Cross cutting themes

The cross cutting themes of gender equality and non-discrimination and sustainable development are important components in administering European funds and form part of the assessment of compliance with the ERDF Operational Programme.

Applicants must demonstrate that they have considered and embedded these cross cutting themes in their project plans and delivery.

Section 11 of the ERDF Operational Programme provides more information on what the Managing Authority (Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government) will take into account under these principles.

The ERDF Operational Programme can be found here.


Sustainable Development  

All projects awarded ESIF funding must comply with European environmental legislation, which seeks to ensure that projects do not have adverse effects on the environment.  European environmental legislation also requires that projects that are likely to have significant effects on the environment shall be subject to an assessment of those effects.  For some types of projects, an assessment is mandatory, while for others it depends on whether the project is judged to have significant effects on the environment. 

Projects will need to show how they will meet the requirements of the sustainable development theme, including setting out whether the projects will have any of the following features:

  • Will it have a specific environmental focus?
  • Will it complement any of the environmental thematic objectives of other ESIF programmes?
  • Will it use the environment as a resource to help motivate disadvantaged people? (e.g. by providing non-classroom / non-traditional learning environment)
  • Will it support recycling?

The principles of sustainable development should be embedded in the project and have informed its development and delivery.  Projects should set out both what they do as an organisation and how they will deliver sustainability to the end beneficiaries – it is often the latter that can have the biggest impact. For revenue projects the cross cutting theme should be applied relative to the scale and scope of the project, focusing on what are the greatest benefits.

Examples of good practice include having an externally verified Environmental Management System such as ISO 14001, Eco-Management and Audit Scheme or the IEMA Acorn Scheme. Section 11 of the Operational Programme sets out the requirements for capital projects and for projects looking to support small and medium sized enterprises.

For BREEAM, an initial design stage assessment is completed at RIBA Stage D providing an overview of what the building could achieve.  It is expected that this will be available at full application stage.

For CEEQUAL, it would be expected that a “whole team award” is used and that applicants will be in a position to confirm that they will achieve 'Very Good', which will be evidenced by an externally verified CEEQUAL Assessor on completion of the project.

“Green Infrastructure” covers a range of green spaces and can also include water bodies (blue infrastructure) which can provide multiple benefits from supporting climate change adaptation and mitigation, through to supporting biodiversity and setting the scene for investment. Capital projects should demonstrate how they are contributing to the development of green infrastructure locally or strategically. Green infrastructure based projects will need to demonstrate that they have a costed management plan and ring-fenced budget in place that will support the ongoing development and maintenance of the project.


Equality and Diversity 

Projects must demonstrate commitment towards addressing equality issues as outlined in Section 11 of the ERDF Operational Programme and as set out under the 2010 Equalities Act. Equality should be integrated into all aspects of project planning, development, implementation, monitoring and evaluation.  It must be embedded not only within the services the project provides, but also in the way the project is delivered. 

Projects must demonstrate that their programmes will be delivered in line with equality law and regulatory requirements, and that it will not adversely impact, or directly or indirectly discriminate against, any of the protected characteristics under the Equality Act 2010 (age, disability, gender reassignment, marriage and civil partnership, pregnancy and maternity, race, religion and belief, sex and sexual orientation).  The law requires having due regard to the need to: eliminate unlawful discrimination, harassment and victimisation and other conduct prohibited by the Act; advance equality of opportunity between people who share a protected characteristic and those who do not; foster good relations between people who share a protected characteristic and those who do not.

The Common Provision Regulations require that “equality between men and women and the integration of gender perspective are taken into account and promoted… in particular; accessibility for persons with disabilities shall be taken into account throughout the preparation and implementation of programmes.”

Further information can be found in Article 7 of the Common Provisions Regulation and practical guidance is available from the Equality and Human Rights Commission.


What are the benefits?

Making the cross cutting themes part of project delivery, by raising awareness of equality and diversity and environmental sustainability, can have a positive impact on individuals, businesses, the community and the wider population.

As a result, businesses benefit from improved staff motivation, loyalty and morale, and increased productivity.

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