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Our Framework

The STAR Community Rating System (STAR) is the nation’s leading comprehensive framework and certification program for evaluating local sustainability, encompassing economic, environmental, and social performance measures.  Local leaders use the rating system’s evaluation measures to assess their current level of sustainability, set targets for moving ahead, and measure progress along the way.

STAR CoverSTAR was developed for local governments by local governments. Released in October 2012, STAR represents a milestone in the national movement to create more livable communities for all. The rating system’s evaluation measures collectively define community-scale sustainability, and present a vision of how communities can become more healthy, inclusive, and prosperous across seven goal areas. The system’s goals and objectives provide a much-needed vocabulary that local governments and their communities can use to more effectively strategize and define their sustainability planning efforts.

The intent of the rating system is to help communities identify, validate, and support implementation of best practices to improve sustainable community conditions. Built on the guiding principle of continuous improvement, STAR will evolve to remain the leading framework for local sustainability. There is recognition that the content of the rating system may change over time to embrace innovation, apply new research, or adapt to changing conditions in the field of community sustainability. All updates to the rating system will strive to create a consistent system that is both rigorous and accessible to local government applicants and their partners.

Over time, the program will build a research model that includes spatial, temporal, and level of effort details to expand the evidence base about the degree to which various actions advance sustainability conditions community-wide. This rigor and differentiation will allow STAR to expand national learning and drive ongoing improvements to sustainable community governance. To learn more about the process of system change and evolution, review the Rating System’s adopted Evolution Policy.


The STAR Community Rating System is built on a framework of sustainability goals, objectives and evaluation measures. Local leaders can set goals and measure progress across sustainability themes using the evaluation measures included in the rating system. The table below depicts Version 2.0 of the STAR Community Rating System, released in October 2016.


Each of the objectives above contains two types of evaluation measures in the STAR Community Rating System: community-level outcomes and local actions. Community-level outcomes are measurable, condition-level indicators that show community progress on a STAR objective. Local actions are the things you do to move toward the community-level outcomes – the range of decisions, investments, programs, plans, and codes that a local community puts in place. Actions focus on interventions that move the needle toward desired outcomes, and can be done by both the local government and other community groups and partners.

Communities and technical experts agreed that it is important for the rating system to include both quantitative measures that demonstrate progress over time, as well as qualitative best practices that can help move the needle on sustainability. This acknowledges that sustainability is a moving target and that it takes time to be able to demonstrate progress. Communities are able to receive credit for the things that they are doing, as well as for being able to demonstrate the measurable results of these efforts.

To see a full list of the evaluation measures, please download the free rating system. You can also learn more about the goals and objectives under the education section of our website.

Criteria for Evaluation Measures

All STAR evaluation measures must meet the below criteria.

Relevant: Provide direct feedback on the outcomes of local implementation.
Feasible: Leverage use of credible, commonly collected data for cost effective reporting that is flexible enough to be implemented in various local contexts.
Timely: Capture actions and outcomes that are currently relevant, while looking forward to the future.
Useful: Provide significant value to help cities and counties make decisions and address local priorities.
Systemic: Draw attention to the preferred future, while offering a metric that measures true progress toward that achievement goal; and, where possible, will satisfy performance reporting for multiple goals to highlight the integrated nature of sustainability.
Reliable: Provide a consistent reflection of achievement or performance across communities regardless of community characteristics, facilitating comparisons between communities.
Valid: Represent the concepts and underlying phenomena that are embodied in the STAR Objective accurately.
Adapted from “Indicators and Information Systems for Sustainable Development: A Report to the Balaton Group” by Donella Meadows, 1998