Environmental and social risk management

Appropriate Environmental & Social (E&S) measures reduce risk to workers, the environment, local communities and other stakeholders and provide business benefits which increase our impact. The management of environmental and social risks is therefore an integral part of Norfund’s investment process.


The IFC Performance Standards for Environmental and Social Sustainability and the World Bank Group Environmental, Health and Safety Guidelines are the main standards for operationalising Norfund’s sustainability commitments. These standards are globally recognised benchmarks for environmental and social risk management in the private sector. The standards are used by development finance institutions, commercial banks and other similar institutions.

The eight Performance Standards define clients’ responsibilities for managing their environmental and social risks. The following aspects are included: 

1: Assessment and Management of Environmental and Social Risks and Impacts 
2: Labour and Working Conditions 
3: Resource Efficiency and Pollution Prevention 
4: Community Health, Safety and Security 
5: Land Acquisition and Involuntary Resettlement
6: Biodiversity Conservation and Sustainable Management of Living Natural Resources 
7: Indigenous Peoples 
8: Cultural Heritage

Our sustainability commitments 

Norfund’s Environmental, Social and Governance Policy (ESG Policy) is approved by the Board of Directors. The policy sets direction for Norfund’s E&S work and presents our sustainability commitments and the main standards we use in our work. The policy also describes how we work to identify, assess and manage the environmental and social risks associated with the operations of our clients, and provides an overview of the cross-cutting issues that guide our work.

Integrated part of investment process 

E&S risk management is an integrated part of our investment process and specific actions are required for each step of the project cycle: initial screening, due diligence, legal agreements and monitoring.   

Understanding the risk profile of our portfolio companies 

In the initial screening phase, Norfund evaluates the project against the EDFI Exclusion list and performs a high-level assessment of key E&S risks. An inherent risk category is assigned which will determine the depth of due diligence and the degree of E&S expert involvement. Our approach is aligned with EDFI’s E&S Standards and was revised in 2021 to include new tools and training modules.  

Assessing E&S risks and impacts  

If the project is approved by our investment committee, the E&S due diligence commences. This includes a comprehensive assessment of E&S risks and performance based on document reviews, site visits and interviews with key stakeholders. Gaging the potential client’s capacity and commitment to E&S risk management is an important aspect of this process. Shortcomings and value add opportunities identified in due diligence are described in an Environmental and Social Action Plan which forms part of the investment agreement.  

Our portfolio companies are required to comply with applicable national laws and regulations as well as international standards such as IFC Performance Standards and World Bank Group Environmental Health and Safety Guidelines. This includes a requirement to develop an Environmental and Social Management System (ESMS) containing an ESG policy, procedures for identifying, managing and monitoring risks, sufficient organisational capacity, emergency preparedness measures and stakeholder engagement.  

Monitoring compliance and supporting capacity building 

Norfund is a responsible owner and monitors portfolio companies’ compliance with our E&S requirements. Investees are required to report at least annually to Norfund on their E&S risk management performance. Our business support facility is an important tool for building E&S capacity and is often used to strengthen portfolio companies’ ESMS and provide training.  

Improving our system 

Over the past year, Norfund has spent considerable resources revising our internal ESMS. This has strengthened our understanding of recurring issues in the Norfund portfolio and led to the identification of new thematic priorities for internal training and business support projects. Road traffic incidents, for example, are the main reason behind injuries and fatalities reported by our investees. Supporting investees to improve management of road traffic risks is one of our priorities going forward.