On a challenging path to sustainability

Cities and regions (hereafter only referred to as cities) are complex and dynamic. According to the European Environment Agency, 80% of all citizens in the EU already live in urban areas. The everyday choices of small and large activities in cities all add in one way or another to the urban area’s total impact on the environment. Cities are responsible for about 75% of all CO2 emissions and consume about 75% of natural resources. Industries’ choice of clean technologies, the ways in which school and hospital buildings are heated, and the purchase policies of the public sector all exert impact on consumption of natural resources and waste generation. Furthermore, the individual choices of every household add up to a large impact on the environment. The impact on our cities is also determined by actions taken outside the city or region borders. Neighbouring cities’ planning practices influence the transport patterns. National authority policies influence the whole society in a nation. EU regulations and policies influence the national governments.

A present trend is that the cities’ management requirements increase. Cities need to make sure they fulfil the legislation affecting them. Numerous EU-Directives (such as Strategic Environmental Assessment, Air Quality Directive, Water Framework Directive or Fauna Flora Habitat Directive, Waste Framework Directive and others) require cities to monitor and report on these aspects. European Strategies like the Europe 2020 Strategy for a smart, sustainable and inclusive growth and its related 7 Flagship Initiatives need the action on local and regional level to fulfil the ambitious objectives. At the same time, multilevel governance requirements, regional development needs and rising public and community interest particularly in infrastructural projects put more complexity on local governance and management structures and request innovative and creative responses.

However, a city is not just about managing sustainability issues. We can easily agree that the very objective of local politics is to strive for satisfying human needs and offering good quality of life. In reaching this goal, many different challenges must be faced, from offering adequate infrastructure to the inhabitants and coping with migration flows, taking care of children and the elderly, to dealing with the negative impacts of Climate Change, to name but a few.
Dealing with these challenges, a city has only limited resources available. In summary, the fulfilment of our human needs as well as the human well-being of future generations depend on the availability, the quantity and the quality of our natural resources but also our social common goods and our financial means.

If urban Europe is to achieve sustainable development, it requires efficient tools that will facilitate the process of sustainability management and enable the actual translation of the numerous strategies and programs from the European and national levels into the actions carried out by governments at the local and regional level. To this end, an Integrated Management System (IMS) is a way of addressing the rising challenges of cities in a more efficient, effective and proactive way. Cities working with the IMS, point out that the integrative orientation provides a better possibility to see causal relations between decisions, actions and results. It enables the various actors involved to see the impact of their work on the work of others. It helps a city to act before it is too late, and to get the various sectors of a city quickly on the same track, cooperating for a common goal.

“With the rapid rate of urbanization, we must also keep in mind that over half of the urban areas in the world that will exist in 2030 do not exist now! This means that to a great extent the world’s cities are largely a blank canvas, yet to be painted, planned, designed and built. What an amazing chance, what an opportunity!”

Margot Wallström, Vice President of the European Union, at the Green Week 2007

A word on Climate Change

New research, data and challenges call for being put on the agenda of cities. It is easy to get lost and difficult to find ways forward. For instance, currently European citizens are experiencing the tangible impacts of a rapidly changing climate, i.e., heat waves, floods, storms and forest fires. Due to the negative environmental, economic and social consequences of the current actions, Europe’s political leaders have acknowledged the outstanding importance of ambitious and radical political targets and their implementation as a response to the challenge of Climate Change. This is seen as contribution to the new objective of Europe’s economic development – a green economy.

Both European and national targets responding to the Climate Change challenge need to be realised at the local and regional level. Cities and regions are part of the problem but have huge potential to fight Climate Change by developing and implementing climate mitigation and adaptation strategies both within their scope of responsibility and through citizen involvement. Cities and regions are responsible for a variety of planning and management issues. They have the possibility to implement concrete measures. They are also directly involved in awareness-raising, incentive-setting and providing further support to their communities to tackle Climate Change.

However, responding to the Climate Change challenge is a task of considerable size and complexity for cities and regions. The Climate Change issue is interconnected to most issues and sectors of city and regional development. Climate Change also exerts a huge impact on the quality of life of citizens in cities and regions and for the potentials of our economies. In fact, it is a challenge by which the sustainability of our cities is severely threatened. In order to work with Climate Change, there is a need for a highly integrated approach. However, few cities have developed and implemented efficient and resilient structures and procedures for integrated environmental management and governance.

Given the rapidly changing conditions of the world, the traditional long- and medium-term planning approaches appear insufficient to tackle these kinds of challenges. Elements to support frequent reconsideration of plans, actions, performance and achievements are lacking. Instead, a cyclic management approach is a more favourable option, as it allows for timely corrections of measures when new information and data suggest doing so.

