A strategy for the environment

Strong environmental stewardship stands prominently among the Management’s objectives and is embedded in every corner of the Organization. The European Strategy for Particle Physics, updated in 2020, sets out a coherent and globally coordinated approach to the development of the field in Europe and at CERN. The Strategy also highlights the importance of the environment, stating that the environmental impact of particle physics should continue to be carefully studied and minimised.

The Organization’s environmental strategy spans three key lines of action: minimise the Laboratory’s impact on the environment; reduce energy consumption and increase energy reuse; and develop technologies that can help society to preserve the planet. The Occupational Health and Safety and Environmental Protection unit (HSE) is CERN’s centre of competence in environmental matters and the driving force behind the Organization’s Safety Policy. This policy spans all matters relating to health, safety and environmental protection, and includes the explicit goal of limiting the impact of the Organization’s activities on the environment. In addition to its Safety Policy, CERN has an environmental protection strategy that prioritises certain key areas.

CERN applies the precautionary principle in all aspects of environmental management, taking action to avoid the possibility of serious environmental impact. This applies under all circumstances: if the scientific data does not permit a complete evaluation of the risk, precautionary measures are nevertheless deployed.


The Organization launched the CERN Environmental Protection Steering board (CEPS) in 2017. CEPS’s mandate is to identify and prioritise environmental areas to be addressed, in line with the environmental protection strategy, and to propose programmes of action across 11 high-priority environmental domains. Objectives are approved at the highest level of management at CERN, the Enlarged Directorate, which comprises all Directors and Departments Heads. Once the programme of activities and the allocation of resources have been approved by the Directorate, CEPS follows up on the programme's implementation. CEPS steers the action plan related to the priorities set in 2017, which are periodically reviewed according to new areas of focus. In addition, CERN has an Energy Management Panel (EMP), which was set up in 2015 to examine CERN’s energy consumption, identify measures to improve efficiency and promote energy reuse. The energy crisis in 2021–2022, the period covered by this report, accentuated the focus on responsible energy management (see Energy).

Several tools, including the Radiation Monitoring System for the Environment and Safety (RAMSES, see Ionising radiation) and the CERN Chemical Register for Environment, Health and Safety (CERES, see Environmental compliance and management of hazardous substances) complete the environmental management framework.


CERN works closely with its Host States, France and Switzerland, in matters of environmental protection. As an organisation straddling two countries, CERN develops its own regulations, based on those of the Host States. Where no specific CERN regulation exists, the relevant laws and regulations of the Host States apply on a territorial basis.

Together with the Canton of Geneva (Switzerland) and the Prefecture of Ain (France), CERN established a tripartite committee for the environment (CTE) in 2007 under a memorandum of cooperation on non-radiological environmental aspects. It holds two plenary meetings per year, as well as regular technical meetings.

The Laboratory signed a tripartite agreement on radiation protection and radiation safety in 2010 with the Swiss Federal Council, represented by the Office of Public Health (FOPH) and the French Government, represented by the Nuclear Safety Authority (ASN). This replaced previously existing bilateral agreements and created a legal framework for discussing topics related to radiation protection. The agreement provides for regular technical meetings, as well as high-level plenary meetings chaired by CERN’s Director for Accelerators and Technology. In addition, the Organization formally reports to the FOPH and ASN on matters of radiation protection.


Knowledge transfer
(Image: CERN)

CEPS regularly updates CERN’s environmental strategy recommendations. Resources from CERN’s budget (some 48 MCHF over the period 2019–2023) fund the activities in these domains, which include, for example, R&D on new, environmentally friendly gases for particle physics detectors and the construction of water retention basins to limit the risk of pollution.

To maximise the Organization’s return to society, CERN’s Knowledge Transfer (KT) fund provides funding that can be used to support environmental projects proposed by personnel. This mechanism helps to take early-stage, innovative projects from the Laboratory to society, bridging the gap between research and societal applications. The KT fund is supported through revenue from commercial agreements. In 2021 and 2022, the fund allocated a total of 950 kCHF to ten projects, eight of which were related to environmental applications (see Knowledge and technology for the environment).

