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Environmental policy

SEI tackles complex environment and development challenges and does so using a highly collaborative approach with partners across the globe. The nature of our work means there will always be some requirement to travel, which comprises a major part of the institute’s environmental footprint. At the same time, we strive to carry out our work as sustainably as possible. To do so we have put in place global policies, centre processes and more effective use of technologies and software for remote meetings.

Measures to reduce flight emissions

In 2019, SEI set an emissions reduction goal for work-related air travel. The goal is to reduce emissions by 25% per full-time equivalent (FTE) by 2024 compared to 2017 levels. It is mandatory for all centres to monitor and report all business-related emissions from air travel.

In SEI we use our own TR2AIL tool for Tracking, Reflecting and Reducing Air Travel for this purpose. This tool:

  • allows individuals to set a target for, plan, self-report and monitor their own air travel emissions;
  • calculates CO2e emissions automatically when the user registers trips (based on work by researchers at Chalmers University);
  • encourages reflection on the reasons and justification for travel, and
  • provides a consistent record across all SEI centres that allows for rapid assessment of trends in air travel emissions for internal management processes and external reporting.

It also enables us to collect data on reasons for travel and who we are engaging with during travel. These data are analyzed to inform future decision-making on travel.

Where appropriate, online meetings and remote participation at events are prioritized as the primary mode of international collaboration. This is a fundamental tool not only to minimize our travel emissions, but also to extend our reach to broader and bigger audiences.

SEI flight emissions

The SEI Foundation’s flight emissions in the past eight years are summarized in the table below.

Table: SEI Foundation CO2 emissions from air travel
Year Emissions (metric tons CO2e) Distance (km) Travel emissions per employee (tons/FTE)
2015 530 3.2 million 5.76
2016 517 3.4 million 4.92
2017 561 3.7 million 4.96
2018 583 3.9 million 4.40
2019 543 3.6 million 4.00
2020 56 0.4 million 0.36
2021 32 0.2 million 0.18
2022 369 2.3 million 1.99

While we expect our emissions in 2023 to increase from 2022 – as travel continues to return to normal following exceptional restrictions – we aim to continue to learn from and build upon our capacity to engage effectively and operate remotely, which has increased significantly since 2020. We invest in ICT and software on an ongoing basis to improve online meeting experiences. In 2022, we upgraded the ICT equipment in our Headquarters office.

Internal environmental action plans

All SEI centres are required to annually submit an internal environment and sustainability action plan to chart progress on environmental sustainability targets and set out ambitions and actions to further reduce the environmental footprint of the centre during the coming year.

Actions range from investments in hardware – including improvements to design of our buildings and installation of water and energy saving features, solar panels, rainwater harvesting and energy monitors – to interventions aimed at promoting dialogue and behavioural change, both within our centres and amongst those we work alongside, including building managers, building co-occupants and partners.

Below is a list of examples of actions we are taking to reduce the environmental impact of our centres.

  • We support staff to commute sustainably. For example, the team in SEI Africa work with neighboring organizations to pool transport, allowing them to collectively reduce the vehicle emissions associated with employee commuting. Other actions include putting in place flexible working policies that allow for easier use of public transport options and investing in facilities to encourage commuting by bike or foot.
  • We work with building managers and host institutions to improve their sustainability across energy and water use, procurement, and waste and recycling. For example, our team in SEI York work alongside the Sustainability Strategy team in the University of York to drive sustainability actions across the university, such as investment in renewable energy infrastructure.
  • We take care in how and where we host events. We work with environmentally and socially responsible venues and always ensure that vegetarian and vegan food is available at our events. Many of our offices do not offer meat at all.
  • We are continually revising our procurement practices to focus on the purchase of energy efficient, sustainable and eco-friendly products.
  • We have excellent online conferencing facilities and have made significant investments in software to help us to collaborate easily and efficiently across our network.
  • We undertake collective action such as tree planting or beach cleanup that everyone can feel the direct impact of. As well as bringing our teams together, we use these events as opportunities to promote deeper reflection on key environmental issues and ground-level actions we can take.


Marie Jürisoo
Marie Jürisoo

Deputy Director and Operations Director

Global Operations

SEI Headquarters

Jonathan Green profile picture
Jonathan Green

Senior Researcher

SEI York

Profile picture of Julia Barrott
Julia Barrott

Impact and Learning Officer

Global Operations

SEI Oxford

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