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Auditing the Environment

The challenge of many contexts - A chat with Juan Galvez: Team Leader for the Supply Chain Environmental Sustainability and National Society Logistics [Capacity] Development. IFRC.

The environment is many things; an experience, a protective shield, and a delicate balance in our existence that needs to be maintained. In this light, carbon accounting of an organization has become a vital tool to prove its sustainability credentials.

Measuring units and components of our tangible and intangible reality can help us reach objectives more efficiently, but they can also obfuscate and hide truths. So there is a need to handle the process with care. Carbon accounts of an organization have become a pressing need, a crucial presence in the world of administration, but as Juan Galvez reminds us, they need to be put into context.

According to Galvez, the IFRC is engaged with other organizations in a project led by fellow Red Cross movement leader - the ICRC. Together they are piloting a methodology in order to try to define a common standard for carbon accounting within the humanitarian sector. They are making attempts to get best practices listed so that it becomes a shared resource. They are also working with other global organizations that have shown great advancement in this field.

At the same time, there is a need to actually start practicing methods and tools to lower carbon consumption and create a better sustainability score. This includes regular measurements of the ecological global footprint of the organization and defining a minimum standard. By the end of the year, a tool kit will be finalized – one that is presently in a testing phase. This will be offered free to humanitarian organizations around the world so that more and more of them can keep an account of their consumption practices.

For Galvez, the real challenge for the IFRC is not just about measuring the ecological footprint of the Geneva headquarters building, but to create a standard and tool of measurement that can factor in the differences in all its 86 plus offices around the world. As he puts it – ‘Not everybody has the same capabilities of measuring things as we do’. But those differences in capacities are really what environmental challenges are really all about.

What is the biggest challenge is to connect the process of measurements inside the building to its integration within the community it is embedded in. This remains one of the most important goals at the end of the day. We need to understand that for the Red Cross, mobilising volunteers from communities and identifying their problems goes further than anything else for such integration. Trying to create proposals and implement projects that are sensitive to community needs, especially in life-threatening situations, is the real context in which most member organizations of the Red Cross movement function in. It is to speak about environmental concerns within such a reality that makes the portfolio that Juan represents really interesting for him.

A park that has a core conservation focus in its larger program is a huge opportunity for both the organization and the community at large. Even at a symbol level, the fact that the headquarters building of the IFRC is opening itself to the community and preserving the forest in the precinct is a crucial framework to build on - something that future generations will definitely be grateful for.

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