May 20, 2009
A simplified environmental management and certification system
Summary of the case
Green Office is a programme operated by WWF Finland. The aim of the programme is to offer offices a simplified environmental management and certification system, with a special focus on CO2 emissions. The ultimate goal of the programme is to combat climate change through energy efficiency and renewables, re-duce natural resource use, and promote sustainable lifestyles through enhanced employee awareness.
The target group includes office facilities in Finland that wish to improve their environmental management. Currently, 200 offices in 80 different organisations have gained the Green Office certificate. They include the head offices of some large companies (e.g., banks), media companies, and in particular, large non-profit organizations. Recently, a very large public facility management organisation has decided to join the pro-gramme, which will eventually double the office space covered by the programme.
Green Office is a purely voluntary and self-financing programme. It is operated by WWF Finland, a volun-tary organization, and the target group participates voluntarily and finances the programme through fees paid by participants. Green Office is an advice and certification programme which provides participants with in-formation about how to achieve energy and environmental savings, and provides their stakeholders with information about which offices can be considered ‘green’, i.e., good partners to co-operate with or attractive employers to work for. Arguments for offices to adopt the system include environmental benefits, cost savings, increased staff motivation and enhanced reputation of the certified organizations.
The certification requires that offices appoint a person responsible for the Green Office programme, set up an environmental programme, provide environmental training, sort and recycle waste, reduce CO2 emissions, make a commitment to continual improvement, monitor achievement of objectives, and report annually to WWF Finland using the ‘climate calculator’ provided by the programme. The calculator is based on data from heat and electricity use, transportation and paper consumption. Other support activities include two annual training sessions, and an e-mail feed of about 20 conservation ideas (‘saving tips’) annually. Studies are published on best practices. WWF representatives make regular inspections of certified offices. Partici-pants pay a application fee of 500-3000 EUR and an annual fee of 200-2000 EUR depending on the number of personnel.
The scheme has been in operation since 2003, preceded by a pilot phase (1999-2002). A study by WWF Finland in 2006 involving 17 of the participating organisations indicated that offices can save money and improve the working environment through Green Office activities. According to the study, participants were able to reduce CO2 emissions by up to 70% with economically justifiable measures (this includes indirect emissions from, e.g., reduced paper use). The organizations saved a total of 3.6 M€ and reduced CO2 emis-sions by 1,091 tonnes.
The example can be considered a successful one in the sense that no public funding is needed, and savings have been achieved on a voluntary basis in the participating organizations. On the other hand, it still operates on a relatively small scale, and the technologies and solutions applied are fairly conventional. The most re-cent data (2007) indicate that annual reductions in CO2 emissions have continued to be significant, but some participants are experiencing problems in reducing their electricity use. The programme appears to have been very successful in promoting social learning: participating offices exchange experiences via regular network meetings, and environmental and energy management is institutionalized in the participating offices. The scheme is also being institutionalized in public sector organisations, where environmental management sys-tems are becoming a requirement. WWF Finland has progressively learned to manage the programme over the years and gained insights into the problems and potentials for energy and resource management in of-fices. In recent years, the programme has also expanded to other countries - WWF is operating Green Office programmes in a number of Asian countries, and activities are also starting in some other European coun-tries.