A commitment to environmental justice

Working in it is one thing. Working for it is another.


Community Relations Specialist Danny Neelon helps a Cleveland resident with her application for utility assistance.

Our services, our projects, and our people affect the lives of more than 1 million northeast Ohioans every single day. They deserve our best work and smart spending, as well as an informed understanding of their unique life experiences and the varied neighborhoods they call home.

This is the foundation of our environmental justice commitment. For 50 years it has resonated within our mission, but lacked a clear definition.

Until now.

Utilities across the country are looking closely at the barriers that may limit customer engagement or lead to negative environmental impacts in disadvantaged communities. We are doing the same.

In 2022, a committee of employees from across the Sewer District set out to better understand and define what environmental justice means to us and how our work can contribute to healthier residents and a stronger region.

We studied other utilities. We reviewed existing environmental justice policies. We looked locally at the history of environmental justice in Cleveland and our region, where we’ve succeeded, and where we have opportunities to improve.

An Employee Resource Group participates in a tree planting at a green infrastructure site in a Cleveland neighborhood.

Three important things came from this committee’s work.

First, we now have a formal definition of environmental justice.

One that recognizes our specific role in public service in Northeast Ohio.

Environmental justice is the equitable treatment and meaningful engagement of our residents so we can advance our work without placing significant burdens on those we serve or impacting one part of our service area more than another without environmental and public health justification.

Second, we established an environmental justice commitment as a Sewer District.

One that is guided by engagement, informed actions, and equitable treatment of all our customers:

Meaningful engagement

  • Involve stakeholders before and during projects purposefully and productively.
  • Engage residents and businesses in projects and decisions that impact their communities.
  • Interact with the public consistent with our Public Engagement standard: Timely, truthfully, two-way, and thoughtfully.

Informed actions

  • Make planning and project decisions with an understanding of the community and its residents, history, and economy.
  • Be aware of the human impact of our policies and projects through active listening during design stages.
  • Equip our staff with appropriate resources to understand the importance, issues, and impacts of the decisions at hand.

Equitable treatment

  • Strive to deliver policies, projects, and programs with lasting environmental benefit, so no group of people bear a disproportionate share of negative consequences from our actions and investments.
  • Employ diverse and culturally appropriate communication strategies.
  • Seek to provide value to communities affected by significant and disruptive Sewer District activities.

And third, we involved employees from across the Sewer District.

Environmental justice is not only about deciding where we build projects or which businesses we work with. It’s about how we engage customers before, during, and after projects.

It’s about understanding the neighborhoods where long-term construction can make life complicated.

It’s about delivering policies, projects, and programs with lasting environmental benefit, so no group of people bear a disproportionate share of negative consequences from our actions and investments.

By hosting Utility Assistance Resource Fairs across the region, customers can interact in-person with reps from utilities and service providers to apply for bill relief and seek crisis assistance.

It’s about all that and more. Our complete environmental justice commitment available at neorsd.org/EJ.

We are investing billions of dollars of infrastructure, affecting the lives of a million residents across the region.

We have worked in environmental justice for 50 years. But with this statement, we are committed to working for it — with clearer direction, and intention.



Northeast Ohio Regional Sewer District

Official Medium channel of the Northeast Ohio Regional Sewer District in Cleveland, OH