Last week I was working with the ISOSGroup delivering sustainability training in San Francisco. During this 3 day session, we covered the GRI Standards, the CDP Climate Change Program, and the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). It was a great training hosted by Recology at their corporate headquarters. The group that we trained was as amazing as the view. There were people from Recology and other companies along with students from the Presidio Graduate School.
These trainings are meeting the increased demand for information about organizations’ economic, environmental, and social risks. The GRI Standards provides organizations with the tool to better manage these risks. Do you have an interest in learning more about the GRI Standards? You are in luck because ISOSGroup has two scheduled trainings in October. I will be training in Seattle and Chicago for the next two events.
It was my pleasure to make this presentation on how the City of Bloomington, Indiana tracks its progress on resilience and sustainability during the session entitled Measuring urban resilience and evaluating impacts at the Resilient Cities Conference 2018.
I represented the City of Bloomington at the Resilient Cities Conference 2018 in Bonn, Germany in my role as Chair of the City of Bloomington Commission on Sustainability. The commission has as part of its mission to measure, monitor, and report on the community’s progress toward sustainability.
See my slide presentation and comments below.
This slide represents a list of reporting frameworks that all cities could use to report on their sustainability progress.
The city prepared its first Global Reporting Initiative (GRI) Sustainability Report in 2012. You can access Bloomington’s full GRI report here.
You can read about how Bloomington reduced its GHG emissions in its latest GHG inventory here.
As the City of Bloomington considers its long range plan for land use and development, it completed its 2018 Comprehensive Plan. The plan is a set of goals, policies, maps, illustrations, and implementation strategies that state how the City of Bloomington should address development: physically, socially, and economically.
The city is engaged currently in preparing a Sustainability Action Plan, which will address transportation, energy, food, and the built environment.
In an earlier blog post, I discussed how ISO 37120 Sustainable development of communities — Indicators for city services and quality of life would be useful to a city.
As we look at our next steps in reporting, there are numerous things to do to monitor the city’s progress. The metrics set out in the Comprehensive Plan and the Sustainability Action Plan will provide information about how well the city is adhering to its plans. In addition, other standardized reporting frameworks can be used to monitor Bloomington’s progress in its sustainable development.
To help understand all of our metrics, I recommend that a summary of all the reports be prepared to get a picture of what the city is doing. A summary report should be written each year to determine our strengths, weaknesses, and progress. This report could be presented to the City Council and Mayor as part of a formal annual reporting by the Commission on Sustainability.
The GRI framework is used by 74% of the 250 largest corporations. So what does this have to do with cities? As the most widely used framework, it is known by a variety of investors, governments, and NGOs. Many of the same investors, governments, and NGOs are scrutinizing city reports. If the city reports were prepared with a widely used standard, the reports would likely be better understood and more usable for decision making.
Cities have economic, environmental, and social impacts that should be measured in a systematic approach in order to be managed. The GRI Standards provide such an approach and encompass the triple-bottom-line by focusing on an organization’s economic, environmental, and social dimensions. All three are necessary to measure a city’s progress toward sustainable development. The GRI Standards state that organizations need to report only what is important to that city and to be transparent about its determination process.
What are some of the benefits? They are adaptable because they can be applied to any organization of any size and in any location. Cities can compare their progress from period to period. Does using the GRI framework allow for direct comparisons across cities? No two cities are directly comparable but by using the same standards sharing lessons learned would be easier. Cities can assess their economic, environmental, and social risks in addition to engaging their stakeholders about what impacts are important.
The GRI Standards provide metrics that could be used for input into an integrated report under the International Integrated Reporting Council Integrated Reporting <IR> Framework. The <IR> Framework allows organizations to demonstrate how they create value in the short, medium, and long terms. This is especially relevant for cities as they plan for the long term. For example, if a city invests in electric buses powered with cheaper renewable energy, this investment creates value for the city in many ways. The city’s assets have increased because it purchased the buses. It now has a fleet of electric buses. Value is created each year because fuel and maintenance costs are reduced. The reduction in carbon emissions improves air quality, which results in the improved health of citizens. As a result, health care costs are reduced.
Cities are getting a lot of attention for taking action on climate change. This action is born out of necessity. Cities have over 50 percent of the planet’s population. It is not surprising that they create 75 percent of greenhouse gas emissions.
By 2050, cities are estimated to have 70 percent of the planet’s population. With this expectation, cities are compelled to respond to increases in waste, effluents, water demand, traffic congestion, and air pollution, just to name a few challenges. One of the ways they are responding is by sharing lessons learned with other cities. Many are joining networks such as C40, ICLEI, and ANSI Network on Smart and Sustainable Cities.
Cities are taking the current and coming challenges seriously. Many cities are preparing sustainability plans, which state goals and targets for carbon emissions, economic initiatives, and waste management. Over time, the plans are assessed using periodic progress reports comparing actual results to targets. In most instances, cities use whatever reporting format they want. These reports are great for presenting what is working and what is not. But is a non-standardized reporting approach optimal for better management, transparency, and communication?
If you are using the GRI Sustainability Reporting Standards, you may want to include Sustainable Development Goals in your reporting. How can you align the two frameworks? There are new trainings being offered by ISOS Group to help you do that.
Sustainable Development Goals Module: This workshop is designed to support the alignment between GRI Guidelines and Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Since many organizations have yet to set targets for minimizing impacts to the international agreements on greenhouse gasses and beyond, using the SDGs can be a great way to cast a net toward larger objectives and develop actionable strategies for implementation. Instructors will work to demonstrate actionable steps that can be taken to institute specific SDGs. Upon course completion, participants will receive a certificate directly from GRI.