Seeking Out Women's Views

IFC articulates its strategic commitment to sustainable development in an overarching sustainability framework that is an integral part of our broader approach to risk management.

Central to this framework are the Performance Standards that define clients’ roles and responsibilities for managing their projects and the requirements for receiving and retaining IFC support. All IFC projects are assessed for consistency with the applicable Performance Standards, and clients indicate that our expertise in these areas is an important reason for choosing to work with IFC.

As part of these standards, IFC expects clients to carry out a stakeholder analysis of their projects, looking especially at any potentially adverse impacts that may affect some groups more severely than others. The goal is not just to listen to a diverse range of local views, but to influence decision making, helping projects mitigate impacts and produce new benefits that can then be distributed equitably to women and men. 

An example can be found deep in the Kalahari Desert of northern Botswana, where local clans of indigenous people follow an impoverished lifestyle that has changed little over the years. The women of these local San (also called Basarwa, or bushmen) communities are especially marginalized, having few ways to improve their living standards. 

In this same remote, arid region, Canadian mining company Tsodilo Resources Limited is exploring for diamonds. As an IFC client, it is giving the local women a voice in the early-stage, $5.3 million exploration project through a stakeholder consultation process. 

IFC and Tsodilo have consulted the San women, seeking their input on ways to share benefits with local residents. This is part of our efforts to ensure that exploration and any subsequent mine development are carried out in an environmentally and socially sustainable manner. It is in accordance with our newly updated Performance Standards, where gender is a crosscutting theme and which require that indigenous people’s free, prior, and informed consent be obtained in certain circumstances affecting them.

The Performance Standards have become a leading benchmark for environmental and social risk assessment in the private sector. They are the basis for the Equator Principles used by 72 financial institutions worldwide, and also used by European development finance institutions and 32 export credit agencies—ensuring that their influence goes well beyond IFC’s own investments.