In the last 10 years, the Equator Principles or EPs have emerged as the industry standard for financial institutions to assess social and environmental risk in the project finance market. The EPs – which are based on the International Finance Corporation or IFC’s performance standards on social and environmental sustainability and the World Bank’s environmental, health and safety guidelines – have significantly increased attention on social/community responsibility, including as related to indigenous peoples, labour standards, and consultation with locally affected communities. They have also promoted convergence in the market: at present, 79 financial institutions in 32 countries have officially adopted the EPs, reportedly covering over 70% of international project finance debt in emerging markets.
This month saw the approval of the third version of the EPs, or EP III, completing a consultation process that was launched in July 2011. EP III will be effective from 4 June 2013 and financial institutions that are signatories to the EP, called EPFIs, will need to apply EP III to all new transactions by 1 January 2014.