Going to the supermarket nowadays is a completely different experience from what it was ten years ago. Global trade offers us an astonishing variety of international products, brands, and flavors. We have seemingly limitless choices and an ever-growing set of digital tools that make us more informed and educated about our options. Apps, websites, podcasts, certifications and more help us understand which products are sustainably harvested or manufactured, identify their origins, distribution routes, and even the greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions involved in their production and transportation. This information is essential to begin living more sustainably because it helps us understand the environmental impact of our purchasing and consumption decisions.
Impact mitigation: limiting our footprint
The growing awareness of the consequences that our daily lifestyle choices have is driving a booming demand for ways to make our personal choices more sustainable and mitigate our negative impact on the environment. Ranging from the clothes we wear to how goods are transported, from what and when we eat to the sources of the energy that we consume and the types of packaging our products come in. This interest in mitigation is driven by a desire for more sustainable lifestyles, and it all starts with understanding impact.
The IDB is no stranger to the principle of impact mitigation. Our new Environmental and Social Policy Framework (ESPF) and specifically the Environmental and Social Performance Standard 3 (ESPS 3) on resource efficiency and pollution prevention lays down policies and guidelines to provide our borrowers with tools to successfully manage the risks and impacts of their activities on ambient conditions and public health. These may include impacts on air quality, noise levels, soil, surface water and groundwater quality, biodiversity and living natural resources, risks to local communities, and contribution to global climate change.
In the same way that we change our personal consumption patterns, the first step to addressing these risks and impacts is identifying and understanding them.
IDB’s new performance standard on resource efficiency and pollution prevention
ESPS 3 outlines a project-level approach to resource management and pollution prevention and control, including the avoidance and minimization of GHG emissions. Evaluating potential risks and impacts considers project location, local environmental conditions, and the severity of pollutants emitted. Environmental and social impacts can occur at any phase of a project and depend on several factors including its nature, scope, and location. Therefore, the assessment should consider the entire project life cycle, from site selection and construction, through commissioning, operation, decommissioning, and environmental rehabilitation, as appropriate.
This performance standard also urges borrowers to implement technically and financially feasible and cost-effective measures for improving efficiency in their consumption of energy, water, and other resources, as well as to reduce project-related GHG emissions. Moreover, ESPS 3 fully embraces the concept of the circular economy and resource recovery, where usable and valuable products can be created or derived from what has been previously viewed as waste.
As part of the Bank’s effort to improve the application of ESPS 3, we have developed a free, self-paced course (currently available in Spanish only) to help build knowledge of project-related environmental risks and impacts associated with resource use and the generation of waste and emissions, and find the appropriate measures, technologies and practices to address them.
Impact assessment is key to sustainability, whether at the personal or project level. At the IDB we are committed to providing our partners in the region with tools to enhance their understanding of project-related risks and impacts, incorporate mitigation measures into project design, and strengthen their ability to make informed decisions throughout the project’s lifecycle.