This document is based on early-stage findings of the Project “Environmental Considerations in Cash & Voucher Assistance” which UNHCR Colombia is developing with financial support of UNEP and in collaboration with the Colombia Cash Working Group (CWG). It has been adapted to the context of the Saint Vincent volcano emergency.
Environmental criteria to be considered by the organisation in the project cycle of cash and voucher assistance
In the selection of the delivery mechanism, prefer delivery by digital medias if context allows, especially through existing government transfer mechanisms or bank transfers.
In each step of the cash and voucher assistance implementation process consider the inclusion of environmental measures such as: minimise printing of documents, digitalisation of processes, electronic communication, handling of evidence in digital files, etc, as impact on the environment through management of electronic documents is lower. Note that vouchers with supermarkets may result in an increased volume of packaging generated, compared to vouchers used in markets or for specific commodities.
Include and value environmental criteria in the bidding terms of reference. In the analysis, the non-existence of certifications does not necessarily have to be an excluding factor. For example, retailers may not have formal certifications or policies, but may be interested in contributing to local commerce and/or applying environmental practices.
Include environmental criteria in the contract with suppliers of services (financial, logistics, office, supermarket, etc.) whenever possible, to be fulfilled in order not to affect the environment. Criteria may be existing and implemented social responsibility programmes and environmental policies, sustainable investment policies (e.g. in the case of financial service providers), good environmental practices (e.g. waste management), support and promotion of local services and markets, existence of sustainable management certifications, organic production, etc. When selecting the supplier, include the defined environmental agreements in the contract. If this cannot be done in the first cash/voucher intervention due to time constraints, ensure to do it in subsequent rounds of support.
If you work with risk matrixes, include environmental risks such as a) natural phenomena and b) human actions, including environmentally damaging coping strategies or undesirable environmental behaviour that might be incentivised by receiving cash or vouchers in particular ways.
During any market assessment, check the availability of environmentally friendly products (i.e. consider criteria such as durability, materials, product life cycle, possibilities of reuse/recycling, environmental impacts or emissions associated with production and alternative products, and final disposal of products). Use of vouchers allows aid agencies to include selective environmental criteria on the products to be bought, but should be balanced with beneficiaries having choice and empowerment (mixing cash with vouchers may be appropriate).
During the needs assessment consider also any unaddressed needs which could generate environmentally damaging activities/negative coping strategies and consider the findings to determine financial amounts; e.g. to avoid cooking with firewood, which contributes to deforestation, emission of greenhouse gases and causes serious health problems by inhaling smoke, it is recommended to include means for access to clean energy, not only for cooking (i.e. gas), but also for other type of electricity consumption, livelihoods activities, etc. This may imply developing vouchers for energy or facilitating access to cooking facilities.
Due to the specific context of the disaster, it is possible that the time of assistance may need to be extended. Therefore, it’s important to use monitoring during cash and voucher distributions as well as post distribution monitoring (PDM) to monitor that coverage is sufficient while beneficiaries keep depending on assistance (prices of imported goods may vary during hurricane season and due to COVID-19/supply chain issues, there may be a lack of locally produced food as a result of loss of harvest, etc.). Constant dialogue and feedback with recipients of cash and vouchers will help to detect any environmental impacts and correct them early. Consider adjusting the questions in monitoring by including products which could affect the environment (e.g. firewood) as part of the answers to the question what the beneficiaries have spent their cash transfer on) or including questions as “What are the basic needs of your household that you cannot cover (water, energy, waste management)?” Or “What is important to you when you select your products or/and services in the market (cost, quality/durability a mix of both)?” or “How do you try to minimise expenses (for example, do you recycle, reuse products/materials or prioritise expenses)?” Since people are likely to reduce expenditure on a range of goods and services, data related to changing spending habits in different sectors (e.g., health/nutrition, hygiene, transportation) may also have an indirect environmental impact.
Perform analysis of the questions and answers from an environmental approach, e.g. depending on expenses how could you generate savings in water, energy, purchase of materials, among others and in the following projects include key messages and/or cash for training that aim to decrease expenses while maintaining basic hygiene/health and environmental standards.
Including environment in lessons learned and reports could add value to the humanitarian response. Based on the lessons learned, internal processes can be adjusted and thus be reflected in a more effective and environmentally friendly assistance. They should report on any environmental impact observed during project implementation (inadequate consumption of water, energy, paper, plastic, etc., water pollution, loss of biodiversity, waste generation, air pollution, etc., of water, energy, paper, plastic, etc., water pollution, loss of biodiversity, waste generation, air pollution, etc.).