Sustainable Development Council (SDC) guiding principles with respect to Sexual Exploitation, Sexual Abuse, and Sexual Harassment (SEAH)


This policy defines Sustainable Development Council (SDC) guiding principles with respect to Sexual Exploitation, Sexual Abuse, and Sexual Harassment (SEAH) and outlines procedures for preventing and responding to allegations of sexual abuse and harassment. SDC is committed to ensuring a safe, trusted, and respectful environment within our organization and global offices, as well as in our programs and projects. CI’s work with communities at times brings SDC staff and delivery partners into contact with community members, including those marginalized or vulnerable. In all instances, the rights and dignity of individuals are prioritized through defined prevention measures and reporting procedures.

This policy expands on SDC’s Code of Ethics, which outlines ethical standards and acceptable behavior applicable to SDC operations and complements SDC’s internal Anti-Harassment Policy, Anti-Trafficking Policy, and Child Protection and Safeguarding Policy. This policy should be used in coordination with and guided by SDC’s Safeguards System (SDCSS) to avoid or minimize adverse environmental and social impacts, and to enhance positive impacts to the maximum extent possible in our projects.


This Policy applies to all SDC employees, interns, fellows, volunteers, and representatives (jointly, “SDC Staff”), as well as SDC grantees/awardees, contractors, suppliers, consultants, and their employees, sub-grantees/awardees, and representatives (jointly, “Delivery Partners”) engaged by SDC.


Awareness: SDC will ensure that all SDC staff and Delivery Partners are aware of the shared responsibility to prevent and address any SEAH-related concerns. SDC requires all SDC Staff to abide by CI’s pSEAH policy and Code of Conduct and complete a policy acknowledgment form. SDC requires grantees/awardees, contractors, suppliers, consultants, and their employees, sub-grantees/awardees, and representatives to acknowledge awareness and compliance with SDC’s pSEAH policy and Code of Conduct in grantee agreements and contracts.

Prevention: SDC believes prevention of SEAH is a shared responsibility and all must play an active role in preventing and addressing any SEAH-related concerns in the course of delivering SDC business. This responsibility also includes project teams documenting due diligence of delivery partner capacity to manage such risks and protection activities, providing capacity building where necessary.SDC takes a risk-based approach to prevent SEAH within our programming. Through the application of CI’s Safeguard System, projects will assess the level of risk for SEAH occurring with both SDC Staff and Delivery Partners and apply proportionate preventative measures at both the project level and organizational level as necessary. This includes screening all SDC projects for SEAH risks. For those projects that involve higher SEAH risks, further steps may be required, including assessing identified SEAH risks, developing SEAH prevention and protection plans to detect, avoid or mitigate SEAH risk, targeted training/capacity building, and where relevant, more frequent monitoring.

Reporting: SDC holds itself accountable to the people we serve including beneficiaries, communities, our Delivery Partners, donors, and SDC Staff. SDC is committed to accountability and transparency through appropriate, accessible, and safe reporting mechanisms. We also support our partners to do the same. Stronger reporting allows SDC to better monitor SEAH, understand risks, improve systems, and safeguard people accordingly. This includes the options for reporting confidentially and/or anonymously at both the project and organizational levels. All concerns, reports, and investigations will be dealt with on a need-to-know basis and all records will be held securely. Communication regarding concerns, reports, and investigations will be kept confidential and secure.

Prioritizing Needs of the Victim/Survivor:  SDC is committed to ensuring all our work is underpinned by a “do no harm” approach and prioritizes the rights, needs, and wishes of the victim/survivor to ensure their safety, health, and well-being. Every effort will be made to protect the privacy of all complainants, reporters, and the subjects of the complaint. While SDC cannot guarantee complete anonymity, information about the complaint and investigation will be limited to individuals on a need-to-know basis.

Zero Tolerance of Inaction: SDC does not condone, encourage, or tolerate participation, or engagement in SEAH or any conduct substantially equivalent to SEAH. SDC defines “zero tolerance” as acting on every allegation fairly and reasonably with due regard for procedural fairness. Zero tolerance does not mean zero incidents but ensures that SDC makes a defined effort to provide a comfortable and confidential way for victims/survivors to report and an appropriate response is put into action.


SDCStaff and Delivery Partners are required to comply with this policy and have a procedure for ensuring that their staff, delivery partners, and others, as well as having the capacity to acknowledge what constitutes SEAH and understand how to adequately prevent and report it.


