Our cities play an important role in shaping strategies for long-term economic (and job) growth while minimizing local climate-based impacts. By reporting on standardized sustainability metrics, cities are able to track their progress, evaluate the success of their programs, benchmark against their peers, identify best practices, and help guide future policy decisions. Perhaps most importantly, transparent reporting provides city leaders with the opportunity to create an ongoing dialogue — and build trust — with their constituents about climate solutions.
While only 2% of cities worldwide use the Global Reporting Initiative (GRI) standards to date, the City of Chicago was one of the first American cities to get onboard. With Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s leadership, Chicago set specific goals across seven sustainability categories so that its progress could be measured over time. Smaller municipalities also benefit, as they compete for human and financial capital based on quality of life. In Massachusetts, the City of Fall River (population 89,000) and the town of Dartmouth (population 34,000) adopted GRI standards as the result of collaboration between city officials and Dartmouth students. “This is the kind of information people want to know when they consider moving to a town or city,” says David Cressman, Administrator in Dartmouth.
Regardless of which standards are adopted, the reporting process helps make sustainability concrete and actionable for city officials and citizens, and helps make the case and engage the public for climate change solutions and their associated long-term economic benefits.
The direction that cities take today will be a determining factor for sustainability and growth across the world for decades to come. Managed correctly, sustainability initiatives can reduce economic, environmental and social risks by delineating solutions to address urban challenges. But as with the mantra espoused by former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg – If you can’t measure it, you can’t manage it – cities need to report on their sustainability, otherwise how can we tell if their initiatives are making a difference?
Global companies are already reporting and disclosing their commitments to sustainability. Although there are differences between the types of indicators being measured and the degree of scope, there is a shared common purpose for increasing transparency and building trust amongst external stakeholders. Leaders of these corporations understand how engaging in dialogue with customers, suppliers, employees and investors is critical for creating a vibrant company that is capable of competing in today’s global economy.