The U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC) was honored as a winner of the United Nations’ top environmental accolade, the Champions of the Earth award.

The award, which is usually received by an individual, was won by USGBC for its outstanding contribution to sustainable building through its LEED green building rating system, currently the most widely used green building program worldwide.

“To the U.S. Green Building Council and to me, this award, which I am incredibly honored to receive from the United Nations Environment Programme, is more than a recognition of accomplishment. We see it as a signal that the sustainability of buildings is increasingly being treated as a critical environmental and socio-economic issue, not just in the U.S. but across the world,” said Rick Fedrizzi, CEO and founding chair, USGBC.

“This award will inject more momentum into our global advocacy efforts. Our networks have been lobbying policymakers quite successfully in the last few years to implement more green building policies,” continued Fedrizzi. “We have done the research and we know that greater building efficiency can meet 85 percent of future demand for energy in the U.S. alone. That, coupled with the water and resource savings as well as the improved indoor environmental quality, will help remind us all that the partnership we have with our buildings matters to us all.”

LEED certifies 1.7 million square feet of building space daily in 150 countries and territories – the equivalent of about 45 football fields. This is welcome news for the United States where buildings account for 40 percent of energy use and incur losses of US$130 billion annually from leaky, inefficient buildings. And worldwide, buildings are contributing as much as one third of total global greenhouse gas emissions.

“In little over two decades the USGBC has gone from 60 firms and a few not-for-profit organizations, to 76 chapters, nearly 13,000 member companies and organizations, and more than 198,000 LEED certified professionals today,” said UN Under-Secretary-General and UNEP Executive Director Achim Steiner. “This is a truly remarkable success story of community partnership where all sectors of society benefit through sustainable entrepreneurship – leading to improved quality of life for millions of people, while also making significant contributions to climate change mitigation.

“UNEP research estimates that buildings contribute as much as one third of total global greenhouse gas emissions,” Steiner continued. “Organizations like the USGBC are a leading example of how sustainable business can profit the planet by providing energy efficient places that give people better, brighter, healthier spaces to live, work and play.”

Champions of the Earth is the United Nations' flagship environmental award launched in 2005 that recognizes outstanding visionaries and leaders in the fields of policy, science, entrepreneurship, and civil society action. Whether by helping to improve the management of natural resources, demonstrating new ways to tackle climate change or raising awareness of emerging environmental challenges,

Champions of the Earth should serve as an inspiration for transformative action across the world. Past laureates have included Mikhail Gorbachev, Al Gore, Felipe Calderon, Mohamed Nasheed, Marina Silva, Vinod Khosla and many other such exemplary leaders on the environment and development front.

Winners will be honored by UN Secretary-General Ban-Ki-moon and UNEP Executive Director Achim Steiner at an awards ceremony attended by UNEP Goodwill Ambassador Gisele Bundchen at the Smithsonian American Art Museum and National Portrait Gallery in Washington D.C. on Nov. 19, 2014. Visit for more details.