A new funding framework, the CERN Technology Impact Fund, was launched in 2021 with support from CERN’s Knowledge Transfer group and the CERN & Society Foundation. It seeks to support CERN technologies with a strong potential to address existing global societal issues, as identified by the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).


Procurement has been identified as an important subject for CERN’s environmental stewardship. CERN shapes its own procurement rules and processes due to its status as an intergovernmental organisation. These currently involve competitive tendering and the adjudication of contracts to the lowest compliant bidder or the bidder offering the best value for money. CERN strives to ensure a balanced industrial return for all its Member and Associate Member States. A policy on environmentally responsible procurement at CERN is being developed.

Scope and topic boundaries

CERN is an intergovernmental organisation that also functions as a user facility for people and universities and institutes around the world. The data presented in the report refers exclusively to the impact of CERN’s facilities in the Geneva region, unless stated otherwise. The production of research equipment under the responsibility of collaborating institutes is not considered here.

CERN’s main product is data, which is transformed into knowledge by scientists around the world using the Worldwide LHC Computing Grid (WLCG) (see Energy). This is a distributed network and is covered here only insofar as the facilities are on CERN's premises.


The Laboratory’s main environmental objectives were set by CEPS in 2017, with a horizon stretching to the end of 2024, when the accelerators were to enter the third long shutdown. Since the last report, the accelerator schedule has been updated with the end of Run 3 being moved to the end of 2025 and the start of the third long shutdown to 2026. Subsequently, the objectives communicated in past reports have also been amended accordingly.  



CERN carried out its first materiality analysis in 2019, and the resulting set of topics and disclosures were covered in both the first and second environment reports. The analysis was updated in 2022 following stakeholder interviews on topics drawn from the GRI Sustainability Reporting Standards, as well as on 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.

Internal stakeholders External stakeholders
  • CERN Directors
  • Heads of CERN Departments
  • CERN Council president and delegates (Member State representatives)
  • Representatives of the user community and of the Staff Association
  • Project leaders of potential future research infrastructures at CERN
  • Personnel responsible for communications and other aspects of external relations
  • 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 (CTE)
  • Representatives of some local communities with a strong CERN presence
  • Representatives of local environmental associations
  • Representatives of Host State media


The process, run in collaboration with an external consultant, involved the creation of a focus group, on which both internal and external stakeholders chosen to represent the diversity of viewpoints at CERN were represented, in order to prioritise the topics to be covered. These interviews served to establish the relative importance of topics to CERN stakeholders. The topics were subsequently prioritised based on severity and likelihood, resulting in the materiality matrix that was approved by the Enlarged Directorate in October 2022.

Materiality Matrix 2021-2022
CERN MATERIALITY MATRIX 2022. The topics identified as being of lower significance to all stakeholders are not comprehensively covered in this report but are subject to monitoring by CERN.

The topics deemed to be of high significance for sustainable development are the main focus of this report. Soil health and excavation, non-ionising radiation, air quality, computer optimisation and data transfer arose as topics to be addressed but did not have high significance for all stakeholders. As a result, these topics are not comprehensively covered in this report but have been identified for future consideration. Although lower priority was given to effluent quality than in the previous materiality assessment it was decided to maintain it for the sake of continuity and transparency. Finally, some external stakeholders identified materials as a topic of high importance. This heading includes optimising the use of core materials such as metals and helium and favouring the use of recycled or secondary resources to minimise the environmental and human rights impacts caused throughout the materials’ lifecycle. Given the complexity in tracing the material through its whole lifecycle, an in-depth analysis will be undertaken to establish a reliable way in which to report on this topic.

Learn more

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

Powering up for Run 3
Explore CERN and the Environment (leaving the report site)
News and updates about Environmental Protection (leaving the report site)
All CERN's environment reports are available in PDF