Standard 8

Pollution Prevention and Resource Efficiency

Targeted Guidance

Additional Resources



The Pollution Prevention and Resource Efficiency Standard recognizes that increased industrial activity, urbanization, and intensive agricultural development often generate increased levels of pollution1 to air, water, and land, and consume finite resources in a manner that may threaten people and the environment at the local, regional, and global level. Pollution prevention and resource efficiency are core elements of a sustainable development agenda and UNDP projects must meet good international practice in this regard. ​​

This Standard outlines a project-level approach to pollution prevention and resource efficiency. Reduction of greenhouse gas emissions that contribute to climate change is addressed in Standard 2: Climate Change and Disaster Risks.


  • To avoid or minimize adverse impacts on human health and the environment by avoiding or minimizing pollution from project activities.
  • To promote more sustainable use of resources, including energy, land and water.
  • To avoid or minimize programming-related emissions of short and long-lived climate pollutants2 and ozone-depleting substances3.
  • To avoid or minimize generation of hazardous and non-hazardous substances and wastes, and promote a human rights-based approach to the management and disposal of hazardous substances and wastes.4
  • To promote safe, effective, environmentally sound pest management.

Scope of Application

The applicability of this Standard is established during the social and environmental screening and categorization process. Requirements of this Standard apply to projects that (i) aim to improve existing waste management practices; (ii) generate or cause generation of solid, liquid or gaseous waste; (iii) use, cause use of, or manage the use, storage or disposal of hazardous materials and chemicals, including pesticides; and (iv) that significantly consume or cause consumption of water, energy, or other resources.



Pollution prevention: UNDP ensures that projects avoid the release of pollutants, and when avoidance is not feasible, minimize and/or control the intensity and mass flow of their release. This applies to the release of pollutants to air, water, and land due to routine, non-routine, and accidental circumstances.5 UNDP projects ensure that pollution prevention and control technologies and practices are applied during the project life cycle, utilizing performance levels and measures specified in national law or in good international good practice,6 whichever is more stringent. If less stringent measures (as compared to good international practice) are appropriate, the project will fully justify the chosen alternative through the assessment process, demonstrating that the alternative is consistent with these requirements. The technologies and practices applied will be tailored to the hazards and risks associated with the nature of the project. ​​

Upon request, UNDP will support countries to strengthen management and systems for improved pollution prevention, waste reduction, and chemicals management.7

Ambient considerations: To address adverse impacts on existing ambient conditions (such as air, surface water, groundwater, and soils), a number of factors will be considered, including the finite assimilative capacity of the environment,8 existing and planned land use, existing ambient conditions, the project's proximity to ecologically sensitive or protected areas (see Standard 1), the potential for cumulative impacts with uncertain and irreversible consequences, and strategies for avoiding and minimizing the release of pollutants. If the project activities will generate significant pollutants in already degraded/polluted areas, adopt measures that avoid and minimize potential negative effects, including potential alternative locations. The project will control runoff of contaminated water from project sites and ensure polluted wastewater is treated.​

​​Wastes: UNDP ensures that projects avoid the generation of hazardous and non-hazardous waste materials. Where waste generation cannot be avoided, projects reduce the generation of waste—including plastics—and recover and reuse waste in a manner that is safe for human health and the environment. Where waste cannot be recovered or reused, it is treated, destroyed, or disposed of in an environmentally sound manner that includes the appropriate control of emissions and residues resulting from the handling and processing of the waste material. UNDP projects develop waste management plans where waste generation and handling may be significant.

