REDD+ Social and Environmental Standards (REDD+ SES)

Last updated: 8 March, 2016

The REDD+ Social and Environmental Standards (REDD+ SES) aim to promote high social and environmental performance of government-led REDD+ programmes that contribute to human rights, poverty alleviation, and biodiversity conservation. They support development of a country-led, multi-stakeholder safeguards information system and are complementary to carbon accounting standards.


The REDD+ SES began development in May 2009, and the most recent version was released in September 2012.  The standard is developed through an inclusive process engaging governments, non-governmental and other civil society organisations, Indigenous Peoples organisations, international policy and research institutions and the private sector. The Climate, Community and Biodiversity Alliance (CCBA) and CARE International function as the secretariat of the REDD+ SES.

The REDD+ SES is a social and environmental standard, for all forms of fund-based or market-based financing. The primary role of REDD+ SES is to provide a mechanism for country-led, multi-stakeholder social and environmental performance assessments of REDD+ programme design, implementation and outcomes, and to enable countries to show how internationally- and nationally-defined safeguards are being addressed and respected. The standard covers all social and environmental elements of the “safeguards” agreed under the UNFCCC COP-16 decision (Cancún), and is intended to complement other social and environmental approaches, such as the World Bank Strategic Environmental and Social Assessment (SESA) and UN-REDD tools.

The standard is composed of principles, criteria, and indicators. Principles describe the “intent” of the standard, or the desired outcome. Criteria describe “conditions to be met in order to deliver a principle” and indicators define “quantitative or qualitative information needed to show progress achieving a criterion.”[1] Principles and criteria are the same across all countries, whereas indicators can be country-specific, acknowledging differing contexts and circumstances.

Jurisdictions using the REDD+ SES currently include Ecuador, the State of Acre, the State of Amazonas and the State of Mato Grosso in Brazil, Nepal, the Province of Central Kalimantan and the Province of East Kalimantan in Indonesia, Guatemala, Mexico, the San Martin Region in Peru, Liberia and Tanzania. Chile, Honduras, Costa Rica and Lao PDR are also starting to use REDD+ SES.

Design Features

All policies, measures and activities in a national or jurisdictional REDD+ programme.

National or subnational/jurisdictional.

The assessment of social and environmental impacts are “relative to the reference scenario which is the most likely land-use scenario in the absence of the REDD+ program.”

Additionality is assumed through the setting of the reference scenario (see Reference Levels).

Leakage is not addressed under REDD+ SES.

Reversals are not addressed under REDD+ SES. 

The following principles apply to the REDD+ SES assessment, i.e. the REDD+ programme:  recognises and respects rights to lands, territories and resources (Principle 1); shares benefits equitably among all relevant rights holders and stakeholders (Principle 2); improves long-term livelihood security and well-being of Indigenous Peoples and local communities with special attention to women and the most marginalized and/or vulnerable people (Principle 3); contributes to good governance, to broader sustainable development and to social justice (Principle 4); ensures all relevant rights holders and stakeholders participate fully and effectively in the REDD+ programme (Principle 6).

Principle 5 states that the REDD+ programme maintains and enhances biodiversity and ecosystem services. Criteria mandate that biodiversity and ecosystem services potentially affected by the REDD+ programme are identified, prioritised and mapped, and that the REDD+ programme maintains and enhances the identified biodiversity and ecosystem service priorities. Further, the REDD+ programme should not lead to the conversion or degradation of natural forests or other areas that are important for maintaining and enhancing the identified biodiversity and ecosystem service priorities. 

There are a number of procedural safeguards that address integration in policies, laws, regulations; transparency; stakeholder participation; provision of information; and avenues for stakeholders to air grievances. Principle 7 seeks to ensure that the REDD+ programme complies with applicable local and national laws and international treaties, conventions and other instruments. Transparency is highlighted throughout REDD+ SES (benefit sharing, stakeholder engagement and governance). Particular emphasis is given with regards to governance structures, accountability, and finances under Principle 4.

All relevant rights holders and stakeholders must be identified and “fully involved through culturally appropriate, gender sensitive and effective participation.” Regarding provision of information, Principle 6 states ensures that ‘stakeholders have the information that they need about the REDD+ program, provided in a culturally appropriate, gender sensitive and timely way’.

In addition, the ‘Guidelines for the Use of REDD+ SES at Country Level’ support the development of a country’s safeguards information system by providing guidelines and good practice guidance for the identification of country-specific indicators through a multi-stakeholder process, the collection of information against each indicator, preparation of monitoring and assessment plans and a multi-stakeholder review of the assessment report.

A process must be instituted for resolution of grievances and disputes, including specific guidelines on response, redress, timeliness and consideration of customary processes.

The assessment requires the development of a monitoring plan that defines what specific information is required, methods and responsibilities for information collection, and an assessment plan defining the process for preparation, review, approval and dissemination of the assessment report.  The report is reviewed by stakeholders, approved by a country-level multi-stakeholder committee and made publicly available. 

The REDD+ SES does not have a registry associated with it. 

A 10-step process for REDD+ SES implementation is outlined in the Guidelines.  It starts with awareness raising and capacity building, establishes a joint government and civil-society Facilitation Team, creates a multi-stakeholder Standards Committee, develops a plan for the SES process, drafts country-specific indicators, organises consultations, prepares monitoring and assessment plans, collects monitoring information, reviews a draft assessment report and ends with ensuring the report is made publicly available. A formal process of verification, such as an independent check on the quality and accuracy of the assessment, is not yet included. The primary means of ensuring quality and accuracy of the REDD+ programme performance assessment is through full and effective participation of rights holders and stakeholders in the assessment process. Final assessment reports are published, made public on the REDD+ SES website, and reviewed and approved by the country-level Standards Committee. An international review mechanism is under development to assess the quality of the process followed to use REDD+ SES at country level and the extent to which the Guidelines have been fully applied. The international mechanism will act as a mechanism to offer feedback, guidance and support to countries using REDD+ SES and will also act as a quality control mechanism for claims made in relation to the use of the REDD+ SES.


[1] REDD+ Social and Environmental Standards Website. Structure of the REDD+ SES.