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.
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?
Last week in Washington DC, I participated in a World Bank Conference on Subnational Reporting: Strengthening Governance Systems through Nonfinancial Reporting. This event, which was organized by Monika Kumar and Lydia Habhab, provided information about the importance of nonfinancial reporting for subnational governments units (e.g., cities).
My role involved writing a framing paper for the conference. In the paper, I discussed many of the relevant issues for nonfinancial reporting at the subnational government level. I want to share some of issues in this blog.
What is nonfinancial reporting and why is it important?
Nonfinancial reporting covers a wide range of areas such as performance measurement and sustainability reporting. Nonfinancial metrics are important because they complement financial reporting by providing a systems view of an organization. Financial reporting is essential but insufficient to assessing and addressing economic, environmental, and social risks. Reporting on social and environment impacts are keys to understanding progress toward sustainable development. Nonfinancial metrics such as a city’s greenhouse gas emissions or workforce composition can provide information that is relevant to assessing an organization’s opportunities and risks associated with its operating activities. Poor air quality is only one of the risks that cities face. The curbing of greenhouse gas emissions can go a long way in reducing health consequences for citizens in a city. Measuring and managing these emissions should be part of the governing process. These nonfinancial metrics provide information that has major consequences for financial resources. Prevention costs are usually much less expensive than cleanup ones.
Why are subnational governments relevant to this discussion?
Cities are becoming the focal point of addressing the effects of climate change, inequality, poverty, hunger, and problems for humanity. In 2014, slightly over half of the world’s population was living in urban areas with the expectation that it would be 66 percent by 2050. Because of the resources they use and services they provide, city governments have the opportunity to have positive impacts on sustainable development. Problems that affect local areas may vary substantially within one country because of vastly different environmental and social influences in the different regions. City governments deal with local issues and can often identify needed services. The issues and problems need to be examined at the local level to be addressed most effectively. To assess the issues, there is a need for nonfinancial reporting at the subnational level.
What are some of the important factors that might be reported?
City governments depend on a variety of resources or inputs such as environmental capital (e.g., water, biodiversity), social capital (e.g., common values, reputation), human capital (e.g., people’s competencies, experience), intellectual capital (e.g., patents, software), and manufactured capital (e.g., buildings, infrastructure). Metrics that provide information about these factors can be useful in addressing global problems of climate change, human rights violations, poverty, and human development.
There are numerous useful reporting frameworks that are available for nonfinancial reporting. The CDP is an example of a nonprofit organization that collects environmental and social information from companies and city and national governments on single topics such as emissions, water risk, supply chains, and forests. Other organizations that provide city-specific sustainability reporting tools include the Compact of Mayors and ICLEI. In addition, voluntary guidelines and standards such as the Global Reporting Initiative (GRI) Sustainability Reporting Standards and Integrated Reporting <IR> Framework are continually updating their frameworks to keep pace with the demand for sustainability-related information. Both are adaptable to cities’ needs. The International Organization for Standardization (ISO) has published ISO 37120, Sustainable development of communities — Indicators for city services and quality of life. It is intended as a means “…to help city managers, politicians, researchers, business leaders, planners, designers and other professionals to focus on key issues, and put in place policies for more livable, tolerant, sustainable, resilient, economically attractive and prosperous cities.”
These issues were discussed at the World Bank Conference chaired by Samia Msadek, Director, Governance Global Practice World Bank.
The panel of experts included the following people:
Bill Baue is co-founder of several organizations including: ThriveAbility Foundation, Reporting 3.0, Sustainability Context Group.Bill has also authored several publications, including A Leader’s Guide to ThriveAbility; Hairshirts, Rattlesnakes, and Shoelaces: Toward A Net Positive Movement; and Raising the Bar – Advancing Environmental Disclosure in Sustainability Reporting. He teaches in the Marlboro Sustainability MBA, and serves on the Technical Advisory Group of the WWF / WRI / CDP /UNGC Science Based Targets initiative. He blogs for Huffington Post, Sustainable Business and Sustainable Brands, where he also co-curates the #NewMetrics Channel.
John Morrill is the energy manager for Arlington County, Virginia. Arlington County is a signatory of the Compact of Mayors and has established sustainability goals. John leads a broad portfolio of work in energy management and policy, including climate mitigation and resilience. In 2008 he won a Climate Protection Award from the U.S. EPA for his work on the Arlington Initiative to Rethink Energy (AIRE), the county’s climate action program that now implements Arlington’s Community Energy Plan. John serves on the Board of Directors of the Virginia Energy Efficiency Council (VAEEC), and also the Virginia Energy Purchasing Governmental Association (VEPGA). Prior to joining the County, John held a variety of research and management positions during 17 years with the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy (ACEEE) in Washington DC.
Punji Leagnavar is the Manager of Sustainable Development Policy and Government Affairs at GRI where she leads GRI’s program on the UN Sustainable Development Goals and oversees GRI’s engagement with governments. She has over a decade of experience in sustainable development and mitigation, working for organizations such as the Global Environment Facility and the United Nations Environment Program.
Monali Ranade is Senior Operations Officer, World Bank Climate Change. Ms. Ranade focuses on Knowledge Engagement and Innovations to scale-up low carbon development and green growth and to strengthen participation of private-sector.Prior to this, Ms. Ranade worked with the Carbon Finance Unit of the World Bank developing methodologies and programmatic approaches to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in the Energy and Urban sectors. Prior to joining the World Bank, Ms. Ranade worked with United Nations Development Program (UNDP) and as a Consultant to the Ministry of Environment & Forest, Government of India. Ms. Ranade started her career as a small business owner, moving on to a social marketing company focused on rural consumers, followed by several years with the International Institute for Energy Conservation (IIEC) providing consulting services to government agencies. Ms. Ranade’s educational background is in Mathematics and Economics.