A membership model that builds trust

Building and maintaining trust is essential to growing sustainable hydropower, no trust, no turbines - writes IHA Deputy CEO Pablo Valverde.

Trust is a valuable commodity that requires a track record. Unless we can demonstrate that hydropower can and should be done sustainably, hydropower will not be incentivised as a key component in countries’ net-zero strategies. Companies who help build that track record and lead the charge in demonstrating their sustainability credentials can and should gain a well-deserved advantage.

In a nutshell, this is what we both offer and expect from our members: help us demonstrate that hydropower can be done sustainably, and we’ll help you turn those efforts into valuable trust for your company and for the sector.

A values-based calling card

We want membership of IHA to be a calling card. When companies write “Member of IHA” in their sales documents, annual reports, email signatures or websites, there should be instant recognition: this company supports and represents a more sustainable hydropower, trust them.

This is where we want to be, and we have the foundations in place to get there. Now it’s time to walk the walk.

From values to track record

We have a good point of departure for turning our values into a track record.

Our values are clear. They were first set down in the IHA Charter for Sustainable Hydropower and later translated into a global call for action in the San José Declaration on Sustainable Hydropower.

Our values have consequences. IHA’s Commitment on World Heritage Sites and Protected Areas is a direct result of the recognition that not all hydropower is good hydropower, and only hydropower that is sustainable should be built.

Our values can be demonstrated practically. The Hydropower Sustainability Standard, developed by a multi-stakeholder group, provides a globally accepted way to certify the sustainability of hydropower projects.

The next step in the transition

In 2020, the IHA Board agreed a new way forward to ensure that IHA’s membership supported the overall objective of promoting sustainable hydropower. In 2021, we moved from a membership model of “pay more and get these additional benefits” to “changing the way our industry works and is perceived can address our biggest global challenge – here is how you can help”. In 2022, we will assist our members to demonstrate that they represent a more sustainable hydropower.

We do this by asking IHA members to LAUD their membership: Learn, Assess, Use the available guidance and Demonstrate:

-       Learn and build in-house sustainability capacity through the Hydropower Sustainability Training Academy.

-       Assess and certify new and existing hydropower projects using the Hydropower Sustainability Standard.

-       Use the guidance provided by the Hydropower Sustainability Guidelines on Good International Industry Practice.

-       Demonstrate that you belong to IHA, a membership organisation that puts sustainability at its core, by leading by example, honouring our commitments and using this to demonstrate that our industry is progressive, forward-looking, green and sustainable.

You can’t pay your way to trust

For more than a quarter of a century, IHA has welcomed everyone as members. Everything we did was geared towards delivering value for individuals, companies and associations who were willing to pay membership fees. The more you paid, the more you got.

Our objective is to promote sustainable hydropower. That includes promoting – and requiring – sustainability from our members. Paying membership fees should not be enough to be a member of IHA. Not all hydropower should be built, and not all companies belong as members of IHA

No turning back

We are not aware of any organisation that has gone through a transition like this, from delivering value for their members to having an altruistic, values-driven purpose. The journey will take time and there will be much learning along the way.

Whilst we have a lot of work ahead of us, the result should deliver significant added value to our members. It should also make us better able to deliver on our core objective of promoting sustainable hydropower. At the end of the day, this is why members join IHA.

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