Virtual Environmental and Humanitarian Adviser Tool – (VEHA Tool) is a tool
to easily integrate environmental considerations in humanitarian response. Field Implementation guidances are useful for the design and execution of humanitarian activities in the field.

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VEHA - Field Implementation Guidance

Procurement (Mobilisation)
Timely delivery of goods and services
Sourcing - In-kind

Sourcing – In-kind


Environmental factors causing/contributing to the needs and affecting the humanitarian activity

Seasonal weather; weather extremes (extreme temperature; extreme rainfall; floods, droughts, pests, disease); environmental hazards – landslides, earthquakes, volcanoes; poor infrastructure (roads); poor local environmental practices (slash and burn; waste burning;) health outbreaks, could all affect procurement.

In-kind assistance can be tangible and intangible. Both types of NFI tangible (eg equipment, books, cars, clothing, furniture, and supplies) or intangible (eg advertising, patents, royalties, copyrights, and in-kind services such as professional services) depend on available resources for their production and subsequent shipment/distribution. The production of items such as equipment, clothing, furniture, and supplies consume natural and often non-renewable resources and their production pollutes the environment and depletes the availability of natural resources. If resources are scarce, production may reduce or costs may escalate which can affect humanitarian assistance. In addition, distribution may be affected by climatic and environmental conditions such as landslides or floods.

In-kind assistance may be stockpiled to enable rapid response; to counter local inflation or market disruption. Storage or stockpiling can be implemented for use, reuse, recycling, or disposal. Each of these also has the potential for causing harm to the environment and may lead to the risk of spreading disease and health problems.

Gender, age, disability and HIV/AIDS implications

Identify, evaluate and prioritise sources of eligible goods, services, and works to ensure quick delivery, best value for money, alignment with intervention needs, and market availability.

Product specifications should consider the different and specific local needs of men, women, and persons of diverse sexual orientation, gender identity, gender expression, and sex characteristics.


Environmental impact categories

Air pollution
Soil pollution
Water pollution
Loss of biodiversity and ecosystems

Summary of Impacts
Summary of potential environmental impacts

Water sources, air, and soil can become polluted through the increased volume of waste and spills, and disease vectors created by piled wasted items.

Increased accumulation of packaging, containers, and bottles may result in physical pollution and blockage of water sources, streams, and end up in rivers, lakes, and the ocean. Air pollution can also occur as waste breaks down and releases polluting gases; as well as from the transportation of items.

Impact detail
Detailed potential environmental impact information

When distributed items do not match with the cultural preferences of affected communities, items may be unneeded or misunderstood, leading to them being unused and wasted, causing pollution and unnecessary use of resources in their manufacture and transport. Alternatively, they may be re-sold in local markets so that targeted people can use the money to purchase the items they really need, which is inefficient.

When items are used in locations where there is limited local waste management and recycling infrastructure waste can end up creating breeding locations for disease vectors; causing injury to animals and human health; and degrading or being burned to cause water, soil, and air pollution.

In-kind materials sourced remotely can undermine and negatively impact local markets. People’s consumption of basic goods is likely to be limited which can reduce market demand. A slowdown of market activity leads to low demand on the retail end of the supply chain, hindering market recovery and displacing environmental impacts.

Delivery of items can have negative effects on the environment if not well planned, or if the needs and behavior of individuals and communities are not appropriately assessed.


Summary of environmental activities

1. Ways that potential negative impacts of procurement on the environment can be avoided include:

· assessing affected people’s needs and preferences

· sourcing sustainable items and promoting the adoption of those items amongst the community

· market assessments to support the potential for cash assistance instead of in-kind assistance

· providing specifications for goods or services that ensure that these do not place an undue burden on either local natural resources or the environment.

· Where possible, source sustainably produced items. If items can be produced sustainably locally, this will also reduce transport emissions and support the recovery of the local economy.

· Consider the nature and origin of materials and raw materials; any potential negative effects on water, air, and soil; any disruption to life; any impact on noise; and the natural environment, biodiversity, and space.

2. Provide temporary waste collection, sorting, recycling, and disposal facilities and support the development of local waste management and recycling livelihoods. Remove as much packaging as possible prior to distribution.

