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Pocantico Statement: A Call for National Indicators of Sustainability for the USA
PreMeeting Materials
Pocantico Statement
Participant List
Endorsers of Pocantico Statement
Draft Characteristics of a National Sustainability Indicator System
March 10-13, 2002, professionals from business, nonprofits, academia, and government (federal, state, and local) came together at the Rockefeller Brothers Fund's Pocantico Conference Center in Tarrytown, New York, to discuss the establishment of a system of sustainability measures for the United States. The purpose of the meeting was to:
  • Develop consensus among participants from leading groups and organizations on the establishment of a system of sustainable development indicators for the U.S. and
  • Lay the groundwork for the eventual acceptance and use of sustainability indicators by the broadest possible audience.
The meeting was sponsored by the Rockefeller Brothers Fund, Sustainability Institute, and the International Sustainability Indicators Network (ISIN).
The meeting was particularly timely because of the upcoming World Summit on Sustainable Development in Johannesburg in September of 2002. The Summit is focusing a great deal of attention on actions that can be taken to promote sustainable development, both within the U.S. and globally. However, for the U.S. as a society to move toward sustainability, leaders in various arenas including business, nonprofits, national, state and local government, and the general public, need information that allows us to assess progress toward sustainability consistently over time. Having a readily accessible, consistent, well-accepted set of measures of progress on which to base economic, social and environmental decisions will be of substantial benefit to the U.S. as a whole and to key decision-makers at all levels.
Efforts to develop and use information for sustainability decision-making are already well underway across the U.S. A few of the many examples include:

  • National Government - The Interagency Working Group on Sustainable Development Indicators - including representatives from the Departments of Interior, Agriculture, and Commerce and the Environmental Protection Agency - has developed a set of national sustainable development indicators.
  • State Government - Oregon, New Jersey, and Minnesota have already developed state-wide indicators on sustainability and other states are following suit.
  • Corporate - a growing number of U.S. Corporations - including AT&T, Bristol-Myers Squibb, Ford, General Motors, Johnson & Johnson, Proctor & Gamble - are using the Global Reporting Initiative guidelines for developing annual reports on their efforts for sustainability.
  • Local communities - the large and growing number of communities that have developed and are using sustainability indicators and criteria includes places ranging from Seattle and Santa Monica to Boston and Cape Cod.
The meeting at Pocantico was intended to lay the foundation for a collaborative partnership to integrate these disparate efforts into a cohesive system of sustainability measures that help to inform decision-making at all levels within the U.S.
The intended outcomes from the meeting were to include:
  • Identification of the audience for and users of sustainability indicators and the variety of ways that the indicators can and should be applied at different scales and in different contexts;
  • Distillation from prior efforts of a comprehensive yet useable framework within which to organize such indicators;
  • The initial steps in building consensus on a core set of categories for which goals and indicators need to be developed;
  • Identification of the necessary actions for moving sustainability indicators from concept to implementation, including the development of the necessary institutional arrangements (especially government/non-government partnerships), resource commitments, and work plans.
The expectations of the meeting's sponsors were quite high but they were matched by the enthusiasm of the participants. To see a list of the participants, click here. Prior to the meeting, background material was developed to provide participants with a common level of understanding. The material included:
  • A Comparative Summary review of existing sustainability indicator initiatives at different scales (international to local) and for different types of organizations (communities and businesses). Click here for a description of the elements reviewed in the Comparative Summary or choose one of the following tables to see the comparison: Table 1, Table 2, Table 3
  • .
  • A Crosswalk of Indicators being used by the initiatives in the Comparative Summary.
  • A Draft Set of Characteristics for a potential national sustainability indicator system.
Following the meeting, the participants unanimously endorsed the Pocantico Statement on the Need for National Indicators of Sustainability for the United States of America. The participants also agreed to form a Committee to Promote Sustainability Indicators for the U.S. and begin working on the institutional structures needed to implement such a system of sustainability indicators.
If you are interested in endorsing the Pocantico Statement or being involved with the Committee, contact the Secretariat for the committee.
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