Sustainability Goals & Plans of Peer Regions, 2017

A Benchmarking Study by Green Umbrella 

Executive Summary


To gather sustainability goals and metrics for Cincinnati’s peer regions to serve as an idea bank for, and an opportunity for Cincinnati to set the standard in, its Green Cincinnati Plan update process.

Selection of Peer Regions: 

Cities/Metro Areas included came from three sources: 

    • Metro areas considered peers in Regional Indicators Reports published by the Cincinnati USA Regional Chamber (previously in partnership with Agenda 360 and Skyward); and
    • Metro areas considered peers by Source Cincinnati (via their reputation index research); and 
    • Metro areas that appeared alongside Cincinnati in "Top 10" sustainability recognition scores, indices and articles (as tracked by Green Umbrella since 2015) AND that had accessible "green" plans.

Cities/Metro Areas Included in Dataset (15): 

      • Austin, TX 
      • Boston, MA 
      • Charlotte, NC 
      • Cleveland, OH 
      • Columbus, OH 
  • Denver, CO 
  • Duluth, MN 
  • Indianapolis, IN 
  • Louisville, KY 
  • Madison, WI
    • Minneapolis, MN
    • Nashville, TN
    • St. Louis, MO
    • Pittsburgh, PA
    • Portland, OR

Recommended Features for Effective Communication of Sustainability Goals:

  • A condensed version of the city’s goals, which is supplemented by a detailed version of the goals. This format allows users to easily understand the goals prioritized by the city, and allows users to explore these initiatives in further detail. Documents should be easy to locate and access on the city’s website. See Louisville, KY example
  • Going beyond goals and including strategies and “sizzle” projects could be a more engaging format. See Nashville, TN example
  • A progress tracker or an annual progress update, allowing users to see if the goal is being accomplished, and which areas may require more focus. In addition, a baseline metric for sustainability goals should be provided. See Austin, TX example.
  • One document outlining all sustainability goals is more user-friendly than several documents or web links outlining specific topics related to sustainability. See Denver, CO example.
  • Document length should allow for detailed descriptions and data, while not being overwhelming to the reader. A balance of text, data, and visuals allows a longer document to be more easily digested. See Columbus, OH example (click on "Green Memo III" to download). 
  • Organizing goals based on focus area, rather than organizational level (government, community, etc.). This creates a document that is easy to navigate and creates a logical flow.

Summary and Recommendations for Green Cincinnati Plan Update: 

The 2013 version of the Green Cincinnati Plan utilizes the majority of these recommended features and is far ahead of some peer regions that have yet to establish a similarly comprehensive and cohesive green city plan. The 2013 Green Cincinnati Plan is easy to access, and the related webpage does offer users interactive educational features, which allow citizens to become involved in sustainability efforts. The 2013 Green Cincinnati Plan combines virtually all of the important features present within the goals of our peer regions, and can become even more effective in its 2018 update by: 

  • Offering a condensed version on the City of Cincinnati’s Office of Environment & Sustainability’s webpage to enhance accessibility; 
  • Organizing the sustainability goals in a hierarchical manner (ex. goals, strategies, actions, and perhaps even “sizzle” projects) for efficient and engaging navigation; and 
  • Including baseline figures for key measurable goals and a progress tracker if possible.

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