Sustainable development is a regulatory cross cutting theme for all Structural Fund programmes. The ESF England Operational Programme explains that the objectives of the European Social Fund programme will be pursued in line with the principle of sustainable development, including the aim of preserving and improving the quality of the environment as well as the need to prepare for expected changes to the environment and climate.
Sustainable development in the European Social Fund Programme has an environmental focus – to help provide some balance to the European Social Fund’s strong social and economic focus (its main mission). The European Social Fund programme therefore welcomes applications from projects that have a strong environmental focus whilst also supporting either: jobs; skills; or social inclusion in a way that addresses local strategic needs. The programme also welcomes complementary training support for specialist sustainable development activities delivered by other programmes such as the European Regional Development Fund.
All projects, whether they have an environmental focus or not, must take the environment into account when delivering their services. The Operational Programme explains that Managing Authority and Opt-In organisations will require all programme providers to have sustainable development policies and implementation plans.
The purpose of the sustainable development policy is to provide a statement – a public commitment – to promoting sustainable development and to comply with relevant environmental legislation whilst delivering European Social Fund activities. The purpose of the implementation plan will be to turn the above policy commitment into action. Both policies and plans will be subject to monitoring, audit and evaluation.
Gender Equality and Equal Opportunities
All European Social Fund providers will be expected to have an equality policy and an implementation plan. The Managing Authority requires this in order to:
(i) help embed `due regard’ to the Public Sector Equality Duty / Equality Act 2010 into programme delivery; and
(ii) help meet EU structural fund regulations to promote gender equality and equal opportunities.
It should be noted that ESF-funded private and voluntary sector organisations, including sub-contractors, come under the scope of the Public Sector Equality Duty.
All projects will need to produce an equality policy and implementation plan that will not only help projects / providers meet regulatory requirement – but should also be used as a tool to help provide a quality service to participants.
The purpose of the equality policy is to provide a statement which acts as a public commitment to promoting equality in-line with the Public Sector Equality Duty ( Equality Act 2010). This commitment need to be put in writing and communicated to staff and participants and other service users.
The purpose of the implementation plan is to set out the action that will be taken by the providers and its staff to enable equality to be promoted in line with the Public Sector Equality Duty. The plan should be set out as an action-plan.