The Environmental and Social Framework


The Environmental and Social Framework (ESF) will apply to all new Bank investment projects when it launches in 2018 (exact date to be determined). The Bank’s current safeguards will run in parallel to the ESF for about seven years to govern projects approved before the effectiveness date of the ESF. 

On this page:

The Policies and Environment and Social Standards that make up the Framework
Expanded protections and benefits of the new framework
Next steps

On August 4, 2016, the World Bank’s Board of Executive Directors approved a new Environmental and Social Framework (ESF) to help protect people and the environment in the investment projects it finances. This effort is one of several key initiatives, including procurement reform, and the climate and gender strategies, recently undertaken by the Bank to improve development outcomes.

The ESF responds to new and varied development demands and challenges that have arisen over time.  The experience and capacity of many Borrowers has improved and our requirements have been updated to reflect the realities of today.

The framework brings the World Bank’s environmental and social protections into closer harmony with those of other development institutions, and makes important advances in areas such as transparency, non-discrimination, social inclusion, public participation, and accountability – including expanded roles for grievance redress mechanisms. The framework helps to ensure social inclusion, and explicitly references human rights in the overarching vision statement.

Strengthening national systems in borrowing countries is recognized as a central development goal by the World Bank and most of its shareholders.  In line with this goal, the framework places greater emphasis on the use of Borrower frameworks and capacity building, with the aim of constructing sustainable Borrower institutions and increasing efficiency.

The ESF is made up of the World Bank’s vision for sustainable development, the World Bank’s Environmental and Social Policy for Investment Project Financing, and ten Environmental and Social Standards (ESS). These set out the mandatory requirements for the World Bank, in relation to the projects it supports through Investment Project Financing (IPF), and for Borrowers.

The ESS:

ESS1 Assessment and Management of Environmental and Social Risks and Impacts sets out the Borrower’s responsibilities for assessing, managing and monitoring environmental and social risks and impacts associated with each stage of a project supported by the Bank through IPF, in order to achieve environmental and social outcomes consistent with the Environmental and Social Standards (ESSs). Fact sheet

ESS2 Labor and Working Conditions recognizes the importance of employment creation and income generation in the pursuit of poverty reduction and inclusive economic growth. Borrowers can promote sound worker-management relationships and enhance the development benefits of a project by treating workers in the project fairly and providing safe and healthy working conditions. Fact sheet

ESS3 Resource Efficiency and Pollution Prevention and Management recognizes that economic activity and urbanization often generate pollution to air, water, and land, and consume finite resources that may threaten people, ecosystem services and the environment at the local, regional, and global levels. This ESS sets out the requirements to address resource efficiency and pollution prevention and management throughout the project life-cycle. Fact sheet

ESS4: Community Health and Safety addresses the health, safety, and security risks and impacts on project-affected communities and the corresponding responsibility of Borrowers to avoid or minimize such risks and impacts, with particular attention to people who, because of their particular circumstances, may be vulnerable. Fact sheet 

ESS5: Land Acquisition, Restrictions on Land Use and Involuntary Resettlement - involuntary resettlement should be avoided. Where involuntary resettlement is unavoidable, it will be minimized and appropriate measures to mitigate adverse impacts on displaced persons (and on host communities receiving displaced persons) will be carefully planned and implemented. Fact sheet

ESS6: Biodiversity Conservation and Sustainable Management of Living Natural Resources recognizes that protecting and conserving biodiversity and sustainably managing living natural resources are fundamental to sustainable development and it recognizes the importance of maintaining core ecological functions of habitats, including forests, and the biodiversity they support. ESS6 also addresses sustainable management of primary production and harvesting of living natural resources, and recognizes the need to consider the livelihood of project-affected parties, including Indigenous Peoples, whose access to, or use of, biodiversity or living natural resources may be affected by a project. Fact sheet

