Metropolis
Cities, Cities and sustainability reporting, Global Reporting Initiative (GRI), Integrated Reporting, Integrated Reporting, Sustainability, Sustainability Reporting

GRI Standards for Cities

Metropolis
Graphic Design by Michael White

City sustainability reporting would be improved if cities used the Global Reporting Initiative (GRI) Sustainability Reporting Standards.

GRI Logo, 2015

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.

Health care cost reductions can be quantified and reported by a city. A 2014 study by a team of scientists at the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (Berkeley Lab), the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS), RAND Corp., and the University of Washington, reported that costs saved from reduced health impacts of GHG reduction strategies in the U.S. are estimated to be between $6 and $14 billion annually in 2020. This means the resulting GHG reductions amount to health costs benefits of between $40 and $93 per metric ton of carbon dioxide eliminated.

Take a look at cities that have adopted the GRI framework. The list includes Chicago, Atlanta, Melbourne, Dublin, and Warsaw.

 

Chicago - River Walk and State Street bridge
Cities, Cities and sustainability reporting, ISO 37120, Sustainability Reporting

ISO 37120 – Cities’ Sustainability Reporting Option

Chicago - River Walk and State Street bridge
Photo by Michael J. White

There are numerous ways that cities can monitor their sustainability progress. One example is ISO 37120-2014 Sustainable development of communities — Indicators for city services and quality of life. As the first ISO standard for city indicators, it covers the three pillars of sustainability – economic, environmental, and social. The standard provides 100 indicators that include 17 areas, which are economy, education, energy, environment, finance, fire and emergency, governance, health, recreation, safety, shelter, solid waste, telecommunications, transportation, urban planning, wastewater, and water and sanitation. Cities of any size or location can choose which indicators to report.

What is in it for cities?

By using this set of standardized metrics, cities will see numerous benefits. Benchmarking performance and setting targets are a fundamental place to start. If you want to lower greenhouse gas emissions, you need to know what your emissions are. In addition, better management of city resources can be achieved with sustainability metrics. For example, keeping track of wastewater management initiatives can enable cities to manage more efficiently and effectively both financial and environmental resources. Urban planning can be facilitated by use of these indicators. These metrics can provide information about transportation, recreation, safety, and health to inform a city’s decisions about housing policies. In addition, comparisons with other reporting cities are possible on the World Council on City Data (WCCD) website.

An added benefit is the ability to obtain WCCD Certification. Certification levels depend on the number of indicators reported.

If you are involved with a city, this is worth looking into.

As a member of the Bloomington Commission on Sustainability, I will be working on applying this standard to the City of Bloomington, Indiana in the next several months. Stay tuned as I report about the process.

city
CDP, Cities and sustainability reporting, Global Reporting Initiative (GRI), Sustainability, Sustainability Reporting

Cities Need to Engage in Sustainability Reporting

city
Photo and Design by Michael White

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?

There are several sustainability reporting frameworks, such as the Global Reporting Initiative Standards, ISO 37120 Sustainable Development of Communities – Indicators for City Services and Quality of Life, and CDP Cities, that cities can use to help them manage their sustainability goals and initiatives. Cities do not need to reinvent the wheel!

In a series of future posts, I will talk about these frameworks and why cities should use them.

Stay tuned!!

 

 

United Nations Sustainable Development Goals 1-17
Global Reporting Initiative (GRI), GRI Certified Training, ISOS Group, SDGs, Sustainability, Sustainability Reporting, Sustainable Development Goals

GRI Standards and Sustainable Development Goals Alignment Trainings

GRI Logo, 2015

United Nations Sustainable Development Goals 1-17
SWR supports the UN Sustainable Development Goals.

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.

Hope to see you at a training soon!

 

 

SDGs, Sustainability, Sustainability Reporting, Sustainable Development Goals

SDG 7 Ensure access to affordable, reliable, sustainable and modern energy for all

SWR supports the UN Sustainable Development Goals.
SWR supports the UN Sustainable Development Goals.

“The 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) define global sustainable development priorities and aspirations for 2030 and seek to mobilize global efforts around a common set of goals and targets. The SDGs call for worldwide action among governments, business and civil society to end poverty and create a life of dignity and opportunity for all, within the boundaries of the planet.”

SDG 7 Ensure access to affordable, reliable, sustainable and modern energy for all

  • By 2030, ensure universal access to affordable, reliable and modern energy services
  • By 2030, increase substantially the share of renewable energy in the global energy mix
  • By 2030, double the global rate of improvement in energy efficiency
  • By 2030, enhance international cooperation to facilitate access to clean energy research and technology, including renewable energy, energy efficiency and advanced and cleaner fossil-fuel technology, and promote investment in energy infrastructure and clean energy technology
  • By 2030, expand infrastructure and upgrade technology for supplying modern and sustainable energy services for all in developing countries, in particular least developed countries, small island developing States, and land-locked developing countries, in accordance with their respective programmes of support

Companies that have reported on SDG 7 include BASF and SAP.

BASF is providing chemicals to the renewable energy industries. One of these examples is by providing chemicals and consulting services for concentrated solar plants (CSP). CSP technology involves using solar radiation that heats a fluid to generate electricity. Use of this technology enables the storage of thermal energy to be used when direct sunlight is absent. BASF’s contribution is the manufacture and supply of salts in storing and transferring heat.

Another example is the coating produced by BASF that protects wind turbine rotor blades, which are exposed continuously to external weather conditions such as UV radiation, rain, and hail. In addition to protection, these costing increase the efficiency of the blades. The coatings extend the service life of the blades, which is around 20 years.

SAP, a German software corporation creates software for businesses to manage their operations and customer relations. In its part to support SDG 7, the company uses 100% renewable energy in all of its data centers and facilities. In addition, SAP’s software is involved with helping utilities in Ethiopia to harmonize and simplify the operations of the Ethiopian Electric Power Corporation. SAP is working in many other countries to increase energy efficiency and promote conservation strategies by installing software specifically designed for use by electric companies to transition to sustainable energy.