Environmental, social and economic sustainability framework

The Environmental, social and economic sustainability framework improves business practices of the UN Environment by integrating standardized and structured sustainability measures across all of its work. This Framework sets minimum safeguard standards for UN Environment and its implementing/executing partners and enables UN Environment to anticipate and manage associated environmental, social and economic issues in a holistic manner.

The Framework serves five broad purposes:

  • Getting ready for the implementation of the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) of the UN 2030 Agenda through closer engagement with UN entities and partners to strengthen development aid by routinely integrating the environmental, social and economic dimensions related to its activities.
  • Sets safeguard standards for the operations confirming accountability of UN Environment to member states, and funders.
  • Enables UN Environment to minimize potential risks and harm while enhancing the capabilities and credibility of UN Environment with strengthened partnerships.
  • Allows UN Environment to identify the full life-cycle costs of its operational choices and to operate more sustainably while improving efficiency over time.
  • Enables UN Environment to respond more promptly and effectively to emerging environmental, social and economic issues as an attractive and trusted implementing/executing partner.

The Framework serves its broad purposes by employing two overarching Principles--the precautionary approach and human rights-based approach--plus nine Safeguard Standards, which are:

  • Biodiversity conservation, natural habitats, and sustainable management of living resources
  • Resource efficiency, pollution prevention and management of chemicals and wastes
  • Safety of dams
  • Involuntary resettlement
  • Indigenous peoples
  • Labor and working conditions
  • Protection of tangible cultural heritage
  • Gender equality
  • Economic sustainability

These Safeguard Standards mainly reflect a “do no harm” commitment, but as the implementation of the Framework evolves, they will be expanded into a comprehensive “do good” commitment in line with intention of the UN Environment to promote environmental, social and economic sustainability in what the organization does.  UN Environment projects and their related Safeguard documents are disclosed to solicit involvement of the concerned stakeholders and public.  

Any project-related concerns and complaints can be raised through UN Environment Project concerns or mailed to [email protected].  Step by step guidance on the compliance or grievance matters, such as eligibility, process and contact information, are available in the Environmental, social and economic sustainability Framework: Stakeholder Response Mechanism.  Concerns and complaints on proposed projects or projects under implementation can be raised through Project concern.

Visit following UN Environment Programme policies that are related to the Framework:

For more information, please contact the Safeguards Advisor, Ms. Yunae Yi
[email protected]