Finding the way

This introduction describes a model on how to work with local sustainability through an Integrated Management System. The policies showing the way towards sustainable development have been well-strengthened in recognising what needs to be done and why. However, the implementation of urban sustainability management, as described at the European policy-making level, poses various challenges to national and local decision-makers. It is the ’how-question’ that needs to be answered in order to translate ambitions into actions and results on the local level. The Integrated Management System is providing an answer to the ’how-question’.

The introduction is divided into two sections. It starts with a short overview of the model of an Integrated Management System with its five steps and the two cross-cutting elements. Short city examples illustrate how cities have implemented the steps of the IMS. The second section will showcase the benefits of working with an Integrated Management System.

The Integrated Management System in a nutshell

The complicated system of cities and regions needs management on various levels. To name but a few, economy, the social sector and personnel are all managed in one way or another. Managing tasks individually and sectorally, however, is most often inefficient and leads to increased workload and weak results. Re-organising and integrating existing practices, plans and strategies under one steering wheel – the Integrated Management System (IMS) - will systemize the work, boost the efficiency and provide a multitude of positive outcomes. It will direct all available resources towards the goals defined and secure the transparency and democratic principles of decision-making. In the IMS, the effort lost in running several parallel management systems can be turned into sustainability.

The IMS consists of five major steps repeated in annual cycles. Although the system follows an annual cycle, full revision will be required once per election period – and preferably at the outset - unless evaluation of achievements and results at the end of an annual cycle suggests reconsideration.
At any one step of the cycle, its immediate offer and impact on the following as well as the prerequisites for stepping forward are to be considered. The cycle begins with a baseline review, in which the current state of sustainability factors in the city is mapped. As the next step, targets are set for the priorities identified as a result of the baseline review. Political commitment is needed throughout the cycle but becomes most crucial when the outcome of the target setting, i.e., the strategic programme, is being approved by the city council.

Completing the steps carefully that prepare the ground for implementing actions, will notably diminish the risk of hardships during the implementation. After these three steps of the cycle, the implementation of the priority actions decided earlier takes place. The actions taken are to be monitored during their implementation in order to gather information on the functionality of the system. During the last step of the system, evaluation and reporting, the collected information is evaluated and used for reporting the successes and possible draw-backs of the process. It provides the basis for a city council decision on how to continue in the next annual cycle.

Two cross-cutting elements need to be kept in mind throughout the steps of the cycle: involvement and communication as well as organisational setup. From the very beginning of the cycle, it is important to carefully plan who is involved in the process and what they can contribute. Getting as many relevant actors activated as possible will make the effort a common interest and is thereby more likely to succeed. A well-functioning organisational setup of the management system will exert decisive impact on the success of the undertaking. Strong organisational management is needed to keep the extensive entity of a city and the great number of stakeholders together and in a common course towards a more sustainable urban area.

An important assumption is that it may not be possible to achieve everything in the beginning. The model is better described as a journey with one step following the other, where cities and regions have different starting points. An important road map for this journey is outlined with the Aalborg Commitments in 2004, which can be regarded as a thematic framework of the system. Other such frameworks, however, should be noted and considered, e.g. the Reference Framework for Sustainable Cities or even thematic processes, e.g. the EU Covenant of Mayors addressing climate and energy issues.

Baseline review

The first important step of the IMS is to analyse the present sustainability condition of the city. The purpose is to create a framework of information that will later serve as a basis for setting priorities, targets and the monitoring of progress. Improvements are visible only if they can be compared to a starting point. It is also an analysis of the pressures that have led to the current situation as well as the impacts those pressures have on various parts of the society, economy and environment, as well as the policies and measures already in place.

The baseline review is a regularly repeated part of the IMS which should be conducted by a cross-sectoral working group. It determines the geographical and thematic scope of the IMS. Available data on all relevant sustainability aspects should be collected and structured. Even if all the data cannot be delivered during the first cycle, it serves to identify the gaps. The baseline review should map legal requirements, data regarding all significant aspects, emerging issues and trends, political priorities, departments and external organisations involved, existing instruments and systems, risks and opportunities. The Aalborg Commitments or other commitments or monitoring processes compose the recommended framework for the data collection.

Based on the information and data available in the baseline review, political priorities can be set and the first strategic programme can be drawn up.

The baseline review is renewed at least once in an election period or more often if the evaluation either suggests significant deviation from targets or surrounding conditions have changed substantially as new trends and information emerged.

