© Juergen Freund/ WWF
Advancing Environmental & Social Safeguards and Social Policies
Environmental & Social Safeguards
Our Social Policies
Our Principles

Environmental and social safeguards
Our commitment to transparency and accountability of Environmental and Social (E&S) Safeguards

Safeguards are designed to manage risks, uphold human rights, and ensure conservation projects deliver better outcomes for communities and nature. WWF uses safeguards to identify, avoid and mitigate any negative social and environmental impacts within our work. We apply safeguards in the design, implementation, and monitoring of all of our field-based activities in landscapes and seascapes.

  • Undertaking safeguards screening for all landscapes and seascapes we work in to surface risks, including those related to community engagement and consultation, access to natural resources, and indigenous people.
  • Addressing risk through the development of mitigation plans, budgeted implementation programs, and oversight systems.
  • Engaging communities throughout project design, implementation and monitoring.
  • Setting up grievance mechanisms for communities and other stakeholders to voice any project-related concerns and seek their resolution
  • Public disclosure of safeguarding actions. A specific webpage to hosts a ‘landscape portal’ is coming soon, which will provide access to risk categorizations, mitigation frameworks and monitoring plans for landscapes and seascapes
  • Making our 10 supporting E&S Safeguard Standards publicly available as support materials to the Independent Review WWF Response. They will undergo a formal public consultation in early 2021, revised versions will be approved by the International Board, and subsequently made permanently publicly accessible.

© Sonja Ritter / WWF
Our Social Policies

Conservation Initiative on Human Rights

WWF recognizes human rights as central to achieving effective and equitable conservation and development outcomes. International human rights legal instruments and standards, while applicable to states, are a core principle guiding our programmes.The inherent dignity of each person, principle of equality and non-discrimination and the indivisibility and interdependence of civil, political, economic, social and cultural rights guide our work with indigenous peoples, local communities and governments alike.

WWF is a founding member of the Conservation on Human Rights Initiative (CIHR) and signed the Conservation and Human Rights Framework in 2009. CIHR members aim to promote positive links between conservation and rights of people to secure their livelihoods, enjoy healthy and productive environments and live with dignity. WWF believes that by working collectively and sharing information we can better advance our work in this field. Other partners in this initiative are Birdlife International, Conservation International, Fauna & Flora International, IUCN, The Nature Conservancy, Wetlands International and the Wildlife Conservation Society.

The policy states WWF’s commitment to respect human rights and to promote rights within the scope of conservation initiatives. This endorsement also commits WWF to implementation measures contained in the framework and their application across all of our relevant social policies.

Conservation and Human Rights Framework Conservation Initiative on Human Rights

The rights of Indigenous Peoples

WWF recognizes the right of indigenous peoples to exert control over their lands, territories, and resources, and establish on them the management and governance systems that best suit their cultures and social needs. WWF's Statement of Principles on Indigenous Peoples and Conservation reflects our dedication to respecting indigenous and traditional peoples' human and development rights and recognizes the importance of conserving their cultures.


Indigenous Peoples and Conservation: WWF Statement of Principles

Making sure women’s voices are heard 

Women in the communities we work with often have a unique knowledge and understanding of the natural resources around them. However, if women are not specifically included in the design of policies and programmes this knowledge can be lost. Increasing women’s participation in decision-making ensures greater success and sustainability of projects while properly safeguarding natural resources and enhancing the shared benefits of their careful use.

WWF is committed to ensuring that the voices, skills and knowledge of women are incorporated into discussions and decision-making related to conservation in their families and communities by helping women in developing countries gain better access to education, healthcare, decision-making bodies and sustainable livelihoods.

Our Gender Policy drives stronger integration of a gender perspective in both its conservation work and its internal operations. 


WWF Gender policy document

Declaração de Política de Género

Déclaration de politique en matière de discrimination sexuelle

Equitable solutions for people

WWF is committed to finding equitable solutions for people and the environment and to enable poor communities to achieve tangible benefits from the conservation and sustainable use of natural resources. In many instances, particularly where poverty levels are high and people are heavily dependent on natural resources for their wellbeing, WWF will take a pro-active position, embracing a pro-poor approach to conservation, and making special efforts to enable local people to play a key part in crafting solutions for sustainable development. 

WWF Policy on Poverty and Conservation

© Garth Cripps
Guidance documents
Our four Social Policies are supported by a set of guidance documents, further ensuring social dimensions are embedded throughout our work.

Mainstreaming WWF policy commitments to Indigenous Peoples

The WWF Network adopted the “Statement of Principles on Indigenous Peoples and Conservation” (hereafter “WWF policy”) in recognition of the need to make special efforts to respect and protect indigenous rights in relation to conservation initiatives. The following  guidance document describes practical ways of mainstreaming the WWF policy commitments to indigenous peoples and their rights in the context of applying WWF Standards for Project and Programme Management. 

Mainstreaming WWF principles on Indigenous Peoples and Conservation in project and Programme Management

Guidelines on the Prevention of Restriction of Rights

WWF shall not promote or support activities or policies that lead to involuntary curtailment of rights of local communities to land and natural resources, nor will be involved in activities that lead to involuntary relocation. Our guidelines aim to ensure that WWF acknowledges and respects the rights of indigenous people and local communities (IPLCs)1 to land, water and other resources, positively contributes to the exercise of these rights, avoids directly or indirectly undermining and infringing on these rights or causing additional costs to people through our policy and/or fieldwork, projects and activities.

Prevention of Restriction of Rights and Involuntary Resettlement of Indigenous Peoples and Local Communities


Engagement with Civil Society Organizations

Civil society is one of three key agents for change – governments, private sector and civil society – that WWF engages with in order to bring about sustainable development, equitable governance of common public goods and respect for human rights. WWF has a long experience of engagement with civil society organisations (CSOs), communities, community-based organisations (CBOs), and civic institutions in a wide range of countries, contexts and forms. Building on the diverse experiences from our global network – as well as from the broader CSO community we describe WWF's engagement with civil society, and suggest key approaches and principles to guide how various offices in the network can work with civil society more strategically and effectively.

Guidance Document on WWF Engagement with Civil Society Organizations

More about our work with Civil Society Organisations here


© Karine Aigner/WWF-US
Our principles

The following principles are fundamental to creating effective, lasting and equitable solutions to today’s environmental challenges, and ensure their sustainability into the future.

  1. Respect people’s rights in accordance with customary, national and international human rights laws;
  2. Promote equity within the scope of our projects, programmes and policies at multiple levels, and promote these principles in policy fora/advocacy work at national and global levels;
  3. Aim to enhance the natural assets of local communities, particularly the poor, and ensure that our conservation work benefits and does not harm vulnerable people;
  4. Address weak governance, taking into account cultural and political contexts, through improvements in tenure and income security and decision-making procedures, devolution of environmental management and empowerment to ensure that the rights (and access) of local people to natural resources, that are the basis of their livelihoods, are exercised and enforced;
  5. Address the inequities in the distribution of environmental costs and benefits and unsustainable production and consumption patterns at multiple levels whenever possible by influencing local policies and practice, global markets, the private sector, national, regional and global policies and processes.

The non-negotiable and aspirational social principles that WWF adheres to in its work outline our commitment to integrating a social perspective in our conservation work, and ensuring that the social dimensions are implemented and monitored across the whole organizational network.