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Global Program on Sustainability

GPS Pillars

The GPS work is structured around three pillars:

Aerial view of the Zambezi river


Mangrove planting Indonesia




  • Providing global information on natural capital and sustainability

    As countries strive to achieve SDGs, the notion of sustainability has taken center stage. Pillar 1 of GPS improves global measurements of natural capital and ecosystem services. 

    The objective is to develop a global information base and tools to inform policy and investment decisions.

    The notion of sustainability has taken center stage in the global agenda on development policies and financing, primarily because of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). The World Bank’s own work on The Changing Wealth of Nations has made significant progress by showing that a country’s assets— natural capital, produced capital, and human capital—underpin National Income; and that sustainable development requires increasing per capita wealth over time. However, important gaps remain, both in terms of adequately measuring and monitoring the different components of natural capital and the associated ecosystem services; and of promoting the use of that information to inform policy and investment decisions. 

    Pillar 1 of GPS addresses these challenges. First by measuring sustainability, including improved global measurements of natural capital and ecosystem services. This involves evaluating the national, sector and local sustainability performance of countries. The goal is to develop a data platform and tools to assess, natural capital and ecosystem services in physical and monetary terms in countries; and analyze the linkages between environmental degradation and socio-economic outcomes.

    Second by mainstreaming sustainability. Activities supported include: producing high-level publication for the broader development community like The Changing Wealth of Nations and policy papers on greening fiscal, trade and governance regimes. This component focuses on mainstreaming sustainability concerns in World Bank products and processes like the Country Partnership Frameworks as well as the new Environment and Social Framework. The program also focuses on mainstreaming sustainability issues into the risk assessment and investment processes of the financial sector – as described in Pillar 3.


    The IPBES global assessment showed that the loss of biodiversity is unprecedented. This report galvanized efforts to scaled-up action towards reversing that loss. As a contribution to those efforts, GPS has started an initiative called The Road to Kunming. A major component is analytical work to inform the development of the Post-2020 Global Biodiversity Framework. With the objective of putting biodiversity on the agenda of decision makers beyond Ministries of Environment, an event, Invest in Nature, was organized during the IMF-World Bank Annual Meetings in October 2019.  

    The next version of The Changing Wealth of Nations (CWON), expected to be released in 2020, will expand the range of natural assets and ecosystem services included in the analysis and will feature novel lines of policy analysis including effects of climate change, and stranded assets. So far, inception reports for ocean assets, renewable energy, and the impact of air pollution on human capital have been drafted. A report on fossil fuel dependent countries under low carbon transition is also nearly complete. 

    To enable customized uses by development practitioners and the public at large, the data generated by GPS is being made available and accessible online on the Environment and Sustainability Data Platform. This data platform will complement the Sovereign ESG Data Portal and will eventually converge towards an integrated platform. The Sovereign ESG Data Portal was launched on October 29, 2019. 

  • Facilitating country-level support to integrate natural capital approaches into decision-making

    GPS builds countries' capacity to produce and use natural capital accounting for policy and planning decisions. The program is working with 18 countries to measure and value natural resources.

    The objective is to build countries' capacity to produce and use natural capital accounting for policy and planning decisions.


    Global Program on Sustainability - countries in the program

    Natural Capital Accounting (NCA) and evaluation of ecosystem services can provide detailed statistics on nature`s contribution to human well-being, support better management of natural resources and contribute to economic development. However, many low-income countries lack comprehensive natural capital accounts, or the capacity to use such information in designing policies for sustainable growth.

    The World Bank through the Wealth Accounting and the Valuation of Ecosystem Services (WAVES) partnership has worked with 18 countries to strengthen their capacity to produce, institutionalize and use natural capital accounts for policy decisions. WAVES engagement with Botswana, Colombia, Costa Rica, Madagascar, and the Philippines, the initial core implementing countries, ended in June 2016. These countries embarked on natural capital accounting programs endorsed at the highest level of their governments, have institutionalized accounts, are acting as mentors to other countries in the region, and are showing the way on using accounts for monitoring SDGs or their national plans.

    Other core implementing countries have also made important strides toward developing NCA and using them for decision making. For example, Rwanda’s land accounts are informing its national land management system, allowing policy makers to study trends in land use and changes over time.  In Indonesia, the ecosystem accounts on peatlands have several policy implications: they can identify areas that can be considered a priority for rehabilitation or can support the National Action Plan to Reduce Greenhouse Gas (GHG) emissions.

