A strategy for the environment

CERN strives to be a role model for environmentally responsible research. Limiting the environmental impact of the Organization’s activities is a priority for CERN’s management, making environmental protection integral to all management processes. The environment is a central ingredient of the CERN Safety Policy, which sets out policy in matters of health, safety and environmental protection. The Occupational Health & Safety and Environmental Protection Unit, HSE, CERN’s centre of competence in environmental matters, is a driving force behind the Safety Policy, working with all CERN Departments. CERN applies the precautionary principle in all aspects of environmental management.

First introduced in the Rio Declaration on Environment and Development, the principle specifies that 'lack of full scientific certainty shall not be used as a reason for postponing cost-effective measures to prevent environmental degradation'. Many technologies developed at CERN have potential applications in environmental management. It is an integral part of CERN's management approach to ensure that these are made available to society as a whole.

In 2016, CERN’s Directorate strengthened its commitment to the environment through the adoption of an Environmental Protection Strategy, which identified top priority environmental domains. In 2017, this was followed by the establishment of CEPS, the CERN Environmental Protection Steering board. CEPS is constituted of representatives from CERN Departments, designated by the Department Leaders, and is Chaired by a member of the HSE Unit. CEPS’s mandate is to identify and prioritise environmental areas to be addressed, propose programmes of action, and follow-up their implementation following endorsement by the Enlarged Directorate, which is composed of the Organization’s Directors and Department Leaders. The Director-General allocates the resources managed by CEPS.

CERN works closely with its Host States in matters of environmental protection. As an Organization straddling two countries, CERN develops its own regulations, based on and in agreement with those of the Host States. Where no specific CERN regulation exists, the most relevant regulation of the two Host States is adopted.

CERN signed a memorandum of cooperation in 2007 for non-radiological environmental aspects with the environmental authorities of the Canton of Geneva, Switzerland, and the Sub-Prefectures of Gex and Nantua, France. This established a tripartite committee for the environment, CTE from its French acronym, which holds two plenary meetings a year, as well as regular technical meetings.

In 2010, a tripartite agreement between CERN, the Swiss Federal Office for Public Health, OFSP, and the French Nuclear Authority, ASN, regarding matters of radiation protection and radiation safety at CERN replaced the previously existing bilateral arrangements. This established a framework for the discussion of topics related to radiation protection, specifically protecting CERN workers and people from ionising radiation whether on-site or in the vicinity of CERN’s facilities. It paved the way for regular trilateral technical meetings, as well as annual high-level plenary meetings chaired by CERN’s Director for Accelerators and Technology. The Organization reports formally to the OFSP and ASN individually in matters of radiation protection. The HSE Unit has authority in matters of radiation protection at CERN, and is a recognised leader in the field.

While CEPS has a global mandate for environmental protection, a separate body was established in 2011 for the particular case of energy management. The Chair of the CERN Energy Management Panel, EMP, is an ex-officio member of CEPS. The EMP examines CERN’s energy consumption and identifies measures to improve efficiency organisation-wide and promote energy reuse. It was established following the first workshop on Energy for Sustainable Science, set-up by CERN and other European research organisations to share strategies for energy management. These workshops are held every two years.

Important CERN-developed environmental management tools include a Radiation and Environment Monitoring Unified Supervision system, REMUS, and the CERN Geographical Information System, GIS. REMUS provides round-the-clock online supervision of CERN radiological and conventional environmental field instrumentation 365 days per year. GIS provides a visual geographical directory of all installations relevant to the environment, such as monitoring stations and CERN water networks.

Training plays an important role in CERN’s approach to environmental custodianship. The HSE Unit runs a training centre on the Laboratory’s Prévessin campus, at which courses on all aspects of health, safety and environmental protection are delivered. In addition, the Laboratory develops and maintains a series of e-learning modules covering environmental issues.


This report focuses on issues identified as being of material importance to the Organization and to concerned groups. It is based on an analysis of internal and external stakeholder dialogues. The result is a set of topics and disclosures covered in this report that are drawn from the Global Reporting Initiative, GRI, standards, as well as some CERN-specific topics not covered by the GRI standards, but deemed by CERN and key stakeholders to be of material importance in the CERN context.

The process began with focus group meetings with internal stakeholders chosen to reflect the diversity of viewpoints within the Organization. Based on insights from these dialogues, external stakeholders were identified and interviewed (GRI 102-43). The internal stakeholders are (GRI 102-40):

  • Heads of CERN Departments;
  • Administrative, finance and procurement officers;
  • Personnel responsible for aspects of external relations;
  • Representatives of the user community and Staff Association;
  • CERN Directors;
  • CERN Council president and delegates (Member State representatives);
  • Personnel with responsibility for environmental aspects.

The external stakeholder groups are as follows (GRI 102-40):

  • Host State participants in meetings held under the tripartite agreement on radiation protection and radiation safety;
  • Host State participants in meetings held under the tripartite committee for the environment;
  • The Mayors of some local communities with a strong CERN presence;
  • Energy suppliers;
  • Representatives of Host-State media;
  • Sustainability consultants.

These interviews established the relative importance of topics to external stakeholders (GRI 102-44). The overall result is shown in the materiality table above (GRI 102-47). High significance topics with respect to stakeholder relevance and impact on sustainable development are the main focus in this report (GRI 102-46). Soil protection, the sewer system, legionella treatment, the environmental impact of procurement, material consumption, and non-ionising radiation arose as topics through the materiality process, though with lower significance to all stakeholders. These topics are not comprehensively covered in this report, but have been identified for future consideration.

GRI disclosures and CERN-specific topics

Chapter Material topic Reference
Energy Energy consumption GRI 302

Greenhouse gas emissions


GRI 305 


Ionising Radiation Ionising radiation CERN-specific
Noise Noise CERN-specific

Radioactive waste

Non-radioactive waste


GRI 306

Water and Effluents

Water consumption

Effluent quality

GRI 303

GRI 303

Biodiversity Natural resourses & Biodiversity GRI 304
Environmental Compliance

Prevention of environmental accidents

Hazardous substances

GRI 307


A note on topic boundaries 

CERN’s position as an intergovernmental organisation, coupled with its function as a user facility, has required choices to be made in defining topic boundaries for this report. The data presented here refer exclusively to the impact of CERN’s facilities in the Geneva region, plus that arising from the operation of computing facilities in Budapest (GRI 102-45).

As a user facility, CERN hosts people and equipment from universities and institutes around the world. The participation of these people in CERN programmes and the production of research equipment under the responsibility of collaborating institutes are not considered here.

CERN’s main product is data, which is transformed into knowledge by scientists around the world using the World-Wide LHC Computing Grid, WLCG. This is a distributed network, and is covered here only insofar as the facilities are owned or operated by CERN.

Learn more

Questions regarding this report may be addressed to Environment.report@cern.ch.

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