The Hydropower Sustainability Assessment Protocol (HSAP) offers a way to assess the performance of a hydropower project across more than 20 sustainability topics.

The breadth of the topics gives clients a clearer understanding of the overall sustainability of a project, including environmental, social, technical and economic aspects. The HSAP also includes ‘cross-cutting issues’ such as gender issues and human rights, which feature in multiple topics.

Assessments are based on objective evidence and the results are presented in a standardised way, making it easy to see how existing facilities are performing and how well new projects are being developed. Clients use the Protocol for its distinct value:

Facilitating access to finance

Preparing clients to meet bank requirements

Reducing the risks posed to investments

Independent review of sustainability issues

Comparison with international best practice

Communication with stakeholders

Example of an HSAP assessment result spider diagram.

Example of an HSAP assessment result spider diagram.


The HSAP in practice

Origin and governance

The HSAP was developed between 2007 and 2010 following a review of the World Commission on Dams’ recommendations, the Equator Principles, the World Bank Safeguard Policies and IFC Performance Standards, and IHA’s own previous sustainability tools.

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, governments (China, Zambia, Iceland, Norway) and the hydropower sector. 

A draft of the HSAP was released in 2009, which was trialled in 16 countries across six continents, resulting in the final version being published in 2010. The HSAP was updated in 2018 to include a topic on climate change resilience and mitigation.

The HSAP complements the World Bank’s general safeguards with content that is hydropower specific.
— World Bank

All projects, all stages

HSAP has been designed to be applied in four stages of a project

HSAP has been designed to be applied in four stages of a project

The HSAP has been applied all over the world at all stages of project development. Many companies have gone through training on the HSAP and undertaken an official assessment.

The HSAP can be used at any stage of hydropower project’s life cycle, from the earliest planning stages right through to operation.

It has also been designed to work on projects and facilities anywhere in the world.

HSAP translations