The City of Kaunas is a signatory of the Aalborg Commitments (AC) and it was therefore a natural choice for them to use the AC as the thematic framework for the city’s baseline review. Kaunas’s biggest challenge has been that the different departments involved in the city management processes worked separately. However, when doing the baseline review, a cross-sectoral working group was set up. The coordinator overseeing the process gathered people involved in preparing the baseline review to inform them and discuss the process. A template was prepared for the purpose of facilitating the collection of information. It provided a framework for the information needed from the various working group members and their departments. They were asked to make a short description of each thematic area in Kaunas: describe actions already carried out, guiding documents/programmes, legislation related to the topic, responsible department/persons in the city, existing cooperation with stakeholders and the results of the work already done. To the extent possible, the persons were asked to define the indicators already used for monitoring the progress of the thematic areas. The working group came together in a workshop in which they discussed the outcomes of the baseline review and the priority setting as a result of the baseline review. The baseline review provides an overview of the sustainability work in the City of Kaunas and is used as a document outlining their future work.
City example Kaunas, Lithuania

Target setting

The next step is to prepare the strategic programme and action plan. They are based on the baseline review and its analysis of priorities to be focused on during the following management cycle period and beyond. These documents define the city’s or regions ambitions and help planning the way towards implementing them. Note, that this planning exercise is on providing an idea of how to reach targets. It is distinct from any formal project or land-use planning. Formal planning forms part of the step Implementation & Monitoring.

A common vision for the future development of the city should be established in a participatory process. It has a long-term orientation offering goals for a period of 15-20 years balancing the environmental, social and economic dimensions. The vision should be reachable and inspiring, and should find its point of departure in the priorities to find a suitable scope.

The strategic programme is the document that sets mid-term targets and measures for the agreed priorities. The priorities should be described using indicators as the main tool of communication within the IMS. Based on indicators, measurable and time-related targets are formulated and balance and integrate the environmental, social and financial resources. If there are missing data in the baseline review, the strategic programme should include measures to create these reference data and the corresponding indicators. On the basis of practically used indicators in Europe, a ”Set of Key Indicators for IMS” has been selected to provide orientation to cities and regions . These indicators may be used as a basis but adding specific regional or national key data and indicators need to be considered.

The action plan is broken down from the strategic programme with a perspective of 1-3 years. It should display short-term targets derived from long-term targets and set out measures to fulfil both. The action plan should also clearly define the allocation of human and financial resources as well as the responsibilities for implementation.

Participation and cooperation are keys to success. Hence, the involvement of all relevant stakeholders is essential for target setting and action planning.

The City of Växjö has many years of experience in implementing the ecoBUDGET environmental management system. In ecoBUDGET, natural resources are managed in the same way as financial resources: the long- and short-term targets of the budget are broken down and each department is to suggest measures to fulfil their share of the targets on a yearly basis. These measures are discussed in an environmental network to exchange ideas between departments.

To include the social factors and to make the municipality more sustainable, Växjö has invited the political committees of gender equality, integration and democracy and participation to take part in the work. The aim was to develop measurable social indicators and targets for each committee. These targets will be included in the budget as has already been done for environmental factors during the implementation of ecoBUDGET. The committees will play the role of pilots in expanding environmental management to sustainability management. The long-term goal is to involve further policy areas using the model developed together with the committees.

Social indicators exist and are already being monitored. Indicators include for example: youth unemployment rate (%), fathers using parental leave (%) and election turnout in the city (%). Some of the indicators also already have a set goal to achieve by 2015. For example, by 2015 the aim is that 40% of the fathers would use parental leave. The share for year 2006 is 20%.

City example Växjö, Sweden

Political commitment

Political commitment is pivotal and needs to be secured throughout the entire process. Political commitment should be seen as a driving force that stimulates the management cycle. Therefore, it should be sought from the very beginning of the process, when the idea of the implementation of the Integrated Management System is in its infancy. Once this fundamental decision is made and capacities and procedures for the local Climate Change response management have been established, formal decision is requested at least twice during each agreed management period, which usually appears to be an annual or bi-annual cycle: firstly, when setting up politically binding climate targets, and secondly for evaluating the achievements concluding the cycle and setting the basis for the following one.

During the third step, the strategic programme should be put forward to the council for the purpose of its approval and legitimization. Many cities choose to also approve the action plan and the entire organisational setup for running the Integrated Management System. It is a good idea to align this formal and regularly renewed Council resolution with the annual financial budget decision to ensure uptake of actions and projects therein.

If the Integrated Management System is not accepted and backed by the politicians and the top management in the city, its implementation process may actually never take place due to a high degree of disregard and resulting inaction at the implementation level.

