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Hydropower Sustainability Assessment Protocol


The Hydropower Sustainability Assessment Protocol is a tool for assessing projects across a range of social, environmental, technical and economic criteria.

The Protocol provides an international common language on how these criteria can be addressed at all stages of a project's lifecycle: planning, preparation, implementation and operation.

Assessments use objective evidence to create a sustainability profile, which can be used to identify gaps and drive continuous improvement. These assessments are delivered by fully accredited assessors.

You can find more information about the Protocol at




Download the Protocol (2018 edition).

How the protocol was created

The Protocol was developed through 30 months of cross-sector engagement between 2007 and 2010, and a review of IHA’s previous sustainability tools, the World Commission on Dams Recommendations, the Equator Principles, the World Bank Safe Guard Policies and the IFC Performance Standards.

During this period, a multi-stakeholder forum jointly reviewed, enhanced and built consensus on what a sustainable project should look like. This forum included representatives of environmental NGOs (WWF, The Nature Conservancy), social NGOs (Oxfam, Transparency International), development banks (The World Bank), governments (China, Zambia, Germany, Iceland, Norway), and the hydropower sector. 


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A draft of the Protocol was released in 2009, which was trialled in 16 countries across six continents, and subjected to further consultation. A final version was produced in 2010. In parallel, a Governance Council was formed to govern the Protocol going forward, using the same multi-stakeholder approach used to create it. 

In 2018, the Protocol was expanded to cover best practice and good practice in climate mitigation and resilience, and a new ESG Tool was launched.


2018 Protocol and new ESG Tool

The Hydropower Sustainability Assessment Protocol was updated in July 2018, following an 18 month consultation process, to examine hydropower’s carbon footprint and resilience to climate change.

A project that scores well under the new criteria will have a low carbon footprint and be resilient to the impacts of climate change. 

ESG Tool

A new Hydropower Sustainability Environmental, Social and Governance Gap Analysis Tool was launched in July 2018.

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. 

Read more.

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