Environment Sector

Identity area

Type of entity

Authorized form of name

Environment Sector

Parallel form(s) of name

Standardized form(s) of name according to other rules

Other form(s) of name

Identifiers for corporate bodies

Description area

Dates of existence


Activities related to the environment sector were initiated in 1970 when President McNamara announced that he had created the post of environmental adviser. James Lee was named to the post and would remain in the position until his retirement from the Bank in 1987. The Office of Environmental Affairs (OEA) was subsequently formed and placed in the Projects Advisory Staff (PAS) of the Projects Staff, Vice Presidency. The Office's name would briefly change to the Office of Environmental and Health Affairs (OEHA) in or around 1977 and then, permanently, to the Office of Environmental and Scientific Affairs (OESA) in 1983 or 1984.

Throughout the 1970s the OEA was provided with few staff or resources and little influence. While the majority of the Office's resources were directed towards reviews of Bank projects, its five stated objectives were to:

  • ensure that development projects did not 'unduly' harm the environment and social well-being of a country;

  • develop increased awareness of environmental problemsassociated with the development of developing countries;

  • marshal the necessary resources and expertise to study the problem;

  • encourage research and training in that area; and

  • improve information and technical cooperation among countries.

Bank projects related to environmental protection, rehabilitation, or enhancement began in earnest in 1974. These included projects related to water pollution, forestry, soil conservation and anti-desertification, air pollution, wildlife, range-management, and solid waste disposal. However, guidance and advice was generally provided by departments within the Vice President, Central Projects (CPSVP). The OEA maintained its function as project reviewer. Its agenda did, however, extend into areas that were not specifically covered by other sectoral departments in the CPSVP such as health, resettlement, and the rights of indigenous peoples.

The OEA would also provide guidance for project planning through training and publications. In 1974 it published a handbook entitled Environmental, Health and Human Ecological Considerations in Economic Projects and in 1975 it produced Guidelines on Environmental Dimensions of Projects. In 1980 the OEA, together with the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), released the Declaration of Environmental Policies and Procedures Relating to Economic Development. In 1984, the Bank introduced a new Operational Manual Statement and, for the first time, it set out Bank guidelines on the environmental review of projects.

The OEA continued to exercise a small amount of power and influence throughout the early and mid-1980s. However, during the Bank-wide reorganization that took place in 1987, the Environment Department (ENV) was created within the Vice President, Sector Policy and Research (PRE). Kenneth Piddington was named its first director in 1988. The Department was placed on the same level as other sector departments. At the time of its establishment, the Department had three divisions: the Environmental Operations and Strategy Division (ENVOS), the Economics and Policy Division (ENVEP), and the Environmental Systems and Technology Division (ENVST).

The Department's role was to formulate Bank-wide policy and strategy for the full range of environmental issues affecting development that arise from the exploitation of natural resources; at the time, this also included issues related to resettlement and migration. Specifically, its stated roles and responsibilities were to:

  • conduct an integrated program of research, policy analysis and operational support on environmental issues, and to formulate Bank policies to account for environmental issues in all of the Bank's sectors of operation;

  • enhance the Bank's intellectual leadership on environmental issues;

  • lead the development of new initiatives for the environment, and to contribute to the development of new, environmentally sound Bank policies and products;

  • define the Bank's objectives, policies and products in the sub-sector of forestry;

  • define the Bank's objectives and to improve its methodologies and practices with regard to environmental concerns;

  • manage and disseminate the results of the ex post evaluation of the environmental consequences of the Bank's policies and operations;

  • liaise with groups, agencies and senior professional leaders actively working on environmental issues;

  • participate in appropriate committees, including the sector policy working group and country strategy working group;

  • collaborate closely with other Policy, Planning and Research (PPR) Departments in formulating environmental policies for the Bank's operations; and

  • help recruit and train environmental specialists.

The Environment Department, like the other sector Departments in the PRE, had no operational responsibilities.