​If the generated waste is considered hazardous,9 reasonable alternatives for its environmentally sound disposal will be adopted while adhering to the limitations applicable to its transboundary movement.10 When hazardous waste disposal is conducted by third parties, UNDP will ensure the use of contractors that are reputable and legitimate enterprises licensed by the relevant government regulatory agencies and that chain of custody documentation to the final destination is obtained. UNDP projects will ascertain if licensed disposal sites are being operated to acceptable standards; if this is not the case, the project will minimize waste sent to such sites and consider alternative disposal options.​

​Hazardous materials: UNDP projects will avoid or, when avoidance is not feasible, minimize and control release and exposure to hazardous materials resulting from their production, transportation, handling, storage and use. Where avoidance is not possible, the health risks—including potential differentiated effects on men, women and children—of the potential use of hazardous materials will be addressed in the social and environmental assessment. UNDP projects will consider the special vulnerabilities faced by workers as well as low-income communities, peoples with disabilities, indigenous peoples and minorities to hazardous materials. The project will develop hazardous materials management and safety measures/plans per good international practice.11 UNDP projects will consider the use of less hazardous substitutes for such chemicals and materials and will avoid supporting the manufacture, trade, and use of chemicals and hazardous materials subject to international bans, restrictions or phase-outs due to their high toxicity to living organisms, environmental persistence, potential for bioaccumulation, or potential for depletion of the ozone layer, unless for acceptable purposes as defined by the conventions or protocols (e.g. the Montreal Protocol, Minamata Convention, Basel Convention, Rotterdam Convention, Stockholm Convention).12

Pesticide use and management: UNDP seeks to avoid use of pesticides in supported activities. Integrated Pest Management (IPM) and Integrated Vector Management (IVM) approaches are to be utilized that entail coordinated use of pest and environmental information along with available pest/vector control methods, including cultural practices, biological, genetic and, as a last resort, chemical means to prevent unacceptable levels of pest damage. If after having considered such approaches recourse to pesticide use is deemed necessary, adopt safe, effective and environmentally sound pest management in accordance with the WHO/FAO International Code of Conduct on Pesticide Management13 for the safe labelling, packaging, handling, storage, application and disposal of pesticides. Hazards of pesticide use are to be carefully considered and the least toxic pesticides selected that are known to be effective, have minimal effects on non-target species and the environment, and minimize risks associated with development of resistance in pests and vectors. A Pest Management Plan is developed where use of a significant volume of pesticides is foreseen to demonstrate how IPM will be promoted to reduce reliance on pesticides and describes measures to minimize risks of pesticide use.

​​UNDP projects do not supply or use pesticides that contain active ingredients that are banned or restricted under applicable international treaties and agreements, or meet the criteria of carcinogenicity, mutagenicity, or reproductive toxicity as set forth by relevant international agencies.14 Users of any pesticides shall be trained to handle pesticides in a proper and responsible manner and utilize appropriate application equipment and adequate personal protective equipment.

Resource efficiency: UNDP projects are designed and implemented in a manner that promotes the efficient use and consumption of land/soils, energy, water, and other resources and material inputs.15 Technically and financially feasible and cost-effective efficiency measures are implemented.16 Such measures integrate the principles of cleaner production into product design and production processes with the objective of conserving raw materials, energy, and water. For resource intensive projects, benchmarking data are utilized to establish the relative level of efficiency. Principles of green design, circular economy, sustainable infrastructure and sustainable procurement are considered where feasible. ​

Water usage: For projects with high water demand (generally greater than 5,000 m3/day in non-arid climates), in addition to applying the resource efficiency requirements of this Standard, measures are adopted that avoid or reduce water usage so that the project’s water consumption does not have significant adverse impacts on communities, other users or on the environment and ecosystems (see Standard 1 on conserving ecosystems). Cumulative impacts of water use are assessed and appropriate mitigation measures implemented, such as water demand management, efficiency measures, benchmarking usage, alternative supplies, resource contamination avoidance, mitigation of impacts on downstream users, and water use offsets. Good international practice for water conservation and efficiency is applied, including for irrigation activities and wastewater usage.


Footnotes: ​

(1) For the purposes of this Standard, the term “pollution” refers to both hazardous and nonhazardous pollutants in the solid, liquid, or gaseous phases, and includes other components such as pests, pathogens, thermal discharge to water, GHG emissions, nuisance odors, noise, vibration, radiation, electromagnetic energy, and the creation of potential visual impacts including light.

