Press Release - Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs, Harvard Kennedy School

Harvard Kennedy School Announces 2011 Roy Family Environment Award

| March 24, 2011

Refrigerants, Naturally! recognized for combating climate change by championing natural refrigerant technologies

CAMBRIDGE, MA— The John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University announced today that the 2011 Roy Family Award for Environmental Partnership will be given to Refrigerants, Naturally!, an alliance of corporations substituting environmentally-harmful fluorinated gases ("F-gases", such as CFCs, HCFCs and HFCs) with natural refrigerants in their commercial refrigeration installations. Natural refrigerants are climate and ozone friendly gases that exist naturally in the biosphere, i.e. ammonia, carbon dioxide, and hydrocarbons.

The award is presented every two years to celebrate an outstanding public-private partnership project that enhances environmental quality through the use of novel and creative approaches.  It will be presented to the recipients at a Harvard Kennedy School event later this spring.

Refrigerants, Naturally! brings together four high-profile private companies – The Coca-Cola Company, McDonald’s, Unilever, and PepsiCo – and two international environmental organizations – Greenpeace and the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) – to combat climate change and ozone layer depletion by developing natural refrigeration technologies that are safe, reliable, affordable, and energy efficient.

In the 1990s, Greenpeace began a campaign to raise public awareness of the environmental impact of F-gas refrigerants and worked to lobby business to adopt HFC-free refrigeration solutions. Corporations, in turn, sought alternative refrigerants, but found that as manufacturers were not offering HFC-free options companies could not switch to natural refrigerants even if they wanted to do so. In 2004, Refrigerants, Naturally! was launched by McDonald's , The Coca-Cola Company and Unilever to encourage manufacturers to make products using natural refrigerants and to share technological information. PepsiCo joined the initiative in 2006.  Since 2004, Refrigerants, Naturally has focused its efforts on overcoming barriers to the use of natural refrigerants including worldwide availability, maintenance, cost and regulation. Greenpeace and UNEP have been supporters of this partnership from the beginning, by providing advice, information and linkages to their own activities.

In addition to sharing technical information and best practices, the corporate members have each worked within their businesses to accelerate the deployment of natural refrigerant technologies. It is estimated that hundreds of thousands of tons of greenhouse gas emissions have been prevented from entering the atmosphere as a result.

Further evidence of the group’s leadership is demonstrated by the focus on outreach to other influential groups and in 2010 the first ever sustainable refrigeration summit of the Consumer Goods Forum, a CEO-led organization of 600 global consumer goods manufacturers and retailers, led to a pledge to begin phasing out HFC refrigerants as of 2015 and replace them with natural refrigerants.

“Strong U.S. legislation on climate may not be passed by this Congress, but Refrigerants, Naturally! demonstrates that meaningful reductions in greenhouse gas emissions are possible if business and NGOs are creative and are prepared to work together,” said Henry Lee, director of the Environment and Natural Resources program at Harvard Kennedy School’s Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs, in announcing the 2011 award winner. 

The partnership was selected from a group of highly qualified projects nominated from around the world that tackled tough environmental problems ranging from sustainable mining to responsible land stewardship. Experts from inside and outside of Harvard reviewed the nominees with the following criteria: innovation, effectiveness, significance and transferability.

Roy Family Award reviewers praised the impact of Refrigerants, Naturally! on an important and often overlooked problem – persistent F-gases in the Earth’s atmosphere – and held it up as a pragmatic example of corporations, a United Nations organization and a non-governmental environmental organization working together to reduce severe threats to the global environment.

Refrigerants, Naturally! has succeeded in creating a viable market for natural refrigerants for point-of-sale applications and has promoted F-gas-free technologies that are cost-efficient, energy saving and climate friendly.

The Roy Family has been a long-time supporter of the development of public-private partnerships to meet social goals. The Roy Family Award attempts to provide positive incentives for companies and organizations worldwide to push the boundaries of creativity and take risks that result in significant changes that benefit the environment. 

Members and supporters of Refrigerants, Naturally!:

Corporate Members:

  • Unilever
  • The Coca-Cola Company
  • PepsiCo
  • McDonald’s


  • Greenpeace
  • United Nations Environmental Programme (UNEP)

About the impact of f-gases and their use in refrigeration:

This edition of the Roy Family Award comes at a crucial time for climate protection. A recent UNEP report released at the Cancun climate negotiations highlighted that even if countries fully implemented the pledges and intentions associated with the Copenhagen Accord, in the best case scenario they could cut emissions to around 49 gigatonnes of CO2 equivalent by 2020.  This leaves a gap of around 5 gigatonnes of CO2 equivalent that needs to be bridged over the coming decade - an amount equal to the emissions of all the world's cars, buses and trucks in 2005.[1] Cutting “non-C02 gases” including avoiding HFCs and improving energy efficiency of refrigeration equipment – as is being done voluntarily by the Refrigerants, Naturally! Partners - contributes to quickly close this gap. 

In 1987, F-gases such as CFCs (chlorofluorocarbons) and later also HCFCs (hydrochlorofluorocarbons) were controlled under the Montreal Protocol due to their negative impact on the stratospheric ozone layer. Unfortunately, many of them were replaced with another generation of F-gas known as HFCs (hydrofluorocarbons). HFCs, which have a direct global warming impact more than a thousand times worse than the reference gas carbon dioxide, are currently used in much of the world’s commercial refrigeration to preserve food, maintain quality, and extend shelf life at all stages in the supply chain. Refrigeration is critical in food and beverage production, processing, storage, transportation and point-of-sale (e.g. supermarket cabinets, beverage coolers, ice cream freezers). Commercial refrigerants represent 41% of total refrigerant emissions.[2]

The consequences of the rapid growth in HFC emissions are sobering. Because they are persistent in the atmosphere, HFCs will be responsible for between 9% and 19% of carbon-equivalent emissions by 2050 even if we do not act to reduce CO2 (carbon dioxide) emissions. If the reduction of CO2 remains the focus of climate change initiatives and nothing is done about HFCs, they will be responsible for between 28% and 45% of CO2 equivalent emissions by 2050.[3]

About the Roy Family Award:

The purpose of the Roy Family Award for Environmental Partnership is to draw attention to an exceptional partnership and its achievements while inspiring others to replicate or expand upon its success.

In 2009, the Roy Award was presented to the Mexico City Metrobus, a Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) system that reduces air pollution and greenhouse gas emissions, while improving the quality of life and transportation options in one of the largest cities in the world.

The 2007 Award recognized the Hybrid Systems for Rural Electrification in Africa (HRSEA), a public-private partnership between Energiebau Solarstromsysteme, a German solar technology provider with international expertise, and InWEnt-Capacity Building International, Germany, a non-profit organization. HRSEA provides reliable, renewable electricity to rural African villages through a system of solar panel technology combined with modified diesel motors running on pure plant oil from the jatropha nut.

[1] UNEP 2010,  “The Emissions Gap Report,”

[2] U.S. EPA 2004, “Determination of comparative HCFC and HFC emission profiles for the Foam and Refrigeration sectors until 2015,”

[3] Velders et al 2009, “The large contribution of projected HFC emissions to future climate forcing,”

For more information on this publication: Belfer Communications Office
For Academic Citation:Harvard Kennedy School Announces 2011 Roy Family Environment Award.” Press Release, Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs, Harvard Kennedy School, March 24, 2011.

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