Learn about the Universal Standards
The Universal Standards for Social and Environmental Performance Management (“the Universal Standards”) is a comprehensive manual of best practices to help financial service providers (FSPs) put clients and the environment at the center of all strategic and operational decisions and align their policies and procedures with responsible business practices.
To download the Universal Standards, click here.
Assess your practices
Use the SPI social audit tool to evaluate your organization’s strengths and weaknesses regarding its social and environmental performance management. The SPI tool is free and fully aligned to the Universal Standards.
The results of the assessment can be overwhelming because the SPI tool includes every aspect of social and environmental performance management (SEPM). But, the comprehensiveness of the tool also helps providers to understand deeply what SEPM. Once the provider understands is relative areas of strength and weakness, it is perfectly reasonable to focus on strengthening only a few practices at a time. Each provider will prioritize which improvements to implement first and move at a pace that is realistic.
The assessment process is critical to helping financial service providers achieve their social mission.
Implement the Universal Standards
Many resources are available to help providers implement the Universal Standards. SPTF’s Universal Standards Implementation Guide contains guidance on how to implement each of the Essential Practices contained in the Universal Standards. It also contains links to other useful industry resources for improving SPM. The SPM Resource Center, which is organized around the Universal Standards, provides descriptions of, and links to dozens of case studies, templates, tools, videos, and guidelines. If you need financial assistance to put your plans into action, apply to the Responsible Inclusive Finance (RIF) facilities in Africa, Southeast Asia, or the Caribbean/Central America.
During this step, it is important to remember to be realistic! When SPM implementation fails, it is often because the provider tried to do too much, too fast. Set a budget and create an action plan, specifying the timeline for each step of the implementation process and which employees are responsible for specific deliverables. Revisit your action plan periodically and make adjustments as needed.
There are many ways to demonstrate the results of your SPM practices, to both internal and external stakeholders:
- The SPI4 social audit tool has a great reporting function that allows you to document both your SPM practices and social outcomes. Many providers are creating SPM dashboard reports using the graphs generated by the SPI4. The SPM Resource Center has examples of SPM dashboards (see under Standard 2a "Tools and Templates").
- You can demonstrate achievement in client protection specifically by joining the Client Protection Pathway and moving along it.
- You can commission a social rating, which can include an evaluation of client outcomes. Social rates help providers demonstrate outcomes to external stakeholders such as funders.
- You can collect and report data on client outcomes. To learn more about outcomes management, visit SPTF’s outcomes working group page.