Water Research Foundation selects Jacobs to develop ESG framework for water utilities

March 11, 2024
With the support of 10 partner utilities and organizations, Jacbos will develop an environment, social and governance framework for U.S. water utilities.

Jacobs has been selected by The Water Research Foundation to lead the development of an environmental, social, and governance (ESG) framework and best practices guide for water utilities in the U.S.

With the support of ten partner water utilities and organizations, including the US Water Alliance, Jacobs will undertake a project in collaboration with The Water Research Foundation to develop formal guidance on key ESG needs and expectations and a robust framework for ESG tracking and reporting in the water utility sector. 

Water utilities today must navigate a range of critical responsibilities, many of which are being complicated by challenges like climate change and new regulations. In addition to their core mission of managing and protecting water resources, utilities must mitigate environmental impacts from their capital programs and operations, integrate social considerations – such as equity and affordability – and continuously manage governance-related topics including compliance, transparency and ethical conduct.  

“ESG performance has traditionally been disclosed to investors to showcase prudent risk management,” says Jacobs ESG Advisory Lead Kylee Hamilton. “But as ESG standards evolve very rapidly across geographies, managing and disclosing ESG performance is also becoming a crucial part of regulatory compliance.” 

Infrastructure projects also face ESG scrutiny due to their vulnerability to physical climate change impacts, as well as future impacts on carbon footprint and energy needs. The ability to attract funding is an additional driver, with strong ESG performance and disclosure increasingly correlated to strong bond ratings and enhanced access to capital.

A formal ESG framework specific to the water sector will support water utilities with understanding which ESG topics impact their individual organization and how to effectively report their ESG performance. 

“The water sector has an unprecedented opportunity to increase the transparency of utility environmental and social sustainability performance,” says CEO of The Water Research Foundation Dr. Peter Grevatt. “We are excited to work with Jacobs and the many partners on this project to deliver crucial guidance.”

Jacobs is collaborating on this research project with the US Water Alliance, the Government Finance Officers Association, and eight water utilities in the U.S. and Europe: The Metropolitan Water District of Southern California, Metropolitan Water Reclamation District of Greater Chicago, DC Water, Miami Conservancy District, Northeast Ohio Regional Sewer District, Philadelphia Water Department, Salt Lake City Department of Public Utilities, and VSC Denmark. The research will leverage the unique perspectives and experiences of these project partners, several of which have already completed their own ESG studies and reporting.

“Jacobs brings decades of collective experience and best practices on ESG gleaned from multiple market sectors and from our own ESG journey,” says Jacobs OneWater Director Joseph Danyluk. “Together with insights from our project partners and our water sector experts across the world, we’ll leverage this experience to create a customized and user-friendly ESG framework for the water utility sector that will strengthen organizational commitments, improve ESG implementation, expand partnerships and increase transparency.”

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