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Draft Characteristics of a National Sustainability Indicator System
Prior to the March meeting, a comparative summary review was done of existing sustainable development indicator (SDI) projects and similar initiatives to develop an understanding of what characteristics affect the successful implementation and use of indicators. Initiatives at different scales (international to local) and for different types of organizations (communities and businesses) were reviewed. Information was gathered on the initiatives listed below and compiled into three tables for ease of viewing. For a list of the information included in the Comparative Summaries click here
 
Table 1 - National and International
  • UN Indicators of Sustainable Development - A working list of 134 indicators and related methodology sheets that were developed at the national level as part of the implementation of the United Nations' Commission on Sustainable Development's (CSD's) Work Programme on Indicators of Sustainable Development (ISDs) adopted at CSD's Third Session in April 1995. The working list is being voluntarily tested by countries from all regions of the world. For more information see: www.un.org/esa/sustdev/isd.htm
     
  • Canada Sustainability Report - In Canada, the Environment and Sustainable Development Indicators Initiative (ESDI) of the Canadian National Round Table on the Environment and the Economy (NRTEE). The NRTEE launched the ESDI process in August 2000 and announced its approach to indicators in March 2001. It will presented draft indicators at a National Conference on Environment and Sustainable Development Indicators in June 2002, and will seek comments before releasing its final indicators list in the spring of 2003. For more information see: www.sustreport.org/home.html
     
  • Interagency Working Group on Sustainable Development Indicators (USA) - In the United States of America, the President's Council on Sustainable Development (PCSD) noted the importance of monitoring the U.S's progress toward national sustainability goals. Good measures were of particular interest to the corporate representatives on the Council which recommended that the Federal Government intensify its efforts to develop national indicators of progress toward sustainable development in collaboration with nongovernmental organizations and the private sector. In response to this recommendation, an Interagency Working Group for Sustainable Development Indicators (SDI Group) was established in 1996. The SDI Group, composed of representatives and volunteers from a number of Federal Agencies, collaborated to create indicators of sustainable development for the United States. Their first report, "Sustainable Development in the United States, An Experimental Set of Indicators" is available on: www.sdi.gov
     
  • UK Indicators of Sustainable Development - In May of 1999, the UK Government published "A Better Quality Of Life: A Strategy for Sustainable Development in the United Kingdom." To help measure progress, the strategy included a series of indicators. The Government has revised the national set of sustainable development indicators published in 1996. The new set of around 150 indicators is referred to throughout the Strategy, and will be at the core of future reports on progress. For more information, see: www.sustainable-development.gov.uk/indicators/
     
  • Dutch National Environmental Policy Plan (NEPP ) - In 1989, the Dutch Parliament adopted the first Dutch National Environmental Policy Plan (NEPP) . Since then, the plan has been updated three times. NEPP 4, published in 2000, outlined seven priority environmental problems and established several guiding principles for policy making for the next 30 years. In 2001, the Dutch Cabinet established the National Strategy for Sustainable Development (Nationale Strategie voor Duurzame Ontwikkeling or NSDO). The strategy includes measurable goals and objectives for the country as a whole, for specific geographic regions and target economic sectors. For more information about the Dutch National Environmental Policy Plan, see http://www.vrom.nl (select 'International for English content). For a brief summary of the Dutch plan, see www.rri.org/bestpractices/netherlands.html
     
Table 2 - State, Local, and Business
  • Global Reporting Initiative, - At the corporate level, the Global Reporting Initiative (GRI) is a common framework for sustainability reporting. GRI was established in late 1997 with the mission of developing globally applicable guidelines for reporting on the economic, environmental, and social performance, initially for corporations and eventually for any business, governmental, or non-governmental organisation (NGO). Convened by the Coalition for Environmentally Responsible Economies (CERES) in partnership with the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), the GRI incorporates the active participation of corporations, NGOs, accountancy organisations, business associations, and other stakeholders from around the world. For more information, see: www.globalreporting.org
     
  • Sustainable Seattle - One of the most widely known sustainable community indicator projects. The first set of sustainable community indicators for the Seattle, Washington, USA area were published in 1993. The indicators have been updated several times since then. For more information, see: www.sustainableseattle.org
     
  • Santa Monica Sustainable City Program - In 1994, the City of Santa Monica, California, USA adopted guiding principles and a set of indicators to guide City policy and decision making. The indicators included targets to obtain by the year 2000. The City is currently revising and updating the goals and indicators. For more information, see: http://pen.ci.santa-monica.ca.us/environment/policy/
     
