The United Nations presented its Champions of the Earth Award to the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC). The award, which is usually received by an individual, was won by USGBC for its contribution to sustainable building through its LEED green building rating system.

“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 of 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.

LEED certifies 1.7 million sq ft of building space daily in 150 countries and territories — the equivalent of about 45 football fields. According to USGBC, this is welcome news for the United States where buildings account for 40% of energy use and incur losses of $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.

Champions of the Earth is the United Nations' flagship environmental award launched in 2005 that recognizes visionaries and leaders in the fields of policy, science, entrepreneurship, and civil society action. Past laureates have included Mikhail Gorbachev, Al Gore, Felipe Calderon, Mohamed Nasheed, Marina Silva, Vinod Khosla, and many others.