3. Deliver reusable materials (when accepted and preferred by affected people – training/awareness-raising may be necessary to increase acceptance and uptake) and create a strategy for safe disposal or reuse of those materials.

Negotiate with suppliers to reduce packaging and weight and to ensure distribution using the most efficient transport routes and to seek to produce items that are durable that can also be re-used, repurposed, recycled and / or will biodegrade. Provide community education on use, repurposing, recycling, and disposal. Encourage assisted people to hand over or return packaging, for agency disposal.

Detailed guidance for implementing suggested environmental activities

Sustainable sourcing: A change in focus for sourcing based upon environmental standards and certification, which become the main factors in the selection and retention of a supplier. This has notably been the case in the food industry where quality and certification (e.g. organic) have important marketing value. However, this strategy is running into the risk of offering goods and services that are less competitive since consumers remain highly sensitive to costs in spite of stated environmental awareness.

The Universal Logistics Standards emphasise sourcing locally. This is effective only if local is good quality and sustainably sourced and not polluting. Often this isn’t the case. Guidance should focus on checking quality, sustainable sourcing, waste/ returnable/ reusable/recyclable products and packaging as well as supporting suppliers on moving to renewable energy sources; efficient distribution, and minimising packaging. Where local producers cannot meet these criteria, focus on building their capacity.

Where in-kind distribution is adopted, promote user understanding and acceptance of re-usable items, to reduce the use of single-use disposable items. Items that can be recycled, repurposed, or resold after initial use should be introduced alongside assessing the behavior of assisted people and providing them with items they usually use and are comfortable to use, in order to avoid waste.

Also, consider the future need for items post-crisis, and if multi-functional items are an option.

Use long-term framework agreements as leverage to push suppliers to ever reduce environmental impacts of supplied items. Use procurement policies to encourage the development of local green economy livelihoods.

Search for biodegradable options that can be safely and easily disposed after use, or that are made from sustainable sources or using sustainable processes. However, whilst using biodegradable materials avoids the risk that plastics present, the industry for effectively handling and composting these materials is not universally available and may not be cost-effective. In addition, biodegradable materials may not meet the durability standards required for certain types of assistance. Assess availability of priority NFI items in the local market and provide cash-based assistance instead of NFIs if markets have sufficient supplies.

Promote and if possible support the development of local waste management, sorting and recycling livelihoods, for example recycling plastic to make bags, clothing, or furniture. Investigate the option of introducing refill stations where people can access periodic refill of products that allows for this feature using the same containers delivered from the beginning.

Promote repurposing of items that are shipped for the operations, for example, using bags to grow plants and using disappearing ink if branding is an issue. Reusing and repurposing can both reduce waste and create real value for beneficiaries of humanitarian assistance. And when identifying and selecting items to procure, choose options with safe but low amounts, and low weight of packaging that protects the items from external damage or contaminants while packaging various components of a set as one unit versus individual units in order to reduce plastic waste.

Lessons Learnt
Lessons from past experiences

Experience with working with young people in Nigeria, Pakistan, Haiti and Honduras shows that supporting groups of young people to develop their own livelihoods encourages local ownership, local leadership and local sustainable market development. The key is engaging development actors during humanitarian response, to support young people who want to build livelihoods in their communities that will help communities become more resilient to future similar crises.

See Integrated resource recovery centres here:

Activity Measurement
Environmental indicators/monitoring examples

Percentage of interventions whose procurement plans ensure all items are environmentally sustainably sourced where possible to do so.

Percentage of people using items that were selected in order to prevent possible environmental damage.

Number of positive changes made to procurement processes to minimise environmental impact.

Activity Status
Main Focus
Focus of suggested activities

Prevention of environmental damage

Mitigation of environmental damage

Resource implications (physical assets, time, effort)

Field and desktop research to understand the needs and behaviors of people. Costs can vary from the normal items (more/less).

Also, extra time to investigate sustainable products to be procured locally, and products free of hazardous materials. Requires coordination with procurement and logistics teams. Can take longer to action changes.

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