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Alignment between STAR and the SDGs

This is the first in a multi-part series exploring the potential relationship between the STAR Community Rating System and the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals.

In 2015, the United Nations (UN) passed a resolution establishing 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) with the intent of creating a more sustainable world by 2030. As part of the resolution, the UN identified a formal series of 230 targets and indicators for all nation-states in order to demonstrate progress.

The indicators and targets of the SDGs are set at the nation-state level, but recently, several efforts have been made to localize them for cities and counties. These efforts include the Sustainable Development Solutions Network’s U.S. Cities SDG Index in August 2017, the World Council on City Data’s City Data report in July 2017, and the Global Platform for Sustainable Cities’ Urban Sustainability Framework in February 2018.

The SDSN report focused on metrics from the 100 most populated U.S. urban areas and established an index to rank these metro areas within each SDG area. The WCCD report utilizes the data sets submitted by 45 cities in countries worldwide to map the ISO 37120 indicators with the SDG indicators. Finally, the GPSC provides a process and framework for cities to use, but not the metric values themselves. Rather, it identifies 185 indicators submitted by a variety of sources, including GPSC, ISO 37120, the City Resilience Framework, City Prosperity Index, Global Environment Facility, and World Bank.

Since the SDG targets and indicators were developed for nation-states, many are not directly applicable at the local scale, especially in the U.S. Organizations that have attempted to localize the SDGs to the U.S. context have run into challenges common to open data initiatives in the U.S., including the limitations of using only nationally available datasets and adapting international standards that include critical issues in developing nations that have generally been addressed in the U.S. (for example, access to water, sanitation, education for girls, etc).

To address these limitations, organizations that are looking to apply the SDGs to U.S. cities and counties could consider using the 500+ evaluation measures contained in the STAR Community Rating System (STAR) to track progress towards the SDG goal areas. The 17 SDGs offer an existing high-level framework that aligns closely with the 7 goals and 45 objectives in the STAR framework. Using this high-level framework may enable better collaboration between U.S. communities and global cities seeking alignment with the SDGs.

STAR is the leading framework and certification program for measuring sustainability in the United States. Over the past 10 years, STAR Communities has certified over 70 cities and counties, and used this data to refine and hone the rating system’s evaluation measures for the U.S. context. The STAR evaluation measures are calibrated to include both national datasets and local datasets, to provide statistically relevant indicators and nationally applicable standards and best practices. Each evaluation measure also has a performance threshold to be used as a benchmark.

To support organizations and communities that are interested in using STAR evaluation measures to track progress towards the SDGs, STAR Communities has reviewed all 116 quantitative outcome measures (plus Innovation & Process) in the rating system and mapped them to the 17 SDG goal areas.

Click here to download the PDF version of the white paper.

In the next series on “SDGs and STAR”, we will compare STAR’s approach to other efforts to align with local context. To learn more about STAR Communities and to download the current rating system, go to www.starcommunities.org.

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