Taking into account the environmental impact of our humanitarian actions

Humanitarian aid is now deployed on a planet that is the victim of a phenomenon that is now known to all: climate change. This is why Première Urgence Internationale is directly affected by these new environmental and climatic challenges.

Cameroun, © Philippe Ramboasolo I Première Urgence Internationale

Greenhouse gas emissions, environmental degradation, pollution, disruption of local ecosystems: these are all impacts that an NGO must now integrate into its strategy and actions in order to understand and control them. It is in response to this growing threat that a working group has been created within our association to tackle the issue of climate change head on.


Première Urgence Internationale has been working on this issue since 2019, and it has now become one of the objectives of our strategy. The working group came into being during 2020 and was formed into four themes, each dedicated to a major area of work:

  • The definition of Première Urgence Internationale’s environmental policies.
  • Reducing the environmental impact and carbon footprint of the association’s operations.
  • Reducing the environmental impact of the organisation’s projects and adapting our operational activities to climate change.
  • Raising awareness and communicating the measures taken and practices adopted, and the importance of the links between the environment and the humanitarian sector.


Première Urgence Internationale is committed to reducing its environmental impact, particularly its carbon footprint, both at headquarters and in the field.

Carbon footprint and balance

We are currently conducting a carbon footprint assessment of all our missions and the NGO’s headquarters, which will enable us to create a roadmap from 2023 to 2030 to identify the implementation of actions to reduce our carbon footprint and monitor these actions, in line with the Paris Climate Agreement (COP21) and future donor requirements.

In early 2021, the inter-NGO consortium CHANGE was created to address this issue. The first step of this mutualisation was to identify current data from all our headquarters and field departments and to analyse them through the prism of carbon footprinting. This analysis includes, for example, greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from transport, food purchases and waste management. This carbon footprint consultancy has enabled the definition of a quantification and reduction perimeter between the NGOs in the consortium, as well as the identification of a GHG emissions quantification tool.


Our organisation has also called on the consulting firm Sustain4 from 2020 to improve the management of our resources (energy, water, waste and transport) through analyses of our consumption records over a period of 12 months. This carbon footprint analysis currently concerns the head office and four missions: Yemen, Nigeria, Mali and the Central African Republic. The objective here is to identify the most energy-intensive items and to draw up a report on the activities to be modified in order to reduce our carbon footprint.


Première Urgence Internationale very recently signed a partnership agreement with the French association ReNewGies, an organisation that works for access to sustainable and efficient energy. The aim of this new collaboration is to promote and support the integration of renewable energy, mainly through photovoltaics, within the headquarters and field missions. For example, the replacement of fuel-consuming generators with solar panels would allow a shift from carbon-based to carbon-free energy.

This agreement allows us to raise awareness and train our teams on photovoltaic energy. Four days of training took place in March for teams working in Syria, Palestine, Afghanistan and Lebanon. In all, 14 people were able to acquire this new knowledge in order to put it into practice in the field. This partnership also provides support to the organisation in the sizing of photovoltaic projects as well as raising awareness of energy sobriety, an approach that aims to reduce energy consumption through changes in behaviour, lifestyle and collective organisation.

The aim is to train all the logistics teams as well as the operational teams in the field, particularly in the water, hygiene and sanitation sector, and to provide support for a gradual move away from fossil fuels.

Review of purchasing policies

Another project set up this year by an inter-NGO group to which Première Urgence Internationale belongs is the integration of environmental criteria into the organisation’s purchasing policies. Each purchase will have to be reasoned and will require consideration of the local/regional/national context, for example: what is the minimum amount of waste produced by a given object? What is its water and plastic consumption? What is the distance travelled by this object? Some of these environmental criteria are already taken into account in the projects with Sustain4 and ReNewGies and will help to meet the future obligations of our environmental strategy in relation to our funders.

Electronic signature

The Première Urgence Internationale logistics team has also carried out a new project linked to the reduction of the organisation’s carbon footprint: the implementation of electronic signatures. The first step towards archiving and all-digital technology, this transition allows us to reduce the amount of paper used by avoiding the printing of files. Implemented a year ago, this dematerialisation has prevented the organisation from producing 270 kg of waste, the equivalent of 3,906 kg of carbon or 40,895 litres of water.

environmental impact of our humanitarian actions

Myanmar © Didier Morellet I Première Urgence Internationale


The operations carried out by Première Urgence Internationale in the field are no exception to this new environmental action plan. The organisation has now adopted a new tool: NEAT+.

NEAT+ (Nexus Environmental Assessment Tool) is “a project-level environmental analysis tool adapted to humanitarian contexts[2] developed by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) and the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (UNOCHA). It “combines environmental data with site and activity specific questions to automatically analyse the situation and flag priority environmental risks”[3].

Première Urgence Internationale’s objective is to adapt our operational programmes to take account of environmental issues and to reduce their GHG emissions through the use of this tool. NEAT+ is currently operational on three missions: Cameroon, Palestine and the Central African Republic, and is currently being deployed in Afghanistan and Lebanon. Initially deployed on a project basis, future evaluations will allow the association to draw recommendations and extend the tool to the country level.


The creation of a signposting system

A signage project for Première Urgence Internationale’s headquarters and its missions is currently being developed. The aim is to raise awareness among all employees of their environmental impact through the introduction of everyday gestures. This signage will take the form of indications (for example, limiting paper printing) or through information collected by Sustain4. It will be translated so that it can be applied in all our missions.

[1] ICRC, The Climate and Environment Charter for Humanitarian Organizations (2022).

[2] NEAT+ tool, factsheet (2018): https://www.eecentre.org/wp-content/uploads/2018/12/factsheet_NEAT_new-logo-1.pdf

[3] Ibid.

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