Situation before the initiative began
Before this initiative began, the City's approach to promoting sustainable development was scattered and fragmented. Good things happened, but the City lacked a systematic, holistic approach, and so major opportunities were lost.
Establishment of Priorities
Priorities were established by the City's Environmental Management Oversight Panel (EMOP), a diverse partnership of elected officials, City department directors, business leaders, and NGO leaders. Priorities were established by consensus, and based on careful analysis of the most significant impacts of City operations, and the best opportunities for leveraging broad,durable change in the community, and for improving the living environment in a tangible way. Major priorities of the initiative so far include the following: developing and implementing a Citywide environmental management system (EMS); implementing sustainable building practices in major City construction projects; significantly reducing the City's use of pesticides (especially in public parks); and significantly reducing greenhouse gas emissions from City operations.
Formulation of Objectives and Strategies
The main objectives of this initiative are: 1)increase the sustainability of City operations, facilities, and services; 2)infuse a sustainability ethic into more and more of the City's plans and actions; and 3) stimulate and accelerate the adoption of more sustainable practices by other governments and institutions, businesses, neighborhoods,households, and individual citizens. We are pursuing these objectives through a three-tiered strategy: 1)putting sustainability into practice, by applying the principles and practices of sustainability to specific, high-impact City operations and services; 2)launching a major employee outreach campaign based on research into how new ideas spread and gain support in a complex organization; and 3) working to infuse sustainability concepts into City management systems, such as the budgeting process, business plan development, and progress reporting.
Mobilization of Resources
To date, most of the financial resources for this initiative have come from Seattle City government. The Office of Sustainability and Environment(with a $740,000 annual budget) provides leadership and coordination, and the other City departments involved in the initiative provide funding for implementation of major activities and components.
We formed the Environmental Management Oversight Panel to better mobilize technical and human resources. This Panel brings together elected officials and the leaders of several key City departments, plus a number of local businesses and NGOs. This allowed us to better coordinate and integrate the work of each of these organizations, to find synergies and opportunities for collaboration, and to combine energy,expertise, and other resources. This year we are significantly increasing our efforts to mobilize the City's considerable human resources (10,500 employees) toward promoting sustainable development. We are developing an aggressive strategy to bring about deep and lasting organizational change in City government, applying the results of recent research on "social marketing" and "innovation diffusion." This strategy involves identifying and working intensively with the "early adopters" of sustainability within the City, helping them apply the concept of sustainability to their particular jobs, achieving and celebrating"success stories," and building on those successes to create momentum and reach a "critical mass" and a "tipping point" within the organization.
The main barriers we've had to overcome are as follows:
· Making the term and concept of "sustainability" real for City decision-makers and employees. Bringing it from abstraction to action. Helping City managers and staff understand the concept, and how it can improve the way we serve and govern the community. We've sought to overcome this barrier by applying the principles of sustainability to specific City operations and services. That is, we work with City departments to find ways to put sustainability into day-to-day practice.
· Securing funding for sustainability initiatives when the "payback period" is longer than the City's two-year budget cycle. We are trying to overcome this barrier by doing better assessment of the life-cycle costs and benefits of our choices.
· Maintaining strong,sustained political support for our program through the electoral cycle. This is a key challenge for "municipal sustainability," give the highly political nature of City government, and the relatively short electoral cycles. We try to overcome this barriers in two ways: 1) by being very attentive and responsive to the desires and needs of elected officials, including both our Mayor and our nine-member City Council; and 2) be infusing the principles and practices of sustainability into the workforce -- the large group of people who are civil servants, and who therefore do not change due to political cycles.
People participate in our initiative in variety of ways. Internally, we often create interdepartmental working groups, to involve a broad mix of staff from around City government, and to ensure good coordination and integration. Externally, as mentioned earlier, we have several "external stakeholder" representatives on our Oversight Panel.
We measure our progress mostly through the Environmental Management System (EMS) I mentioned earlier. Through that system we have created a number of specific targets for the City (e.g., a 30% reduction in the City's use of pesticides). The City's Office of Sustainability & Environment gathers data from various departments throughout the year, and reports annually to the Mayor, the City Council, and the community on progress toward these targets.
Our plan is to move over time to a"sustainability management system" that would include reporting on economic and social targets as well as environmental.
- Better co-ordination and integration between various actors, organizations or institutions
- Changes in local, national or regional social, economic and environmental policies and strategies
- Improved institutional capacity at the national, sub-national or local levels
- Changes to local or national decision-making, including the institutionalization of partnerships
- Recognizing and addressing specific opportunities and constraints
- Changes in the use and allocation of human, technical and financial resources at the local/national level
- Changes in people’s attitudes and behavior.
- Our Sustainable Building policy and program has fundamentally changed the City's approach to design and construction of new buildings and major remodeling projects. And, it is influencing private developers in the area to change their practices as well. Specifically:
- We established a policy requiring all new City construction of 5,000 square feet or more meet aggressive sustainable building standards established by the nonprofit U.S. Green Building Council.
