UNOPS and sustainability

On its website UNOPS says that it provides five services. Three of these include the word ‘sustainable’: sustainable infrastructure; sustainable procurement; and sustainable project management. Their use of the term seems to fit with OED’s third definition of ‘sustainable’ given in an earlier posting, ie:
a. Capable of being maintained or continued at a certain rate or level.
b. Designating forms of human activity (esp. of an economic nature) in which environmental degradation is minimized, esp. by avoiding the long-term depletion of natural resources; of or relating to activity of this type. Also: designating a natural resource which is exploited in such a way as to avoid its long-term depletion.

The description of sustainable project management contains the idea of “measuring sustainable success“. They describe this by saying that (my emphasis) “… local authorities and communities are engaged and all potential outcomes and impacts are considered, to make a real, sustainable and positive difference. This is why UNOPS measures project success beyond time, cost and quality. We focus on incorporating lessons learned from tens of thousands of projects to find the best way to contribute to the development goals of our partners. …. By considering the economic and environmental impacts of a project, and by promoting local ownership and building local capacity, we prioritize project sustainability.

The description of UNOPS sustainable infrastructure service leads with a section on ‘promoting sustainability‘. This explains that (my emphasis) “engaging with UNOPS makes for a partnership built on shared sustainable development goals, which promotes community engagement, environmentally-friendly construction, the capacity development of local industries and gender equality.

There is a policy for sustainable infrastructure whose purpose is “to ensure that the development and living conditions of all segments of society are not put at risk, but enhanced by the design and implementation of infrastructure projects. In particular, it enables the identification of opportunities for sustainable infrastructure activities, while simultaneously facilitating the detection of socially or environmentally detrimental impacts associated with the design, development and implementation of infrastructure projects and the creation of methods to eliminate or mitigate these impacts.” The policy sets standards for sustainable development to be incorporated into UNOPS infrastructure activities. The standards cover four areas to be considered by projects:

  • human rights;
  • labour and decent work;
  • the environment;
  • transparency, accountability and anti-corruption

For its third sustainable service, UNOPS seeks to advance “sustainable practices in procurement”. These involve:

  • “building long-term environmental, economic and social considerations into solicitation and contract documents;
  • informing our partners of the environmental impacts of various products;
  • applying different evaluation models to allow consideration of life cycle cost and total cost of ownership.”


“sustainable, adj.”. OED Online. December 2012. Oxford University Press. 7 March 2013 <>.