The 8 IFC Environmental and Social Performance Standards You Need to Know

The International Finance Corporation (IFC) is the private sector arm of the World Bank Group, whose mission is to promote sustainable investment in the sector for developing countries, which in turn contributes to reducing poverty and boosting economic growth. 

For this purpose, the IFC has developed a set of 8 performance standards on environmental and social sustainability, which are designed to help companies manage the environmental and social risks associated with their projects, and to ensure that these risks are mitigated. ProducePay’s commitment to the World Bank includes seeking to finance growers that are aligned to this set of standards.

In addition, companies that adopt these standards are eligible for IFC financing, including for the agribusiness sector.

ProducePay works closely with the IFC to promote these standards among produce farmers in Mexico and Latin America. The ProducePay sustainability team recently participated in on-site visits with technical experts to learn more about how these standards are put into practice. On-site inspection is an important piece of the ProducePay/grower relationship building process. We also believe strongly in providing growers with the instructional and financial resources to advance their sustainable efforts. 

Which Are These Environmental and Social Performance Standards?

The 8 performance standards provide guidance to companies on how to manage their environmental and social impacts. These standards are:

1) Assessment and Management of Environmental and Social Risks and Impacts

All companies face environmental and social risks that can affect their performance, so this standard helps companies identify, assess, and manage these risks in a way that protects both people and the environment. The standard includes requirements for conducting an Environmental and Social Risk Assessment, which must be updated periodically.

2) Labor and Working Conditions

Companies must ensure decent working conditions for their workers, including the guarantee that they receive a fair wage, access to adequate facilities and resources, and protection from health and safety risks. It also requires them to provide employees with training and development opportunities, as well as to take measures to prevent discrimination and harassment.

3) Resource Efficiency and Pollution Prevention

This standard demands companies take measures to prevent pollution and increase resource efficiency. They must assess their operations to identify opportunities for improvement, while developing and implementing an environmental and social management system which includes specific procedures to address pollution and resource efficiency.

4) Community Health, Safety, and Security

Promoting health, safety and community protection during project development and operation; requiring projects to develop and implement policies, procedures and programs to prevent or mitigate health, safety and community impacts. The goal is to protect people and communities from harm while promoting sustainable development.

5) Land Acquisition and Involuntary Resettlement

This standard requires projects to avoid or minimize adverse impacts on communities, including displacement and loss of livelihoods. If displaced people cannot return to their previous level of well-being, the project must provide adequate compensation and treat them fairly and respectfully.

6) Biodiversity Conservation and Sustainable Management of Living Natural Resources

The objective of this performance standard is to promote sustainable development and protect the environment, with the conservation and sustainable management of biodiversity being a key aspect, including the protection of endangered species, maintenance of ecosystem function, and a sustainable use of natural resources.

7) Indigenous Peoples

It requires companies to respect the rights of indigenous peoples when planning or carrying out business activities that may affect them, including making sure that communities are consulted at an early stage and in a culturally appropriate manner, that they have the opportunity to give their consent, freely, prior and informed, and that they are adequately compensated for any impacts.

8) Cultural Heritage

This standard requires projects to avoid significant adverse impacts on cultural heritage; it has recently been updated to include new guidance on how to assess and manage risks to intangible cultural heritage, such as traditional knowledge, customs, and beliefs.

Relevance of IFC Performance Standards for Agriculture

The standards presented are voluntary but are widely recognized as the international benchmark for best practice in sustainable development.

As we have already seen, the standards cover a range of issues, such as land acquisition, water use, greenhouse gas emissions, worker safety and labor rights, all of which are highly relevant to the agricultural sector, and thus particularly important in this area. 

As such, by adhering to these standards, agribusinesses can help protect the environment and improve the life of workers in their supply chains, which in turn can contribute to creating a more sustainable agribusiness that benefits all stakeholders.

Source: Performance Standards

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