- 13 new civic buildings under (or nearing) construction will achieve the silver standard of the Council's LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) rating system. These "green buildings" will save City taxpayers hundreds of thousands of dollars in reduced energy, water, and waste disposal costs. In addition, they wilho benefited from them. Describe how the initiative has resulted in, for example:
- l improve the health and productivity of the people who work in our visit these buildings.
- Our Pesticide Use Reduction policy and program has fundamentally changed the way the City approaches landscape and grounds maintenance. Specifically:
- We established a goal of 30% reduction in the use of pesticides by the City by the end of 2002. We exceeded this target by reducing our use of pesticides by almost 50% by the end of 2000, by implementing alternative landscaping and grounds maintenance technologies and practices.
- As part of this program, we established a Pesticide-Free Parks Initiative, designating 14 parks throughout the city as pesticide-free, including parks in lower-income parts of the city. This program reduces health risks for City employees and park users, and reduces ecological risks to endangered local salmon species.
We just completed an inventory of greenhouse gas-emissions from City operations showing the City reduced its greenhouse gas emissions almost 50% from 1990 to 2000l, and will reduce emissions by nearly70% by 2010. Through our Climate Protection policy and program, we will become the first major utility in the US to produce zero net greenhouse gas emissions by 2003. Specifically, we've committed to producing climate-neutral electrical-energy four our customers by increasing conservation and investments in renewable energy. In addition, we are one of only a handful of utilities in the US that is buying carbon offset projects to balance out 250,000 tons of greenhouse gas emissions.
- Financial: The use and leveraging of resources, including cost recovery, indicating how loans, if any, are being paid back and their terms and conditions
- Social and Economic: Gender equity, equality and social inclusion, economic and social mobility
- Cultural: Respect for and consideration of attitudes, behavior patterns and heritage
- Environmental: Reducing dependence on non-renewable resources (air, water, land, energy, etc.), and changing production and consumption patterns and technology.
Responses to earlier questions describe the significant environmental elements and benefits of our initiative. In addition, we work hard to integrate social and economic elements as well. For example, we are expanding our sustainable building program to provide support and technical assistance to low-income/affordable housing developers in Seattle. When we selected our first generation of 14pesticide-free parks, we made sure to choose parks in neighborhoods that fully reflect the social, economic, ethnic, and cultural diversity of our city. In terms of "financial sustainability," we are honing our abilities to use "life cycle assessment" of costs and benefits, so we can better understand and incorporate the economic, social, and environmental costs and benefits of our decisions over time.
· It is very important to achieve some visible "quick wins," and to build on those. "Sustainability" is a long journey. We are vigilant about allocating a significant portion of our resources to taking action nowhere we can, to demonstrate success and show progress, and build sustainable political and financial support.
· When you can, set bold goals in the political arena (i.e., through the legislative process) even before you know for sure what the costs and benefits will be, and how you're going to pay for it! This is often not possible, especially when budgets are tight and But we have learned that, at times, we can capitalize on public opinion and political momentum to establish a broad legislative mandate or goal even before we've figured out how to reach that goal. (This is how our sustainable building policy came about, for example.)
· Be thoughtful and systematic about communications. "Sustainability" is a fuzzy concept to many people. It's important to find ways to talk about"sustainability" that are real and relevant. Our strategy is to "show vs. tell"(i.e., practice sustainability rather than trying to define it in the abstract). Also, we are taking a strong marketing/public relations approach, using the same tools that those who promote endless consumption and "never enough." We recently conducted several focus groups of City employees to help us do sharper message development and delivery.
We are deeply committed to both learning from other cities and from private corporations, and to sharing what we've experienced and learned. We share our experiences and "lessons learned" in many ways. One is our Web site (www.cityofseattle.net/environment),which we are careful to keep up-to-date. In addition, we are members of a number of city networks, including the International Council on Local Environmental Initiatives and the Pacific Constructable of Community Sustainability Programs. Also, we both attend and host a number of conferences and workshops. Most recently, we presented our programs at the Globe 2002 conference in Vancouver, BC. On June 3-5, we will participate in the"New Cities for Sustainable Cities" event in Stockholm. (We are a finalist for the Stockholm Partnerships for Sustainable Cities awards.)
There is no question that many components of our initiative have been used and replicated elsewhere. For example, King County (the region that surrounds Seattle) has adopted a pesticide use reduction program nearly identical to ours. And I hear on a regular basis from companies and other governments who tell me that our bold sustainable building policy and program gave them the "ammunition" they needed to convince their own decision-makers that it was possible and desirable.
By the same token, we benefit tremendously from what we learn from other cities and corporations. We draw both ideas and inspiration from the experiences of others. It helps to show us what's possible, and inspires us to seek continuous improvement.