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In 2007, ICLEI-Local Governments for Sustainability, the U.S. Green Building Council, and the Center for American Progress made a Clinton Global Initiative Commitment to Action to create a Green City Index. That same year, they launched the concept for the STAR Community Index at GREENBUILD in Chicago, IL. By 2008, they had established a formal partnership that included the National League of Cities to develop STAR. Their mission: to address the needs of U.S. cities, towns and counties seeking a common framework for sustainability.

In 2010, the Sustainability Goals and Guiding Principles publication was released, sharing 81 goals with stakeholders for review and comment. Download the 2010 Sustainability Goals and Guiding Principles

The STAR Community Index was renamed the STAR Community Rating System before its release in the fall of 2012. The original 81 goals helped to shape what became a rating system of 7 goal areas, 44 objectives and more than 500 outcome and action measures.

In 2015, the rating system’s governance and technical committees recommended an update to STAR in order to integrate data and best practices from the first 50 STAR Certifications and address on-going issues like alignment with external standards (e.g. ISO 37120 and the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals) and development of new content to address gaps such as biodiversity, good governance, and aging.

Working groups of formal committee members and on call advisors met weekly between July 2015 and January 2016 to review new research, data sets, and methodologies and recommend revisions to the framework. During the STAR 2.0 Stakeholder Convening in Washington, DC in May 2016, a working draft was presented to 50 committee members and partners, who addressed remaining issues, concerns, or omissions. The working draft was approved and put out for public comment in June 2016. Hundreds of public comments were received and analyzed by staff before the final draft was presented to committees in August 2016. Version 2.0 of the STAR Community Rating System was released on October 11, 2016.

In 2017, STAR Communities and Green Business Certification Inc. (GBCI), the premier organization independently recognizing excellence in green business performance and practice globally, announced a new partnership to address the needs of cities and communities around the world seeking a consistent framework for advancing sustainability. Both organizations committed to transition planning, funded in part by the Summit Foundation, to map out a process for STAR‘s full integration into the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC). The goal was to integrate STAR products and services with the LEED for Cities program in the near term, to advance sustainable cities worldwide.

As a result of the partnership and transition planning, in June 2018, STAR Communities formally merged with USGBC. Now part of the LEED for Cities & Communities Team, we are working to evolve the STAR Community Rating System and the LEED for Cities performance metrics into one globally applicable program that combines performance standards and action strategies into a streamlined set of opportunities for benchmarking, verification and recognition.


Nearly 200 volunteers representing 50 cities and counties, state and federal agencies, non-profit organizations, national associations, universities, utilities, and private corporations contributed thousands of hours and diverse expertise to the development of what became the STAR Community Rating System. Serving on steering, technical and ad hoc committees, these volunteer experts led the development of the framework, credits, methodologies for measurement, and requirements for achieving and maintaining a STAR Community Rating. With the release of STAR Version 1.0, the original technical committee membership was reorganized into STAR’s Steering and Technical Committees. These committees have a balance of local government staff representation, along with technical experts from across the public, private, and nonprofit sectors.


The engagement process for the STAR Community Rating System is open, consensus-based, and led by committee members. The committee structure includes:

  • Executive Committee to govern and provide leadership
  • Steering Committee to guide the development and direction of the Rating System
  • Technical Committees to establish credits and measurement methodologies
  • Data Committee to review the system through the lens of data quality and standards
  • Ad Hoc Committees, like the Design Task Force and Cross-TAC Committees that are assigned to specific projects or issues by the Executive/Steering Committees


STAR’s Guiding Principles ensure the rating system’s measures are holistic and representative of the three pillars of sustainability—environment, economy and equity. Guiding principles also make manifest the concepts and values that underpin STAR and local sustainability.

Think—and act— systemically. Sustainable communities take a systems perspective and recognize that people, nature and the economy are all affected by their actions. Local governments in these communities consider the broader implications before embarking on specific projects, and they look for ways to accomplish multiple goals rather than default to short-term, piecemeal efforts.

Instill resiliency. Sustainable communities possess a strong capacity to respond to and bounce back from adversity. Local governments in these communities prepare for and help residents and institutions prepare for disruptions and respond to them swiftly, creatively and effectively.

Foster innovation. Sustainable communities capture opportunities and respond to challenges. Local governments in these communities cultivate a spirit of proactive problem solving to provide access to futures otherwise unobtainable and to enable the risk-taking inherent in innovation.

Redefine progress. Sustainable communities measure progress by improvements in the health and wellbeing of their people, environment and economy. Instead of focusing on GDP (throughput of dollars), local governments in these communities use a broad set of indicators.

Live within means. Sustainable communities steward natural resources so that future generations have as many opportunities available to them as we do today. They also recognize that resources exist for the benefit of life forms other than humans. Local governments in these communities assess resources, track impacts, and take corrective action when needed so that they meet the needs of today without depleting what they leave for future generations.

Cultivate collaboration. Sustainable communities engage all facets of society in working together for the benefit of the whole. Local governments in these communities bring government representatives, community members and organizations together and create a culture of collaboration that encourages innovation, sharing of resources, and jointly shared accountability for results.

Ensure equity. Sustainable communities allocate resources and opportunities fairly so that all people who do the full range of jobs that a community needs can thrive in it. Local governments in these communities actively eliminate barriers to full participation in community life and work to correct past injustices.

Embrace diversity. Sustainable communities feature a tapestry of peoples, cultures and economies underpinned by a richly functioning natural environment. Local governments in these communities celebrate and foster ethnic, cultural, economic and biological diversity and encourage multiple approaches to accomplish a goal.

Inspire leadership. Sustainable communities provide leadership through action and results. Local governments in these communities recognize their opportunity to effect change by backing visionary policies with practices that serve as an example for citizens and businesses to emulate.

Continuously improve. Sustainable communities engage in continuous discovery, rediscovery and invention as they learn more about the impacts of their actions. Local governments in these communities track both performance and outcomes, are alert for unintended consequences, and modify strategies based on observed results.


Many individuals have contributed to the STAR Community Rating System over its development process. We would like to acknowledge the program’s early staff leadership — Garrett Fitzgerald served as one of the program’s first advocates at ICLEI USA, securing an initial grant to support STAR’s development. Lynne Barker was hired as the first Program Director for the STAR Community Index at ICLEI USA in 2008. Lynne organized the development process, set up the committee structure, recruited staff and volunteers, and raised $2 million to initiate and administer the program. Lynne’s staff team included a group of technical officers primarily based out of Seattle, WA. They included: Susie Philipson, Chris Saleeba, Amy Shatzkin, Thor Peterson, and Claudia Hernandez. Thanks to each and every one of you for your contributions to STAR!