  • Oregon Benchmarks - In 1988, the State of Oregon, USA, began a planning effort that involved 16 committees composed of about 180 members from business, labor, education, and government leaders. The group was charged with examining and recommending how Oregon should shape its economic future. As a result, in 1989, the Oregon Progress Board was established to be the steward of the state strategic plan and the first edition of the plan, "Oregon Shines," was published. The Progress Board created the Oregon Benchmarks, a set of quantifiable indicators for the economy, communities and the environment. In 2000, the Progress Board began a process to align the Oregon Benchmarks with sustainability principles. For more information see: http://www.econ.state.or.us/opb/
     
  • New Jersey Living with the Future in Mind - New Jersey Future (NJF) is a nonprofit, nonpartisan research and advocacy organization created in 1987 and dedicated to improving the quality of life in New Jersey. Members of the board of Trustees represent the many segments of New Jersey's social, political and economic landscape. In 1996, NJF published its first Sustainable State Report with twenty indicators ofsustainability. The report has been updated several times since then. For more information, see: www.njfuture.org
     
Table 3 - Country Comparisons and Topic Specific Indicator Sets
  • The Wellbeing of Nations - A Country-by-Country Index of Quality of Life and the Environment, by Robert Prescott-Allen, 2001, Island Press. A global assessment of sustainability that surveys 180 countries using the Wellbeing Assessment. Developed with the support of the International Development Research Centre (IDRC) and IUCN, the Wellbeing Assessment includes a Human Wellbeing Index and an Ecosystem Wellbeing Index to give equal weight to people and the environment. Based on this assessment, only 37 countries, led by Sweden, are more than half way to the goal of sustainability. For more information see: http://www.iucn.org
     
  • The State of the Nation's Ecosystems - Measuring the Lands, Waters, and Living Resources of the United States, Review Draft by the Heinz Center, November 2001. Published in 1999 by the H. John Heinz III Center for Science, Economics and the Environment, this report provides a foundation for a comprehensive, credible series of periodic reports on the state of USA ecosystems. For more information see: www.us-ecosystems.org
     
  • Calvert-Henderson Quality of Life Indicators - The Calvert-Henderson Quality of Life Indicators are the result of a collaboration between international futurist Hazel Henderson, the assetmanagement firm Calvert Group, the research company FLYNN RESEARCH, and scholars with expertise in 12 dimensions of quality of life in the United States of America. Those dimensions are: education, employment, energy, environment, health, human rights, income, infrastructure, national security, public safety, re-creation and shelter. Hazel Henderson, Jon Lickerman, and Patrice Flynn, Editors. Calvert Group, Ltd., 2000. For more information, see http://www.Calvert-Henderson.com
     
  • Eurostat Environmental Indicators - Eurostat is the Statistical Office of the European Communities situated in Luxembourg. Its task is to provide the European Union with statistics at European level that enable comparisons between countries and regions. For more information see the report "Measuring progress towards a more sustainable Europe" in the Environment and Energy section of http://europa.eu.int/comm/eurostat/Public/datashop/print-catalogue/EN?catalogue=Eurostat  
  • 2001 Environmental Sustainability Index (ESI) - An initiative of the Global Leaders of Tomorrow Environment Task Force, World Economic Forum, Annual Meeting 2001, Davos, Switzerland. The Environmental Sustainability Index (ESI) is a measure of overall progress towards environmental sustainability, developed for 142 countries by a collaboration of the World Economic Forum's Global Leaders for Tomorrow Environment Task Force, The Yale Center for Environmental Law and Policy, and the Columbia University Center for International Earth Science Information Network (CIESIN). The ESI scores are based upon a set of 20 core "indicators," each of which combines two to eight variables for a total of 68 underlying variables. The ESI permits cross-national comparisons of environmental progress in a systematic and quantitative fashion. It represents a first step towards a more analytically driven approach to environmental decisionmaking. For more information see: www.ciesin.org/indicators/ESI. For a critique of the ESI, see: The Ecologist and Friends of the Earth, "Keeping Score: Which Countries Are the Most Sustainable?" (The Ecologist, Vol. 31, No. 3, April 2001, p44) in the archives at www.theecologist.org
     
Comparative Summary Elements
 
Comparative Summary Table 1
 
Comparative Summary Table 2
 
Comparative Summary Table 3
 
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