ESS7: Indigenous Peoples/Sub-Saharan African Historically Underserved Traditional Local Communities ensures that the development process fosters full respect for the human rights, dignity, aspirations, identity, culture, and natural resource-based livelihoods of Indigenous Peoples/Sub-Saharan African Historically Underserved Traditional Local Communities. ESS7 is also meant to avoid adverse impacts of projects on Indigenous Peoples/Sub-Saharan African Historically Underserved Traditional Local Communities, or when avoidance is not possible, to minimize, mitigate and/or compensate for such impacts. Fact sheet

ESS8: Cultural Heritage recognizes that cultural heritage provides continuity in tangible and intangible forms between the past, present and future. ESS8 sets out measures designed to protect cultural heritage throughout the project life-cycle. Fact sheet

ESS9: Financial Intermediaries (FIs) recognizes that strong domestic capital and financial markets and access to finance are important for economic development, growth and poverty reduction. FIs are required to monitor and manage the environmental and social risks and impacts of their portfolio and FI subprojects, and monitor portfolio risk, as appropriate to the nature of intermediated financing. The way in which the FI will manage its portfolio will take various forms, depending on a number of considerations, including the capacity of the FI and the nature and scope of the funding to be provided by the FI. Fact sheet

ESS10: Stakeholder Engagement and Information Disclosure recognizes the importance of open and transparent engagement between the Borrower and project stakeholders as an essential element of good international practice. Effective stakeholder engagement can improve the environmental and social sustainability of projects, enhance project acceptance, and make a significant contribution to successful project design and implementation. Fact sheet

See more details in the full document (PDF).

Expanded protections of the new framework include:
  • comprehensive labor and working condition protections
  • community health and safety measures that address road safety, emergency response and disaster mitigation
  • responsibility to include stakeholder engagement throughout the project cycle
  • a non-discrimination principle augmented by a new mandatory World Bank Directive that lists examples of vulnerable and disadvantaged groups and explicitly requires staff to assist Borrower to consider, mitigate, and manage related issues.
Benefits of the new framework that will promote better and lasting development outcomes:
  • provides broader coverage and access, and will benefit more people, especially vulnerable and disadvantaged groups.
  • promotes sustainable development by considering a greater range of environmental and social risks and potential impacts, and by encouraging the sustainable management of living natural resources.
  • provides protections for workers and improved living conditions of people displaced by projects to better secure livelihoods.
  • will foster resilience by requiring emergency preparedness measures to guard against unexpected shocks and by considering climate change impacts and requiring measures to address them.

The World Bank’s Board of Executive Directors, based in part on a 2010 report from the World Bank’s Independent Evaluation Group (IEG), directed Bank management to: revise the existing safeguards policies to increase coverage and harmonization across the Bank group; enhance client capacity, responsibility and ownership; strengthen safeguards supervision, monitoring, evaluation to ensure rigorous implementation of our policies; and improve accountability and grievance redress systems and instruments.

The new Environmental and Social Framework is the result of the most extensive consultation the World Bank has ever had. For nearly four years, we intensively engaged with World Bank stakeholders, including our member countries, civil society organizations from developed and developing countries, academia, development experts, and beyond. Bank staff went to 63 countries, including 50 Borrower countries, and the consultation meetings had almost 8,000 participants overall across the three phases.

The feedback obtained from these consultations, along with the written submissions received, elevated the debate on this important development issue and informed the development of the World Bank’s new Environmental and Social Framework. This has been a dynamic process.  As a global cooperative of 189 countries, everyone worked very hard to develop sustainable policies that can work for all of our members and that stand to improve development outcomes. 

Next Steps
The World Bank is now implementing an intensive preparation and training period for the transition to this new framework.  Implementation will focus on: supporting and strengthening the capacity of Borrowers; training Bank staff and Borrowers to implement the framework; strengthening the Bank’s environmental and social risk management system; and strengthening strategic partnerships with development partners.

The World Bank has drafted Guidance Notes for the Environmental and Social Standards and a public comment period was held from November 2 – December 22, 2017. Please visit the Guidance Note Public Comment page for more information.

Last Updated: Jan 08, 2018