers and sellers of organic products.

    In addition, ITC supports governments in formulating policies that are more coordinated and favourable towards organic agriculture and biodiversity exports, most recently in Rwanda and Thailand. ITC also supports developing countries' participation in the standard-setting process and works towards facilitating their influence over it.

    For more information please go to: www.intracen.org/organics