As part of the increased focus placed on environmental impact and review, four regional environment divisions (REDs) were established. The new offices in the four regional technical departments would each oversee one or two regions and would review all projects and oversee the implementation of environmental measures included in Bank-supported projects. The divisions were given 'sign-off authority' which meant that a project could not go forward for approval until it had been cleared by the RED division chief. In addition, REDs would work to identify new advances in resource management and help with institution-building through close contact with national environmental offices.

In December, 1988, the ENVEP and ENVST Divisions of the Environment Department were replaced by the Environmental Policy Research Division (ENVPR) and a Special Environmental Program (ENVSE). Then, on September 1, 1990, the ENVOS was terminated and replaced by the Environmental Programs and Assessment Division (ENVAP). This reflected a reorientation of the work program away from ad hoc operational support, necessitated by the newness of the subject and the shortage of qualified operational staff, toward provision of guidelines based on thorough reviews of the Bank's environmental work. In particular, the new Division would focus on such crosscutting issues as environmental assessment of projects and integration of environmental factors into the country economic and sector programs.

On December 1, 1991, President Lewis Preston's first reorganization abolished all Senior Vice-Presidencies. The new Sector and Operations Policy Vice Presidency (OSP) was created and adopted functions previously supervised by Senior Vice Presidents, including the Environment Department.

In 1991, the Environment Department's Global Environment Unit (ENVGC), a unit to coordinate Bank-related activities of the Global Environment Facility (GEF) and the Multilateral Fund for the Implementation of the Montreal Protocol (MLF), was created in the Department. The GEF was sponsored jointly by the World Bank, the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and the UNEP. Its purpose is to provide funds to developing countries for projects that contribute to the solution of global environmental problems. The Bank was initially assigned the chairmanship of the Facility and administered two trust funds - the Ozone Projects Trust Fund and the Global Environment Trust Fund - to be applied to several priority areas of global environmental problems, including: the reduction of CFC emissions to protect the ozone layer of the atmosphere; the reduction of greenhouse gases; improved management of tropical forests; and reducing pollution of international waters. Since July of 1991 the Bank has also served as one of four implementers of the MLF, the financial mechanism of the Montreal Protocol (MP). The ENVGC acts as the Bank's Montreal Protocol Operations Team and is responsible for coordinating efforts of other Bank staff and local partners to assist countries in meetingtheir obligations under the MP.

When the GEF was established in April of 1991, it initially reported to the Senior Vice President, Policy, Research and External Affairs (PRESV); a GEF Administrator's Unit (ENVGE) was assigned to the Environment Department. After the December 1, 1991, reorganization and the termination of the PRESV, the Director of the Environment Department was designated Chairman of the GEF and the ENVGC was established. On January 1, 1993, the GEF Coordination Unit was upgraded to a division while maintaining its previous acronym. In 1994 the GEF was restructured and moved out of the World Bank. However, the Bank became the Trustee of the GEF Trust Fund and continues to provide administrative services out of the Environment Department.

Throughout, the Bank served and continues to serve as a coordinating agency for Bank-implemented GEF and MP projects. As of 2012, the World Bank's GEF coordination activities are carried out by the Environment Department's GEF Coordination Team. Its responsibilities include:

  • management of the Bank's GEF corporate program;

  • institutional relations;

  • Bank - GEF project policies and procedures;

  • Outreach, knowledge management and external relations;

  • Budget management and finance; and

  • Monitoring and evaluation.

