Environmental and Social Safeguards Policies

April 5, 2017


The World Bank's environmental and social safeguard policies are a cornerstone of its support to sustainable poverty reduction. The objective of these policies is to prevent and mitigate undue harm to people and their environment in the development process. These policies will be replaced during 2018 with the Environmental and Social Framework (ESF). The two sets of policies will operate in parallel for about seven years to govern projects approved before and after the date the ESF starts to be applied.

On this page:

-        Background
-        Safeguards policies

A cornerstone of our work on investment projects is helping to ensure strong protections for people and for the environment. We help do this through policies – often called “safeguards” – that serve to identify, avoid, and minimize harms to people and the environment. These policies require borrowing governments to address certain environmental and social risks in order to receive Bank support for investment projects.

Examples of these requirements include conducting environmental and social impact assessments, consulting with affected communities about potential project impacts, and restoring the livelihoods of displaced people. World Bank safeguards are widely regarded as an effective way to ensure that environmental and social concerns and community voices are represented in the design and implementation of our projects.

There are 11 key Operational Policies and associated Bank Procedures that are critical to ensuring that potentially adverse environmental and social consequences are identified, minimized, and mitigated, and they receive particular attention during the Bank’s project preparation and approval process.

Operational Policies

Bank Procedures

Piloting the Use of Borrower Systems to Address Environmental and Social Safeguard Issues in Bank-Supported Projects 
Table A1 - Environmental and Social Safeguard Policies - Policy Objectives and Operational Principles

Piloting the Use of Borrower Systems to Address Environmental and Social Safeguard Issues in Bank-Supported Projects  

Environmental AssessmentAnnex A - DefinitionsAnnex B - Content of an Environmental Assessment Report for a Category A ProjectAnnex C - Environmental Management Plan   

Environmental Assessment, Annex A - Application of EA to Dam and Reservoir ProjectsAnnex B - Application of EA to Projects Involving Pest Management

Environmental Action Plans    Environmental Action Plans  
Performance Standards for Private Sector Activites Performance Standards for Private Sector Activities

Natural Habitats, Annex A - Definitions

Natural Habitats

Pest Management    

Indigenous Peoples, Annex A - Social AssessmentAnnex B - Indigenous Peoples PlanAnnex C - Indigenous Peoples Planning Framework    Indigenous Peoples
Physical Cultural Resources Physical Cultural Resources

Involuntary ResettlementAnnex A - Involuntary Resettlement Instructions

Involuntary Resettlement

Forests, Annex A - Definitions  

Safety of Dams

Safety of Dams, Annex A - Dam Safety Reports: Content and Timing

Projects in Disputed Areas Projects in Disputed Areas
Projects on International Waterways Projects on International Waterways

Performance Standards for Private Sector Projects Supported by IBRD/IDA

On June 26, 2012, the Board of Executive Directors approved adoption and application of World Bank Performance Standards to be used for Bank financing or support (e.g., Partial Risk Guarantees) which is destined to projects, or components thereof, that are owned, constructed, and/or operated by the private sector, in place of the World Bank environmental and social Safeguard Policies (R2012-0130;IDA/R2012-0161). 

Technical assistance for preparatory work for private sector engagement in Public-Private Partnerships would be eligible, as well as investment operations that include medium -or long-term management contracts, affermage/leases, privatizations, concessions, and projects within the Build-Own-Transfer (BOT) family.  Financial Intermediary lending also is a candidate, provided the Bank lending or guarantee to the financial intermediary is designated for subprojects implemented by the private sector or private parties. 

-        Board Paper
-        OP 4.03 Performance Standards for Private Sector Activities
-        BP 4.03 Performance Standards for Private Sector Activities
-        IFC Performance Standards