A room with a yellow chair and a potted plant in a green office.

Green office – Organisational level

Greening office practices at the organisational level is critical to walking the talk, instituting real change, scaling up the results and engaging staff in sustainability.

How do office practices impact climate?

Corporate environmental responsibility (CER), also known as “green CSR”, aims to reduce the impact of business operations on the environment. Having a green office can help reduce energy consumption, waste, and CO2 emissions; improve the organisation’s supply chain to a more eco-responsible one while supporting green initiatives. Among other benefits, it raises staff awareness, inspires, and encourages other organisations to engage in environmental stewardship.

Why are organisations’ actions important?

Each organisation can take measures to reduce its offices’ carbon and environmental footprint. Computers, heating, air conditioning, commuting, office cleaning – all these aspects of office life matter.

Individual staff initiatives are essential. They should be supported, encouraged and institutionalised by their organisation. However, they are not sufficient to achieve significant and rapid reductions in greenhouse gas emissions across the organisation.  All departments must be involved and accountable (operations, procurement, IT, HR, premises).

Why is this a key issue for the aid sector?

To better serve the world’s most vulnerable people that the aid sector is helping, there is a collective responsibility to mitigate climate change and environmental degradation. It requires the aid sector to walk the talk, to lead by example and to take the necessary steps to reduce its climate and environmental footprint, both at organisational and operational levels.

In addition, the majority of headquarters and offices are located in high-income countries, which emit much more and have done so for much longer than low-income countries, providing an even greater incentive to act.

Finally, an organisation asking its staff to green their practices or to advocate strongly for more climate action without taking action itself demonstrates a lack of coherence and integrity, which can be counterproductive for staff engagement and for the organisation’s image.

A row of green bicycles parked on a sidewalk at the organisational level.
© Yangjunjun/Pexels.

How can we act?

Green office practices are countless, easy to implement and visible to all. They start with small actions that can be replicated throughout the organisation. They extend from soft mobility commuting, reducing and recycling waste, saving water and energy, increasing lifespan of furniture and IT equipment, offering low-carbon food choices, etc.

What are the gains?

Improving offices’ practices, along with engaging and training staff in greening the organisation, can lead to a more motivated, productive and dynamic workforce that give importance and value to good ethics and corporate responsibility. Green office practices also offer opportunities to save money for the organisation, associated with energy savings or reduced travel. Committing to and encouraging a sustainable approach can also improve an organisation’s image, inspire its network and help some organisations – such as aid organisations – to secure additional funding from donors.

Key facts

1°C lower

Setting the air conditioning one degree lower can save 10% energy use (1)

390,000 tonnes of CO2

Paper recycling can avoid 390,000 tons of CO2 emissions/year equivalent to the annual emissions of 200,000 cars (2)


Energy consumption for air conditioning can reach 20% for large office buildings (3)

0g CO2e

Emissions from walking or cycling, compared to:

  • 5.4g CO2e from riding a train
  • 37.5 CO2e from riding a public transport bus
  • 146.6g CO2e from riding a passenger car (4)

Key solutions

To meditate

  • Waste

    Waste separation is generally done in 3 stages: individuals, cleaning staff, municipality. It is common for staff to find out that, despite the selective sorting carried out at their level, the subsequent stages of the process are not done, either by the cleaning staff who collect all types of waste in the same bin, or by the municipal collectors. In addition to having no impact on the climate, this causes frustration among employees and hampers their commitment to act more ecologically. This may be due to sorting not being included in contracts with cleaning companies, or poor management and planning, with cleaning staff not having the time to collect the waste or not being informed. Care should be taken to include selective sorting in contracts without penalising cleaners and to ensure that sorting is actually carried out by the municipality.

  • IT equipment

    The organisation’s IT department has an essential role to play in ensuring the implementation of green measures. They can be responsible for configuring all IT equipment (computers, telephones, printers) according to ecological criteria (standby mode, energy saving, both side printing, browsers).

Tools and good practices


(1) NREL, Energy Impacts of Oversized Residential Air Conditioners — Simulation Study of Retrofit Sequence Impacts, 2014. Read here.

(2) ADEME, Éco-responsable au bureau, 2020. Read here.

(3) ADEME, Éco-responsable au bureau, 2020. Read here.

(4) Stay Grounded, What is the climate impact of aviation? Read here.

(5) LEED rating system. Read here.

(6) Science-based target. Read here.


Cover photo © Ron McClenny/Unsplash.