Should we invest in developing a sustainability rating system?

A water utility industry association considered developing a sustainability rating system for water utilities, with the goal of helping small to medium utilities. However, developing a rating system for this industry would be a major undertaking and significant investment. To make an informed decision, the association requested a study to assess the feasibility, value, and cost to develop and promote a sustainability rating system for use among the trade organization’s water utility members.


American Water Works Association: An international, nonprofit, scientific and educational society, AWWA is an organization of water supply professionals, including over 3,900 utilities and members representing public water and wastewater systems, environmental advocates, scientists, academicians, and others. Visit AWWA.


  • Conducted a literature review of existing sustainability rating systems, their distinguishing features and benefits delivered
  • Electronically surveyed association members on the potential value of a rating system
  • Interviewed the founders of existing rating systems to discover lessons learned and best practices
  • Compiled the findings, developed the business case analysis, made recommendations, and presented the results to the association’s leadership team.


  • Complete and thoughtful basis for deciding not to invest in a sustainability rating system.
  • Documented justification for communicating the decision to other stakeholders.