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(Online) Sustainable Procurement: Key to Greening Humanitarian Responses

11 May, 2022 @ 11:00 am 12:00 pm

A healthy environment is inherently linked to the safety, security and well-being of refugees, internally displaced persons, host communities and societies. In the last decade, UN agencies, INGOs and NGOs have started to mainstream environmental sustainability into their strategies, projects and programs, and operations; all in line with the environment-related commitments of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

Most refugees and internally displaced persons (IDP) camps have no access to the electricity grid or energy sources other than biomass. In order to meet the energy needs of the camp population, humanitarian agencies have been supplying off-grid products such as solar lanterns, solar street lights and solar home systems. Whilst development objectives aim to be considered in humanitarian response (to support the humanitarian-development-peace nexus approach), often, the humanitarian funding cycle is shorter than the life-cycle of procured products, and once devices such as solar products have been distributed, they are often left to the end user to dispose of. Given that many products aren’t designed to be repaired, this can create a risk to human health(e.g. leaking batteries) and the environment (e.g. contamination of groundwater, soil and air with carcinogenic compounds) (ESDS, 2021; PACE &E-waste Coalition, 2019; UNICEF, 2020), thereby negatively impacting long-term development goals. The unregulated discard of e-waste is among thefastest-growing waste streams in camps and camp-like settings.

Background of partnership

Innovation Norway and IOM are committed to supporting the clean energy transition within humanitarian settings, to enable greening humanitarian responses (SDG7 & SDG12). The humanitarian sector’s vision of the clean energy transition is articulated through the sector-wide initiative, the Global Plan of Action for Sustainable Energy in Displacement Settings.  Further, at the 2016 World Humanitarian Summit IOM committed to the United Nations New Ways of Working and Grand Bargain, both of which focus on enhanced engagement between humanitarian and development actors. Developing initiatives to green our humanitarian response to deliver on these commitments is crucial moving forward.

Innovation Norway, the International Organization for Migration(IOM) and Solvoz have partnered in 2021 to open up the expertise and technical capacity of various stakeholders within the humanitarian sector (private, academia, international organizations, NGOs, global associations) to address the growing e-waste streams from humanitarian operations through sustainable procurement.

Sustainable procurement

Sustainable procurement will take into account selecting the right products, and also service aspects (e.g. repair, recycling) to minimise waste, extend the lifecycle of products, and to reduce any final downstream effects of waste disposal from any product to be procured. In summary, the partnership recognises that greening humanitarian responses start at both technical selections of items as well as procurement decisions including service contracts.

In addition, we are providing detailed technical guidance on products and services, enabling local service providers to more easily engage with the wider humanitarian sector, green their procurement, as well as strengthen the localization of humanitarian procurement. 

Our approach to sustainable procurement for solar products will be presented during the session, which is envisaged to be extended beyond solar products in future, to encompass the energy sector and other electronic devices. 


  • Claire Barnhoorn – CEO of Solvoz
  • Yumiko Abe-Soulier – Circularity and Waste Management expert Solvoz and InterActa
  • Gemma Arthurson – Global WASH Support Team of International Office of Migration, IOM Geneva
  • Therese Marie Uppstrøm Pankratov – Senior advisor, The Humanitarian Innovation Programme, Innovation Norway