Tools that allow investors and further stakeholders to compare the sustainability performance of an infrastructure project or fund with the performance of other assets. Sustainability Benchmarks typically aim to incentivize improved ESG monitoring, impact reporting, and risk management.


Concept Design

The lifecycle phase in which the technical experts (e.g. designers and engineers) broadly outline the basic characteristics of the infrastructure project to meet the main functional objectives and performance requirements. This includes the development of the technical information (e.g. the definition of schematic plans and early calculations), which in most cases will be used as the basis for the procurement process.


The lifecycle phase in which the infrastructure asset is constructed in line with the requirements of the design documents, the budget, and the schedule. This phase usually takes place after the Planning, Detailed Design, and Finance of the project are completed. During this phase, many previously defined sustainability features including, but not limited to, the efficient use of materials or integration of climate change strategies will come to bear.


Decommissioning & Repurposing

This last phase of the infrastructure lifecycle takes effect once the project has come to the end of its useful life. The repurposing, recycling, and disposal of the different components of infrastructure assets as well as the re-use or restoration of the land are important parts of the sustainability considerations of the infrastructure project. They are supported by the development of detailed disposal or decommissioning plans.

Detailed Design

The lifecycle phase in which the technical experts (e.g. designers and engineers) define key features, success criteria, and major deliverables of the project, thereby specifying the Concept Design and preparing the project for construction. Key deliverables include design and construction documents such as plans, structure calculations, and material specifications as well as the preliminary contract document package. Importantly, detailed sustainability considerations like the carbon footprint of the materials used or specific mitigation measures to address social and environmental impacts should be incorporated into a project’s Detailed Design.


Although upstream and downstream are relative terms, the downstream part of the lifecycle generally encompasses the project-level phases that follow the Procurement of the infrastructure project, including Detailed Design, Finance, Construction, Operation & Maintenance as well as Decommissioning & Repurposing. It is during the downstream phases when the sustainability practices defined during the upstream phases are put into practice.


Enabling Environment

The policy, regulatory, and institutional conditions that enable the integration of sustainability practices into infrastructure planning and development throughout the entire lifecycle. These conditions may differ depending on the context. A sound investment climate and regulatory frameworks, adequate levels of technical and institutional capacity as well as well-defined sustainability policies are typically part of an Enabling Environment for sustainable infrastructure development.



The lifecycle phase in which project proponents decide how to pay for a program or project. In most cases, this phase starts after the planning and designing phase of the project has been concluded, and therefore most of the project information has already been defined. This phase oftentimes involves international financial institutions, public authorities and / or private investors as part of public-private partnerships (PPP). Sustainable finance refers to the systematic integration of Environmental, Social, and Governance (ESG) criteria in investment decisions and due diligence processes to identify potential negative social and environmental externalities of the project, among other things.

Financial / Economic Valuations

Cost-benefit analysis and risk management tools traditionally used by financiers, including public authorities, to achieve a higher degree of transparency regarding any infrastructure project’s assets, liabilities, equity, reserves, expenses, profit, and loss. In the context of sustainable infrastructure, these tools can help facilitate an understanding of the impact of sustainability performance and externalities on a projects’ economic value, cash flow, and returns. These tools can be used at an early stage to support the decision-making process as well as in later phases to evaluate performance.



Documents that provide guidance on how to operationalize different facets of sustainability principles. This helps facilitate the planning, design and management of sustainable infrastructure systems by defining expected performance in relation to a range of environmental, social, economic and institutional dimensions. Sustainability Guidelines are usually less specific than both Benchmarks and Rating Systems in that they neither allow for quantitative assessments nor comparison between assets.



Impact Assessments

Impact Assessments are used to evaluate the impact of infrastructure development on the environment and / or social structures with a view to identifying and avoiding or mitigating negative impacts and maximizing positive ones. These assessments can be conducted at two decision-making levels: (1) Environmental and Social Impact Assessments (ESIA, also referred to as Environmental Impact Assessmenta, EIA, or Integrated Environmental Assessmenta, IEA) consider and evaluate the impact of individual infrastructure projects on the environment and / or social structures in the project area. Many countries require a specific ESIA procedure to be completed during infrastructure project planning. (2) Strategic Environmental Assessments (SEA) evaluate the impact of upstream decision-making such as infrastructure policies or development plans and support the integration of environmental and social development goals into those plans. While several countries require SEA to be completed in certain areas of decision-making, their individual design can be based on a variety of participatory and analytical approaches.

Infrastructure Lifecycle

The various stages in the development of any infrastructure asset – from Strategic Planning, Prioritization and Project Planning over Concept Design, Procurement and Finance to Detailed Design, Construction, Operation, and ultimately Decommissioning & Repurposing - are collectively referred to as the Infrastructure Lifecycle.





Modelling Tools

Tools that can be applied to different scales of infrastructure development to support evidenced-based decision-making within infrastructure planning processes. These tools simulate infrastructure systems and their interaction with various social, economic, and environmental systems. They use mathematical formulas and algorithms to show what happens when different variables are introduced, helping planners to understand complex systems and optimize outcomes from different policy and investment decisions. Computer-based models can be used on their own or in support of more qualitative processes like strategic foresight and scenario analysis. Recently, Systems Modelling Tools that integrate diverse infrastructure sectors across a large-scale geographic scope have gained momentum during Strategic Planning phases as they enable decision-making that responds to large-scale interlinkages and dependencies.



