Assessing hydropower projects against sustainability performance criteria is set to become easier following the launch of an expanded suite of tools by a multi-stakeholder coalition of civil society, industry, governments and financial institutions.

The Hydropower Sustainability Assessment Protocol – a scoring framework for evaluating hydropower projects – has been updated to examine hydropower’s carbon footprint and resilience to climate change. In addition, a new tool will enable project proponents and investors to identify and address gaps against international good practice.

The new suite of tools was developed over 18 months by the Hydropower Sustainability Assessment Council, which includes organizations such as the World Bank, The Nature Conservancy, the International Union for Conservation of Nature, WWF, the Inter-American Development Corporation, hydropower companies and governments.

“Today marks the most significant expansion in the tools available to assess hydropower performance in almost a decade, following extensive consultation within and beyond the hydropower sector,” commented Roger Gill, Chair of the Hydropower Sustainability Assessment Protocol’s governance committee. “This is good news for both project proponents and concerned stakeholders who want to measure projects against international practice. Developers and investors now have a targeted, cost effective way of assessing sustainability, while governments and communities can be confident that evaluations are based on robust, objective criteria.”

The new tools include:

  • An expansion of the Hydropower Sustainability Assessment Protocol, first launched in 2010, to cover best and good practice in climate mitigation and resilience. A project that scores well under the new criteria will have a low carbon footprint and be resilient to the impacts of climate change.
  • A new Hydropower Sustainability Environmental, Social and Governance Gap Analysis Tool. Modelled on the Protocol’s evaluation framework, the ESG Tool offers a targeted assessment across 12 core sections, including biodiversity, downstream flows, project affected communities, cultural heritage, working conditions, and infrastructure safety, as well as climate change.

The International Hydropower Association (IHA) supports the Hydropower Sustainability Assessment Council as the Protocol’s management body, overseeing the training and accreditation of independent assessors. Assessments can be made at all stages of a hydropower project’s lifetime, from preparation, to development and operation.

Richard Taylor, Chief Executive of IHA, commented: “With this announcement, the hydropower sector now has two ways to demonstrate the sustainability credentials of a project. The ESG Tool will allow companies to identify good practice and address gaps through a management plan, providing vital reassurance to investors and other stakeholders. For companies that require a more comprehensive assessment, the Protocol remains the first choice for benchmarking a project and showcasing how it performs against international good practice and proven best practice.”

Doug Smith, an accredited assessor who helped to develop the expanded suite of tools, said: “The Hydropower Sustainability Assessment Protocol’s new climate change topic will underline its status as the leading tool for hydropower assessment, reflecting newly built consensus in both greenhouse-gas emissions and climate resilience. The ESG Tool’s impact on the sector could also be profound, as the assessments will be systematic and rapid, without compromising rigour, and will include an action plan to close any gaps against good practice.”

Dr James Dalton, Director of the Global Water Programme at the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), commented: “Developing tools and guidelines to help guide society with the resource management choices we face is critical to our future economic, social and environmental development. The hydropower industry has learned from the last eight years of Protocol experience. Building this experience into the Protocol and the new ESG tool is critical to help industry and investors learn, gain confidence in the tools, and expand the use of the Protocol.”

Luiz Gabriel Todt de Azevedo, Chief of the Environmental, Social and Corporate Governance Division of IDB Invest, part of the Inter-American Development Corporation, commented that the new ESG Tool aligns with the Protocol’s goal of promoting sustainable hydropower. “The new ESG Tool responds to industry demands. It is an agile and low-cost alternative to be employed by developers and operators in the first level assessment of their projects.”

The Hydropower Sustainability Assessment Protocol was developed in response to the World Commission on Dams, which showed the need for the hydropower sector to have a global tool for reporting sustainability.

The Hydropower Sustainability Assessment Council, which governs the Protocol, includes environmental NGOs and IGOs (The Nature Conservancy, WWF, IUCN), social NGOs (Transparency International, Women for Water Partnership), development banks (World Bank Group, Inter-American Development Corporation), governments (Norway, Switzerland), and hydropower sector owners and contractors.

The new ESG Tool focuses on 12 sections: Environmental and social impact assessment and management; Labour and working conditions; Downstream flows, sedimentation and water quality; Project-affected communities and livelihoods; Resettlement; Indigenous peoples; Biodiversity and invasive species; Cultural heritage; Infrastructure safety; Climate change mitigation and resilience; Communications and consultation; and Governance and procurement.

To download the tools and for further information, please visit IHA’s sustainability website:

To find out about opportunities to become an assessor and be among the first to be accredited to use the new ESG Tool, contact