Effective January 1, 1993, the Department was again restructured as part of a larger, Bank-wide reorganization of sector policy and support units. The larger reorganization involved the creation of three new thematic vice presidencies tosucceed the terminated OSP: Environmentally Sustainable Development (ESD); Human Resources Development and Operations Policy (HRO); and Finance and Private Sector Development (FPD). The Environment Department became one of the ESD's subordinate departments along with: the Agriculture and Natural Resources Department (AGR); the Transportation, Water and Urban Development Department (TWU); and the Secretariat of the Consultative Group for International Agricultural Research (CGIAR). Each sector department maintained the following functions:

  • prepare policies, guidelines, standards, handbooks and analytical tools relevant to the sector;

  • identify, codify and disseminate best practices and lessons of experience, and evaluate weaknesses;

  • provide advice to the Regions as needed;

  • monitor and track work in the sectors assigned in order to identify generic issues and identify, evaluate and influence trends and patterns;

  • perform surveys of experience and practice within the Bank and elsewhere, and developinnovative approaches;

  • participate in Bank-wide efforts to assess skill requirements, and to upgrade skills through recruitment, training, orientation, seminars, newsletters, etc.;

  • represent the Bank to external communities of interest; and

  • maintain an awareness of relevant external practices and viewpoints.

Restructuring of the Environment Department included the termination of the ENVPR and ENVAP and transfer of their functions to the new Social Policy and Resettlement Division (ENVSP) and Land, Water and Natural Habitats Division (ENVLW), respectively. The new Pollution and Environmental Economics Division (ENVPE) was also established.

Four years later, in 1997, the thematic Vice Presidencies were reorganized to strike a better balance between country focus and sectoral excellence. To facilitate sharing of expertise and knowledge, the Bank established networks that linked Bank-wide communities of staff working in the same field across organizational boundaries and with external partners. The networks formed a virtual overlay on the existing Bank organization, and were intended to link staff working in the same sectors throughout the Bank, whether the staff was located in the Regions, in the Central Vice-Presidencies' Sector Departments, or other Vice-Presidencies.

Each of the three thematic Central Vice-Presidencies was transformed into the central units, or anchors, of each network and consisted of the existing sector departments. On a Bank-wide basis, sector specialists were grouped into regional sector units or into central sector departments which worked with country departments in a matrix relationship. Staff from the central sector departments could become part of the regional operational teams when their sectoral expertise was required. The work programs of Network staff focused on:

  • global knowledge - putting the best development knowledge in the hands of Bank task teams; ensuring that the knowledge base was accessible to external clients; and contributing to the growth of the knowledge base;

  • enhanced skills - developing and providing content to training courses; establishing professional and technical standards for professional development;

  • shared strategies - assisting regional and central units to develop a common sector agenda, and ensuring that skills are effectively deployed across the entire network. Network leadership assumed responsibility for global programs, sector strategy development and evaluation, strategic partnerships, and learning and dissemination;

  • best teams and best practices - improving the Bank's flexibility and mobility by building stronger task teams and delivering higher quality products;

  • institutional initiatives - providing substantial support for new Bank-wide initiatives, such as Social Development, Rural Development, Financial Sector, Anti-corruption, Human Resources, and Knowledge Partnerships.

The result of the 1997 restructuring was four networks: the Environmentally and Socially Sustainable Development Network (ESSD); the Finance, PrivateSector Development, and Infrastructure Network (FPD); the Human Development Network (HDN); and the Poverty Reduction and Economic Management Network (PRM). The Environment Department retained its name and component parts and was situated within the ESSD.

On January 1, 2007, the Energy Department was moved to the Sustainable Development Network (SDN). The SDN officially came into existence on July 1, 2006, and was operationally functional as of January 1, 2007. It was formed through the integration of ESSDand Infrastructure (INF). Along with the Environment Department, SDN includes the following units or departments: Agricultural and Rural Development Department (ARD); Concessional and Sub-National Finance (CSF); Finance, Economics and Urban Development (FEU); Sustainable Energy (SEG); Social Development (SDV); and Transport, Water, and Information and Communication Technologies (TWI).


Legal status

Functions, occupations and activities

Mandates/sources of authority

Internal structures/genealogy

General context

Relationships area

Access points area


Control area

Authority record identifier

Institution identifier

Rules and/or conventions used


Level of detail

Dates of creation, revision and deletion




Maintenance notes

  • Clipboard

  • Export

  • EAC