Operation & Maintenance

This is the longest lifecycle phase: After the Construction is completed, the infrastructure asset starts to be used for its intended purpose and needs to be maintained to minimize the risk of premature degradation. Operation and maintenance models differ depending on the project: While in some cases, the person or institution that owns the infrastructure asset is in charge of running the infrastructure asset during its lifecycle, in other cases, a third party or concessionaire will manage and maintain the asset. The project’s sustainability performance - including ensuring low energy consumption, correct waste disposal, or adequate noise and pollution in the area – will be directly impacted by the capacity to ensure efficient operation and maintenance.



A set of usually high-level, voluntary, and aspirational principles that can inform more detailed decision-making throughout the lifecycle. Sustainability Principles distinguish from Guidelines and Standards in their lower level of specificity: they do not necessarily provide guidance for implementation or allow for the monitoring and assessment of concrete sustainability indicators. Examples include the G7 Ise-Shima Principles for Promoting Quality Infrastructure Investment.


The lifecycle phase in which public authorities and investors, among others, decide on how to allocate their resources to choose the most favorable infrastructure projects. Specific guidelines such as the World Bank Prioritizations Framework, pre-screening mechanisms or geospatial tools such as the National Infrastructure Systems Model (NISMOD) can be used to inform the selection and to choose those projects best aligned with pre-defined needs and interests.


The lifecycle phase in which the necessary goods and services (e.g. design, construction, operations) to execute a project are acquired. This implies the conclusion of contracts defining the terms of the agreement with service providers. Procurement often involves a competitive bidding or tender process to obtain the best offer under equal conditions of quality, quantity, and time. Sustainable procurement decisions, which also consider the social, environmental, economic, and institutional impacts (positive and negative) alongside costs, can maximize the net benefit of all affected stakeholders.

Project Planning

The lifecycle phase in which a general strategy is developed to ensure that an infrastructure project provides the best service to satisfy existing demands. This phase often entails the development of economic, cost-benefit, and financial impact analyses as well as a preliminary quantification of sustainability externalities to meet the project’s objectives. During this phase, feasibility analyses define the resources requirements and a concrete plan for the ensuing lifecycle phases is developed.

Project Preparation Tools

Project Preparation Tools are usually designed to help public authorities manage sustainable project preparation processes. Such tools are often built around a series of questions to ensure that key sustainability issues are considered. Some of these issues include resource efficiency, social inclusion, and environmental protection, as well as legal, financial, economic and institutional considerations. The solutions offered may include services beyond Project Planning, for instance progress monitoring across the entire lifecycle of an infrastructure project.



Rating Systems

Tools that provide quantifiable ratings and / or certifications of infrastructure projects’ degree of sustainability. These ratings / certifications are based on well-defined and structured sets of quantitative indicators. Most rating systems work with a third-party certification process that assigns scores based on a project’s performance against the set of indicators. While some can be universally applied to infrastructure in all sectors, many rating systems address specific sectors like waste, transport, or renewable energy. Rating systems provide guidance for decision making across several lifecycle phases: during Project Planning and Design phases they can be used to compare different alternatives; during Construction and Operation they can serve as benchmarks to quantify a project’s progress in terms of sustainability.


Strategic Planning

The lifecycle phase in which public authorities identify infrastructure needs, and the means of meeting those needs, based on relevant sustainable development plans and strategies, sectoral plans at different levels, the long-term vision of the area of influence, and national policies. This process requires a high level of technical expertise, effective multi-level government cooperation, reliable institutional and policy frameworks, and data-driven decision-making tools.


These are voluntary norms, protocols, and consensus-based stakeholder processes that define good environmental, social, economic and institutional practices for a given industry. When applied, they inform stakeholders about the compliance of infrastructure projects with the Standard’s criteria. Yet, distinct from Rating Systems, they do not offer differentiation of compliance levels. Standards are issued by official national, regional or international standardization bodies and follow a strict periodic review process. Examples of international standardization bodies include the International Organization for Standardization (ISO).

Sustainable Infrastructure

The Solutions Lab – Scaling for Sustainable Infrastructure – a cross-regional and multi-stakeholder expert dialogue format – defines Sustainable Infrastructure as follows: “Sustainable Infrastructures are built or natural systems that provide services in a manner that ensures economic and financial, social (including gender), environmental (including climate resilience), and institutional sustainability in line with the Global Goals and over the entire infrastructure lifecycle, from strategic planning all the way to decommissioning.”

Sustainable Infrastructure Tool

The “Sustainable Infrastructure Tool” term used by the Navigator is based on a broad understanding of instruments that support the integration of sustainability considerations into infrastructure planning and delivery. They can include both quantitative and qualitative instruments that are applied during the different phases of the infrastructure lifecycle and across all infrastructure sectors. Accordingly, “Sustainable Infrastructure Tools” are, on the one hand, Rating Systems, Benchmarks, Modelling Tools, among other, that are directly applicable to and assess the sustainability of infrastructure projects in a quantitative or qualitative manner. On the other hand, the definition also encompasses Principles, Guidelines and Standards that provide an overview of sustainability criteria for infrastructure planning and development more broadly.




Although upstream and downstream are relative terms, the term upstream generally applies to the overarching pre-project infrastructure lifecycle stage stretching from institutional and policy design to Strategic Planning, Prioritization, Project Planning, and Procurement. The upstream phases include government-led processes like strategic planning and the development of project pipelines, infrastructure investment strategies, and land use plans at different jurisdictional scales from national to municipal.