On 2 February 2022, the European Investment Bank (EIB) adopted changes to its safeguarding policies. The new Environmental and Social Sustainability Framework (ESSF) defines the bank’s entire environmental and social policy.

Our new briefing ‘A Missed Opportunity for Due Diligence at the EU Bank: An Analysis of the European Investment Bank’s Environmental and Social Sustainability Framework’ highlights the negatives and positives of the new ESSF from an environmental, development, human rights and transparency perspective. Our main conclusions are:

  • The new ESSF includes no significant improvement in human rights promotion and protection. Without a clear system of human rights due diligence and explicit requirements for the bank’s clients to conduct human rights impact assessments, the EIB is in danger of continuing to inadvertently fund human rights abuse.
  • The new standards continue to perpetuate the bank’s hands-off approach to risky projects funded via unaccountable banks or funds. Even environmentally and socially risky projects will not be subject to public disclosure. A third of the EIB’s investments in 2020 – a total of EUR 22.6 billion – was carried out through financial intermediaries. Due to the secrecy of commercial banks, the public has little idea of what happens to this money, whether it is effectively used and whether it causes environmental and social damage.
  • The new policy offers better protection for biodiversity by departing from biodiversity offsets in a highly welcomed move. Still it applies double standards regarding protected areas and internationally recognised areas of biodiversity such as Emerald, Ramsar and UNESCO sites.

Additional information on the important topics of labour rights, protection of human rights defenders and indigeneous peoples can be found in the briefing.

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Analysis of new EIB standards: A mixed bag failing to protect human rights and ensure transparency