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UNESCO launches global guidelines for corporate sector to protect World Heritage sites

Thursday, 8 December 2022 at 8:00
access_time 2 min read

On the Occasion of the UN Biodiversity Conference (COP15), UNESCO has issued new guidance for the corporate sector to ensure that their operations do not put World Heritage at risk. 

“This guidance is based on over two decades of collaboration with the corporate sector. During this time, companies have really stepped up their support to UNESCO World Heritage sites through their commitments to withhold harmful activities from World Heritage sites.”

UNESCO World Heritage sites may often face pressures from harmful mega-projects and industrial activities. Around 140 UNESCO World Heritage sites in 80 countries over the last three decades have reported impacts from mining, oil and gas and large hydropower projects, among others.

As humanity’s legacy to future generations, UNESCO calls on companies to protect World Heritage by refraining from undertaking or funding harmful industrial or other large-scale projects that could negatively impact the Outstanding Universal Value of World Heritage sites.

‘UNESCO Guidance for the World Heritage ‘No-Go’ Commitment: Global standards for corporate sustainability’, issued today, aims to provide companies with standardized, industry-wide guidance to protect all UNESCO World Heritage sites in their diversity, in the present and in the future. The guidance complements the toolkit for assessing the impact of projects on UNESCO World Heritage sites published earlier this year.

Initially pioneered by the International Council on Mining and Metals (ICMM) in 2003, more than 50 companies and industry associations have now endorsed policies to safeguard UNESCO World Heritage sites in various sectors, including in extraction, hydropower, finance and insurance. These policies are commonly known as the World Heritage ‘no-go’ commitment. Together, they account for:

  • about a third of the global mining industry, through the commitment made by the International Council on Mining and Metals (ICMM), which is composed of 26 company members, including the largest mining companies in the world,
  • some of the biggest companies in the oil and gas industry
  • companies that manage around a third (450 GW) of global installed hydropower capacity through the commitment by the International Hydropower Association, which has more than 90 company members
  • several of the biggest banks in the world
  • 13 development finance institutions 
  • signatories to the UN Principles for Sustainable Insurance with more than 130 company members including several of the biggest insurance companies in the world 
  • more than 1,200 jewellery and watch companies through the commitment made by Responsible Jewellery Council.

UNESCO Guidance for
the World Heritage 'No-Go'

Sustainable business conduct is key to protect our shared heritage and to address accelerating environmental degradation and global inequalities. The role of the corporate sector is also the focus of the Business and Biodiversity Forum organized at the UN Biodiversity Conference (COP 15) in December.

UNESCO thanks the organizations, including International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), International Centre for the Study of the Preservation and Restoration of Cultural Property (ICCROM), International Council on Monuments and Sites (ICOMOS) and companies, that contributed to the development of this guidance, either through peer review or prior work featured on UNESCO’s website.

Visit: https://whc.unesco.org/en/no-go-commitment/

This work was made possible thanks to the financial support of the Government of Flanders (Belgium).