Skopje – Concrete steps for a Sustainable Embassy

The Swiss embassy in North Macedonia has placed great emphasis on sustainability as part of its commitment to the Foreign Policy Strategy 2020–23 and the Strategy for Communication Abroad 2021–24. Already before Covid-19 the team had started to gather ideas for greening the embassy building, its day-to-day operations and adapting individual behaviours to make the embassy more sustainable. The measures implemented following a recent stocktaking are described below.

A building with a Swiss flag and two trees in the foreground, the Swiss embassy.
The Swiss embassy in Skopje has implemented a number of measures to improve sustainability. © FDFA

The embassy’s carbon footprint

In order to have a clear idea on its carbon footprint, the embassy collects consumption and expenditure data on electricity, heating, cooling, flights and car use. The purpose of these data is to inform on and monitor trends, and to establish a baseline for assessing potential measures the embassy can take to reduce its carbon footprint. 

Analysis of available data between 2016 to 2022 show that:

  • measures undertaken in terms of better electricity management yielded in a reduction of the CO2 footprint by 4 tonnes per year (from 34 to 30 t/y);
  • the sale of one of the embassy’s cars contributed to a CO2 emission decline from 4.6 tonnes to 3.2 t per year.
  • consumption trends for heating stayed the same, while prices nearly doubled in 2022 (as compared to 2019–21) due to the energy crisis.

Flight-related data (number and distance) confirms that habits in 2022 went back to those of the pre-Covid-19 period. However, the rule stipulating that FDFA staff may only fly if the business trip is above 8 hours continues to be implemented.

Although limited, as the embassy’s facilities are rented, several energy efficiency measures have been undertaken in recent years, such as the insulation of the attic, the use of intermediate doors to reduce heating losses in winter, as well as improvements in terms of more conscientious behaviour concerning daily activities (switching off lights, managing use of AC and heating, walking for short distances, etc.). Most recently, the embassy’s residence has been equipped with photovoltaic panels to reduce its reliance on fuel energy. 

Green activities and challenges

The embassy team has been implementing different activities to improve and encourage environmentally friendly behaviour. So far, the embassy team has taken concrete action on waste management and recycling (PET, paper), such as replacing water in PET bottles with a filtered tap water system and requesting plastic-free catering services; mobility measures such as selling one of the three cars and replacing it with two bicycles; energy efficiency measures such as replacing the heating/cooling system; and biodiversity measures such as planting wild flowers in the embassy's small garden.

Initiative on part of employees

By regularly soliciting ideas from the team and monitoring current trends, the team is considering and implementing additional measures.

To meet the challenge of sustainability in a way that boosts team morale, staff regularly walk or cycle to the office and meetings in Skopje, actively use the Pakomak reverse vending machines (for recycling PET and aluminium cans), try to consume less meat and use locally sourced ingredients to reduce the carbon footprint of their food and catering.

The embassy also made a New Year's video focusing on environmental protection, which was very well received and was a good way to raise awareness and encourage action by highlighting some good examples.

In 2023, the embassy also cleaned the canal next to the residence, which was full of plastic and other waste. The canal has remained clean since then. 

Implementation and monitoring

Embassy staff meetings include a reflection on the embassy's environmental commitment to encourage a regular exchange on ways to improve sustainability through the implementation of initiatives, challenges and carbon footprint monitoring. Actively engaging the team in idea sourcing and conversation on environmental behaviour has proven to be a good approach to addressing this challenge together. 

The embassy also leads by example in the area of development cooperation, for example by explicitly encouraging its partners to reduce printing, avoid the production of materials such as brochures, leaflets, etc., and banning the use of plastic bottles.

Last update 08.08.2023

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