Social and Environmental Sustainability in UNDP

UNDP is committed to ensuring that our policies, programming and operations are socially and environmentally sustainable.

Sustainable Programme and Project Management

UNDP recognizes that social and environmental sustainability are fundamental to the achievement of sustainable development outcomes, and therefore must be fully integrated into our Programmes and Projects.  To ensure this we have the following key policies, procedures and accountability mechanisms in place to underpin our support to countries:

  • Social and Environmental Standards: UNDP’s Programming and Operations Policies and Procedures (POPP) require that opportunities to strengthen social and environmental sustainability shall be identified at the earliest stage of programme and project design, realized through implementation and tracked through monitoring and evaluation. The objective is to avoid, mitigate, or minimize the adverse social and environmental impacts of our programming and produce positive outcomes for people and the environment. These requirements have been elaborated further in a set of Social and Environmental Standards which will be introduced in the POPP by the end of 2014.  A draft of these standards was shared for comment and has since been revised and approved, please find additional information here.
  • Environmental and Social Screening Procedure: UNDP’s project-level Environmental and Social Screening Procedure is a requirement for all proposed projects with a budget of $500,000 or more.  The screening procedure determines if and what further environmental and social assessment and management measures are required.  UNDP launched this procedure in 2012 as part of a phased roll-out process.  UNDP will be revising the procedure in 2014 based on lessons learned and to align with the Social and Environmental Standards.
  • Accountability Mechanism: The standards will be underpinned by an Accountability Mechanism with two key functions: 1) A Stakeholder Response Mechanism (SRM) that ensures individuals, peoples, and communities affected by UNDP projects have access to appropriate procedures for hearing and addressing project-related grievances; and 2) A Compliance Review process to respond to claims that UNDP is not in compliance with UNDP’s social and environmental policies.

    1. UNDP’s Stakeholder Response Mechanism (SRM): The SRM provides an additional, formal avenue for stakeholders to engage with UNDP when they believe that a UNDP project may have adverse social or environmental impacts on them; they have raised their concerns with Implementing Partners and/or with UNDP through standard channels for stakeholder consultation and engagement; and they have not been satisfied with the response. The SRM provides a way for UNDP to address these situations systematically, predictably, expeditiously, and transparently. Through the SRM, UNDP Country Offices, Regional Bureaux and Service Centers and Headquarters collaborate in a thorough, good faith effort to resolve outstanding concerns to the satisfaction of all parties, and to document the results to ensure accountability and promote organizational learning. For more information on the SRM, see UNDP’s Stakeholder Response Mechanism: Overview and Guidance.

    2. UNDP’s Social and Environmental Compliance Review: In October 2012 the UNDP Administrator revised the Charter of the Office of Audit and Investigations (OAI) to include the mandate to investigate UNDP’s compliance with applicable social and environmental policies and procedures.  In February 2013 OAI established the Social and Environmental Compliance Unit (SECU) to respond to complaints that UNDP may not be meeting its social and environmental commitments during the interim phase. The main purpose of the compliance review is to investigate alleged violations of UNDP’s social and environmental policies and procedures.  For more information, see the DRAFT Standard Operating Procedures for UNDP's Social and Environmental Compliance Unit.

Sustainable Operations Management

As a leading agency in the fight against climate change and environmental degradation, UNDP is committed to walk the talk by minimizing the environmental impact of its global operations. Demonstrating that we operate in a resource-efficient and responsible manner as part of UNDP’s commitment to adhere to highest standards of accountability and integrity:

We measure:  As of 2008 UNDP monitors Greenhouse Gas (GHG) emissions associated with our global operations and reports results as part of the annual 'Moving towards a climate neutral United Nations'. Since then we have expanded our monitoring systems to also include other environmental indicators including water consumption and waste disposal.

We reduce:  Around the world UNDP offices are working towards minimizing the environmental impact associated with their operations. From green building renovations and use of photovoltaic power to generate electricity to staff training and bicycling programs, UNDP staff throughout the organization are developing efficient and creative solutions to reduce UNDP’s reliance on fossil fuels and natural resources.

We offset:  On World Environment Day 2009 Helen Clark expressed UNDP’s commitment to organization-wide climate neutrality. In 2012, UNDP Headquarters in New York achieved climate neutrality via a combination of GHG emission reductions and procurement of high-quality Gold Standard Certified Emission Reductions (CERs).  Other UNDP offices are also taking steps towards climate neutrality.

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Related Resources
Framework for Advancing Environmental and Social Sustainability in the UN System
UN Greening the Blue

A UN-wide campaign to engage staff at all levels of the organization, detailing what’s happening to green the UN.