    GPS` Pillar 2 builds on the WAVES strategy and intends to increase the number of countries using NCA and valuation of ecosystem services in their regular decision making on policies and projects by focusing on:

    • Building and institutionalizing natural capital accounting systems at the national level in Core Implementing Countries (CIC), including through recipient-executed activities, and as part of the implementation of the World Bank new Environmental and Social Framework.

    • Providing Targeted Technical Assistance to meet countries’ requests in the design, implementation, monitoring and evaluation of specific policies, programs or projects.

    • Collaborating with partners to establish and support regional cooperation efforts, such as communities of practice and knowledge exchanges that provide opportunities for peer learning and training.

    • Supporting global knowledge-sharing and strategic partnerships, notably the annual Natural Capital Accounting Policy Forum series.


    Under GPS, natural capital accounting support is already being extended to Morocco and Egypt as core implementing countries. The work program for Egypt focuses on development of air emission accounts, waste accounts, and coastal ecosystems accounts. In Morocco, the priority are forests, coastal and marine ecosystem services, climate change, and cultural services/nature tourism.  

    The program also provides project-level support to Myanmar, Lao PDR, Cambodia, Vietnam, Nepal, Madagascar, and the West Africa Coastal Areas Management Program (WACA).  

    WAVES+ work in Guatemala and the first phase of the work in Indonesia was completed in 2019. The next phase of work in Indonesia, under GPS, focuses on economy-wide options for improved land use planning for protection of peat, and coastal resources including mangroves. Uganda has had a productive first year- completing its land account (physical asset) 1990-2015 – expected to be launched in November 2019. Preparation of the forest account is ongoing; an experimental ecosystems account will be developed thereafter. 


  • Promoting sustainable financial markets

    This part of the program promotes research and provides tools on how environmental factors impact risk and financial returns in fixed income markets.  

    The objective is to integrate sustainability considerations in financial markets

    Research conducted by the World Bank data team indicates that much of the data used by private data providers in their environmental, social, and governance (ESG) analysis comes from the World Bank. However, there is room to improve the quality, scope, and timeliness of this data - including drawing on new sources such as Artificial Intelligence and satellite information. In addition, there is scope to showcase data and policy analysis on sustainability, which is being produced by World Bank teams, but is not currently accessible to investors.

    The Pillar 3 agenda is to develop data, research, diagnostics, and technical assistance programs around ESG data and integrate such information into investment decision-making, financial regulation, and stress testing. Policy-makers have recognized that integrating this data into financial markets is crucial to achieving the Sustainable Development Goals, Paris commitments, and other key global objectives.

    The goal is to develop a portal, that provides key information on countries’ ESG risk, to inform investors’ sovereign bonds and other investments. In addition, the finance team produces research on how to integrate non-traditional, or ESG risks, into the global financial system – including stress testing methodologies which can be included in the World Bank / IMF Financial Sector Assessment Programs (FSAPs). The team also offers technical assistance to governments on assessing the impact of climate risk on their economies, and to leading investors in emerging markets on how to incorporate these issues into their investment strategies. Additional tools and capacity building programs on ESG risk assessment and management will be developed.


    On October 29, 2019, the World Bank launched the Sovereign ESG Data Portal: a free online platform that provides sovereign-level ESG data. The portal is designed to help investors better align ESG analysis with key sustainable development policy indicators and analysis, as well as to increase data transparency and support private sector investments in emerging markets and developing countries.

    ESG investing is quickly becoming ordre du jour in sovereign debt investing. There remains, however, lack of clarity around frameworks for scoring sovereign ESG performance, industry practices, and the definition of sustainability itself. This World Bank publication consists of two independent reports. The first part is written by the World Bank and takes stock of the current sovereign ESG investing framework and proposes improvements. The second part presents a survey on ESG practices among emerging market (EM) sovereign debt investors conducted by J.P. Morgan (JPM), which launched the first EM sovereign ESG index in 2018. This publication is a result of the World Bank's proactive engagement with stakeholders on pertinent sovereign ESG issues and is part of a publication series under the auspices of the Global Program on Sustainability (GPS).

    A New Dawn – Rethinking Sovereign ESG
    Full Report  | Abridged Version  |  Headline Messages

    Additional reading:

    Press Release: Environmental, Social and Governance Factors Can Be Material Risks for Fixed Income Investors, Finds World Bank Group and GPIF Report

    Press Release: World Bank Group and GPIF Deepen Partnership on Building Sustainable Capital Markets

    Event: A Dialogue with Sovereign Debt Issuers on Environmental, Social, and Governance Risks and Opportunities

    IBRD Funding Program: World Bank Bonds for Sustainable Development