SuRe - The Global Infrastructure Standard for a Sustainable Future

Mon, 06/02/2017 - 09:36


A multi-stakeholder process is under way to develop SuRe - The Standard for Sustainable and Resilient Infrastructure which consists of 65 key sustainability and resilience criteria divided into 14 themes covering environmental, governance and social (ESG) aspects. A first outcome of the project is SuRe SmartScan, a simplified version of the SuRe Standard that serves as a self-assessment tool for infrastructure projects.

Infrastructure facilities such as wind farms, solar parks and hydroelectric power plants, form a solid basis for global economic growth and social prosperity. Due to their long life cycles, renewable energy production, and their significant benefits for the environment, they are also a key element of sustainable development worldwide. Sustainably oriented and resilient infrastructure can contribute significantly to achieving the two-degree global warming target and the Sustainable Development Goals. It is often argued that there is currently a limited pipeline of bankable projects. In order to meet the estimated infrastructure investment needs of USD 90 trillion by 2030, selecting suitable projects and mobilizing the necessary public and private resources is crucial.

The Global Infrastructure Basel Foundation (GIB) is tackling this issue by actively promoting the design and financing of sustainable and resilient infrastructure worldwide. Together with the French investment bank Natixis, GIB is currently leading a multi-stakeholder process to develop SuRe - The Standard for Sustainable and Resilient Infrastructure, an initiative bringing together major project developers (i.e. Pöyry, Bouygues Construction, Mott MacDonald), NGOs/associations (i.e. WWF, International Federation of Consulting Engineers, China Association of Plant Engineering Consultants), public sector representatives (i.e. Swiss Federal Office of the Environment, giz, ICLEI – Local Governments for Sustainability), multilateral organizations (i.e. European Investment Bank, UN Habitat) and experts from around the world (China, India, Colombia and South Africa).

SuRe is a global voluntary standard which consists of 65 key sustainability and resilience criteria divided into 14 themes covering environmental, governance and social (ESG) aspects. The standard was launched in 2015 at the UN Climate Conference in Paris and aims to establish a common language and understanding of sustainable and resilient infrastructure projects between project developers, financiers and local authorities. It also provides guidance on how to manage these aspects from both a risk management and a benefit creation perspective, starting from as early as possible in the project life cycle. As such, SuRe can be used to leverage both public and private investments in infrastructure in a way that ensures cost-effective access to critical services while strengthening resilience, maximizing social benefits and limiting the overall environmental footprint of the projects involved. This not only minimizes project risks – it also optimises costs, revenue and resource consumption, thereby increasing the attractiveness of such investments. As regards renewable energy projects in particular, SuRe can make a significant impact by helping to optimise the interconnections between sustainable energy production, biodiversity, project governance and workers rights.

GIB is currently testing SuRe criteria in over 10 major infrastructure projects in Central Europe, Eastern Europe, China, India, South America and the Asia-Pacific region. For example, GIB recently helped incorporate improved sustainability and resilience into the project design of a greenfield industrial park in India. In this project, GIB worked with local engineers to better understand issues such as future climate conditions, increased frequency and severity of extreme weather events, heat waves, flooding and water scarcity in order to implement mitigation measures into the project design. In doing so, GIB engaged with project developers to combine their local knowledge with international best practices in order to generate resilient infrastructure solutions.

GIB has also developed the SuRe SmartScan, a simplified version of the SuRe Standard that serves as a self-assessment tool for infrastructure projects. It provides project developers with a comprehensive and time-efficient analysis of the 14 themes covered by the SuRe Standard, offering a solid foundation for projects that are planning to become certified by the SuRe Standard in the future. Upon completion of the SmartScan, developers receive a spider diagram evaluation, which indicates their project’s performance in the different themes and benchmarks the performances with other SmartScan assessed projects.

To demonstrate the added value of sustainability and increased resilience to the financial sector, GIB is also currently developing Credit SuRe (a credit rating for infrastructure projects) and InSuRe (an insurance assessment tool) with leading companies from the respective sectors. Once completed, they will pave the way for the mobilization of the required leverage, which accounts for up to 90% of project financing.