All SDC Staff and Delivery Partners are required to report any child abuse and safeguarding concerns or violations of this policy to SDC. Individuals may report concerns on a confidential basis via SDC’s online Ethics Hotline or by calling our phone number. All SDC Staff who receive a report or hear concern from another individual must immediately share all pertinent information with SDC’s General Counsel and Chief Compliance Officer. Project-level grievance mechanisms will be designed to be community friendly and with adequate training of project staff to ensure any SEAH abuse-related reports are immediately elevated to SDC’s Global Grievance Committee.

SDC will promptly and thoroughly investigate all SEAH complaints in accordance with its established investigation procedures. SDC is committed to treating all victims with dignity and respect, to listening and being led by the wishes of the victim where possible and appropriate to do so. Every effort will be made to protect the privacy of all complainants, reporters, and subjects of a complaint. While SDC cannot guarantee complete confidentiality, information about the complaint and investigation will be limited to individuals on a need-to-know basis.

Delivery Partners shall cooperate and ensure the cooperation of persons and entities (under their control) with SDC and SDC-designated parties in any SEAH-related investigation. Retaliation against any individual who submits a SEAH report in good faith is strictly prohibited in accordance with SDC’s Conflict Resolution and Formal Complaints Policy.

As required under applicable donor policies and regulations and taking confidentiality and privacy into account, SDC will report allegations or suspicions of SEAH to donors and cooperate with donor investigations. As appropriate and only with the expressed desire of the victim, SDC will make reports to the relevant authorities with jurisdiction over the criminal prosecution of SEAH offenses.


If an investigation confirms that a policy violation by SDC Staff has occurred, SDC will take disciplinary action, up to and including termination as appropriate in accordance with its policies and applicable law. Violation of this Policy, failure to comply with the applicable contractual language in the SDC sub-contract or SDC sub-award, or applicable Compliance Plan by a SDC Delivery Partner will result in remedial action, including termination of the sub-contract or sub-award for cause with immediate effect and potential disqualification from future contracts or grants with SDC.


  • Child: In accordance with the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child, ‘child’ means every human being under the age of 18 unless under applicable law, the age of a child is defined as being younger. For the purposes of this policy, SDC considers a child to be a person under the age of 18 years. If the host country defines the age of consent as 21, in that country, “child” means an individual under the age of 21.
  • CISS – SDC Safeguard System: System of policies, standards, and procedures for the screening, due diligence, mitigation, monitoring, and reporting of environmental and social risks and impacts. The purpose is to provide SDC staff and Project Teams with procedures to avoid (or minimize) adverse environmental and social impacts and to enhance positive impacts to the maximum extent possible throughout the project cycle. Through the application of the Safeguard System, projects that include activities with direct engagement with children may require a Child Protection and Safeguarding Plan that details the extent and type of engagement, training/awareness-raising needs of project staff and delivery partners, and a description of how the grievance mechanism is child friendly, among other things.
  • pSEAH: Prevention of Sexual Exploitation, Sexual Abuse, and Sexual Harassment
  • Retaliation: Any direct or indirect detrimental action recommended, threatened, or taken because an individual has been the victim of or reported suspicion of alleged misconduct in good faith, such as sexual exploitation or abuse, or participated in an authorized audit or investigation. Retaliation may include denial of aid or inequitable allocation of assistance, adverse administrative actions, such as, but not limited to, unwarranted poor performance evaluations, changes in job duties, a hostile work climate, or other negative decisions affecting the individual’s terms and conditions of employment. Retaliation may also take the form of verbal abuse or harassment.
  • Sexual Abuse: Any actual or threatened physical intrusion of a sexual nature, whether by force or under unequal or coercive conditions. All sexual activity with a child is considered to be sexual abuse.
  • Sexual Exploitation: Any actual or attempted abuse of a position of vulnerability, differential power, or trust, for sexual purposes, including, but not limited to, threatening or profiting monetarily, socially, or politically from the sexual exploitation of another.
  • Sexual Harassment: Any unwelcome sexual advance, request for sexual favor, or other verbal, non-verbal, or physical conduct of a sexual nature, that interferes with work, is made a condition of employment, or creates an intimidating, hostile, or offensive environment in connection with the delivery of SDC business and projects. Sexual harassment may occur between or amongst persons of different sexes or genders or of the same sex or gender and may be initiated by any gender or sex. Even if an individual voluntarily participates in activities or discussions of a sexual nature, the actions may constitute sexual harassment if the individual indicates that the conduct was unwelcome. Moreover, even consensual sexual relations can constitute sexual harassment if they are so pervasive in the office as to interfere with the work environment or the work performance of others not part of these consensual relationships.