A Guide on How to Engage with the Hydropower Sustainability Assessment Protocol (HSAP) (2013)


Since 2011, the International Hydropower Association (IHA) has partnered with at least 13 dam builders, known as “Sustainability Partners,” to implement the Hydropower Sustainability Assessment Protocol (HSAP), a voluntary, internal auditing tool that assesses social and environmental performance on specific dams.

Affected Community Members Protest the Murum Dam
in Sarawak, Malaysia | Photo by International Rivers

Yet, as a rapid assessment tool, the HSAP suffers from glaring weaknesses. It does not require the participation of affected communities nor relevant civil society organizations. HSAP assessors are selected from the dam industry by the IHA itself, presenting the risks of bias and conflict of interest. Meanwhile, low scores do not actually require dam builders to reform their policies or improve their performance. Indeed, dam builders are likely to assess dams that they know will receive high scores, or uncontroversial dams.

In some cases, however, dam builders may use HSAP assessments to greenwash particularly destructive dams. It is important in these cases for civil society to hold dam builders accountable.

A Guide to Understanding the HSAP

The guide “Fight Back Against Greenwash” teaches citizens, civil society organizations, dam-affected communities, and corporate accountability activists how to understand HSAP assessments and hold dam builders accountable for greenwash.

The guide

  • walks you through how to read an HSAP assessment
  • explains the scoring system
  • describes common problems
  • provides an example of a flawed HSAP assessment
  • suggests actions you can take to engage
  • includes a sample letter to address to the IHA, dam builders, and HSAP assessors

Why Engage with the HSAP?

Lack of participation of affected communities is one of the many flaws of the HSAP. Yet transparent, integral participation is one of the most essential aspects for energy planning, as stated by the Recommendations of the World Commission on Dams.

Engaging with the HSAP allows civil society and dam-affected communities to ground greenwashing in reality and speak the truth about dams’ negative social and environmental impacts. Download the guide below and learn how you can fight back against the greenwashing of dams by engaging with the HSAP.

See Inside