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World Bank Issues Report On Its Environmental, Social Commitments

WASHINGTON, February 3, 2005 — The World Bank today released its first sustainability review, World Bank: Focus on Sustainability 2004 . The report is the first of its kind completed by a multilateral development bank, and breaks new ground by looking at the World Bank's activities through the lens of corporate social responsibility (CSR) reporting criteria - applying these standards to an institution where the bottom line is not profit, but poverty reduction.

The report examines the Bank's environmental and social commitment as demonstrated through its lending portfolio, knowledge-sharing, policy advice and technical assistance, as well as its workplace policies and practices using Sustainability Reporting Guidelines of the Global Reporting Initiative (GRI), which are supported by the United Nations system.

"We must promote growth," said Ian Johnson, World Bank Vice President for Sustainable Development, "but we must do so with a full awareness of the natural systems on which all life depends. Economic development does not have to come at the expense of the natural environment - the two are intimately linked. This report provides a baseline of our impact, but is only the beginning of a longstanding commitment to reporting on our corporate social and environmental responsibility."

The review resembles sustainability reports issued by the private sector in that it describes the Bank's core business lines and physical footprint. But, unlike private sector companies, whether the Bank achieves its central goal of poverty reduction is dependent upon a partnership with developing countries. At the end of the day, it is the countries themselves who implement strategies for wealth generation and poverty reduction. The Bank's goal is to help borrowing member countries reach the goals they set for themselves.

As a lender, the Bank is committed to promoting sustainability through:

  • the application of social and environmental safeguard policies;
  • providing tools for evaluating country environmental priorities, such as the country environmental analyses, environmental assessments, and public expenditure reviews;
  • programmatic strategies such as those for water resources, rural development, and social development; and
  • shaping its programs to support initiatives such as community driven development.

At the end of the past fiscal year, June 30, 2004, the World Bank's active portfolio of environment and natural resource programs amounted to US$11.2 billion, or 12.2 percent of the Bank's total active portfolio that year. Pollution management and environmental health issues accounted for approximately a third of the active environment portfolio.

The World Bank is the world's largest single international funding source for biodiversity projects, with a total Bank-managed biodiversity portfolio amounting to more than US$2.6 billion since 1998.

Since 1990, the Bank has also been the largest lender for energy efficiency and renewable energy projects in developing countries - investing more than US$6 billion in Bank-managed resources and mobilizing another US$10 billion from public and private sources. The Bank has recently committed to increase renewable energy programs by an average of 20 percent per year during the next five years.

The report emphasizes that environmentally sound development starts with action at home: Greening the Bank is an effective way of demonstrating to clients and staff that this issue is taken seriously. The report provides details on the Bank's Corporate Greening Program, exploring the many ways the Bank "walks the talk" by reducing energy consumption, using renewable energy, recycling, and supporting the local communities in which the Bank's offices are located.

The Bank recently announced its decision to purchase renewable energy worth 100 percent of its electricity usage at its Washington, D.C. headquarters, making it the fourth-largest purchaser of renewable energy in the United States. This purchase will represent enough electricity to power almost 8,000 average homes for a year, and is equivalent to eliminating the carbon dioxide emissions of more than 10,000 cars for a year or planting roughly 15,000 acres of trees, according to the new report.

"Our decision to purchase renewable energy, reduce waste, and support environmentally- and socially-sustainable procurement is consistent with our commitment to sustainability, both within our organization and through our operations," said Robert Van Pulley, Director of the World Bank's General Services Department. "The 'greening' efforts in our offices will reduce our environmental footprint, increase demand for this practice locally, and set an example for other institutions in the Washington area and globally."

The Bank will expand its efforts to integrate global environmental concerns into the day-to-day operations of its 108 offices around the world. A greening initiative for country offices was launched last year with the Country Office Greening Challenge which gives country offices the opportunity to compete and showcase their innovative, environmentally-friendly practices. The Bank is also introducing green construction practices in its office construction. To date, construction of offices in Bangladesh and Madagascar has followed environmentally-friendly guidelines. Environmental concerns are also being incorporated into the construction of offices in India and Zambia.

News Release No:2005/318/ESSD

For an electronic copy of the publication,
please go to:
www.worldbank.org/ess

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