(2) This includes GHGs (see Standard 2 Climate Change and Disaster Risks and black carbon.

(3) According to the Scientific Assessment Panel of the Montreal Protocol, an ozone depleting substance (ODS) is a substance that leads to stratospheric ozone depletion. Under the Montreal Protocol, most of the widely used ODSs are controlled. These include, among others, chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs), carbon tetrachloride (CCl4), methyl chloroform (CH3CCl3), halons, methyl bromide (CH3Br) and hydrochlorofluorocarbons (HCFCs).

(4) In this regard, due consideration should be given to the Guidelines for good practices in relation to the human rights obligations related to the environmentally sound management and disposal of hazardous substances and wastes (2017), prepared by the Special Rapporteur on the implications for human rights of the environmentally sound management and disposal of hazardous substances and wastes.

(5) Including those covered under the Convention on Long-range Transboundary Air Pollution, available at

(6) As reflected in internationally recognized standards such as the World Bank Group’s Environmental, Health and Safety Guidelines, available at These standards contain performance levels and measures that will normally be acceptable and applicable to projects. When national regulations differ from these levels and measures, the Implementing Partner will achieve whichever are more stringent. If less stringent levels or measures are appropriate in view of specific project circumstances, the Implementing Partner will provide full and detailed justification for any proposed alternatives, provided that such alternatives are consistent with the requirements of UNDPs SES.

(7) For example, assistance with applying the UNDP’s Guide for Integrating the Sound Management of Chemicals into Development Planning, available at

(8) Assimilative capacity of the environment refers to the capacity of the environment for absorbing an incremental load of pollutants while remaining below a threshold of unacceptable risk to human health and the environment.

(9) As defined by international conventions or local legislation. Where local legislation and international conventions may diverge, the higher standard will apply.

(10) Transboundary movement of hazardous materials should be consistent with national, regional and international law, including the Basel Convention on the Control of Transboundary Movements of Hazardous Wastes and their Disposal, available at, and the London Convention on the Prevention of Marine Pollution by Dumping of Wastes and Other Matter, available at For further guidance, the Strategic Approach to International Chemicals Management (SAICM) is a policy framework to foster the sound management of chemicals, available at

(11) These include the principles of inherently safer design, life-cycle approach, and global approach. See Guidelines for good practices in relation to the human rights obligations related to the environmentally sound management and disposal of hazardous substances and wastes (2017), paras. 45-55.

(12) Similar considerations will apply to certain World Health Organization (WHO) classes of pesticides.

(13) FAO/WHO, The International Code of Conduct on Pesticide Management (2014).

(14) Including those that meet the criteria for Highly Hazardous Pesticides identified by WHO and FAO: (1) pesticide formulations that meet the criteria of classes Ia or Ib of the WHO Recommended Classification of Pesticides by Hazard; (2) pesticide active ingredients and their formulations that meet the criteria of carcinogenicity, mutagenicity, and reproductive toxicity Categories 1A and 1B of the Globally Harmonized System on Classification and Labelling of Chemicals (GHS); (3) pesticide active ingredients listed by the Stockholm Convention in its Annexes A and B, and those meeting all the criteria in paragraph 1 of annex D of the Convention; (4) pesticide active ingredients and formulations listed by the Rotterdam Convention in its Annex III; (5) pesticides listed under the Montreal Protocol; and (6) pesticide active ingredients and formulations that have shown a high incidence of severe or irreversible adverse effects on human health or the environment.

(15) Projects that may generate significant GHG emissions will also address the requirements of Standard 2: Climate Change and Disaster Risks.

(16) Technical feasibility means the proposed measures and actions can be implemented with commercially viable skills, equipment and materials, taking into consideration prevailing local factors such as climate, geography, demography, infrastructure, security, governance, capacity and operational reliability. Financial feasibility means the ability to apply sufficient financial resources to install the measures and maintain them in operation in the long term. Cost- effectiveness is determined according to the capital and operational costs and also the financial benefits of the measure, considered over its lifespan.