Major political groups, including the mayor, other high-level politicians, different stakeholders and the general public should not only be informed, but also involved in preparing the strategic programme and action plan. Debate is required and it leads, finally, to the political approval of the strategic programme by the city council to gain legitimacy.

The City of Lahti has had environmental programmes since the late 1970s, and the first environmental policy was launched in 1996 as part of the first modern environmental management system (EMS) for the whole city. Even so, each city council after 1996 has decided on its own environmental policy. During the last four years we have also made a big step in managing of sustainable development.

In implementing sustainability/environmental policies in the whole city organization two major challenges have been encountered; lack of resources and lack of integration. Due to scarce resources, the opportunities to coordinate the EMS/SMS have been better at times when external funding has been available. As part of the regular environmental administrative work the efforts made have been too modest to achieve satisfactory progress. A question has been raised as to whether the EMS/SMS coordination should lie in the city’s central administration or within a certain department. The second challenge has been the difficulty to integrate different policy areas with each other. We still have challenges which come to common understanding of what sustainable development truly means in the work of all city departments and city owned companies.

Lahti City Council signed the Aalborg commitments in autumn 2007. AC Baseline review was published in 2009 and the target and action program is on it’s way to be approved in all sector commissions of the city. That program has been prepared as a part of "The Baltic 21 Eco Region" project and has had a very wide co-operation with officials representing social and health, education and culture and technical and environmental departments. Also the recent city general strategy supports strongly especially the ecological issues of sustainable development. One possibility to improve the level of integration is also the common management system that will be adopted by the whole city organization in becoming couple of years.

City example Lahti, Finland

Implementation & monitoring

With the implementation of the strategic programme and the action plan, the management cycle reaches its very core: all the preceding assessment, target setting and planning has the overall objective of improving the way the city functions in terms of sustainable development. The implementation is where it shows. The implementation is a demanding task in terms of organisation and coordination of all the parallel actions that will usually take place in decentralised responsibility. Turning measures outlined in the action plan into projects requests a proper project planning including work-plan, roles and responsibilities for an individual action. These projects might be of different character depending on the issue and the target to reach, e.g. infrastructure projects, construction and design measures, land-use or mobility plans, procurement measures, information and awareness raising campaigns etc.

A crucial condition for implementing the action plan is a solid communication and involvement approach and the organisational setup. Cooperation with and between various stakeholders assures that the different actors buy in to the implementation process. Therefore, implementation is based on the “foundation” which is a combination of the action plan, the organisational setup and above all – communication and involvement. The approval of the action plan by the city council might be a determining success factor, as it legitimises actions and gives them a required priority.

In parallel, and for the purpose of being able to measure and report the results, the implementation of the strategic programme and its action plan should be monitored in an appropriate way and fed back to the politicians. It allows for being able to see if actions are implemented with good results. This suggests, that monitoring has two aspects, the implementation of actions and their impacts. The latter – environmental impacts - will in some cases only display in longer periods. In all other cases, monitoring will allow for taking corrective measures in case of deviation from the action plan or targets. Again, in order to be able to engage in monitoring, actions need to rely on targets based on indicators defined in the strategic programme.

The City of Stockholm has 847 000 inhabitants and employs about 40 000 people. The “Vision Stockholm 2030” is the overarching document which should guide the actions taken by the whole city administration. The vision is broken down into an endless number of programmes and targets that all departments, city districts, schools and municipal companies need to relate to when planning their activities. It is a challenging task to know what programmes to relate to and how to make sure actions in departments and districts do not counteract each other. For the politicians, it is challenging to have an overview of how their decisions are being implemented in each part of the city administration.

The IMS in Stockholm was originally primarily used to manage the budget commissions and not the long-term programmes. However, during 2007 the IMS was further developed to include the targets from the long-term programmes. As a support, Stockholm has developed a web-based administrative tool which contains the visions, indicators and targets. Starting in autumn 2007, everyone in city administration is doing their annual activity planning with the web-based tool. The tool also supports the monitoring effort. Data collection is carried out three times a year. The development of the Stockholm IMS is providing a better and more transparent ground for implementation.

City example Stockholm, Sweden

The Municipality of Padua is taking exemplary action to respond to Climate Change. The city has signed the Covenant of Mayors and has developed, in a participatory manner, the Action Plan for Sustainable Energy and Climate for the city of Padua, through the support of the LIFE+ LAKS project and applying the results obtained within the work group “Local Agenda 21 for Kyoto” of the Italian Local Agenda 21 Association, coordinated by the city itself.
The Action Plan sets the target of reducing CO2 emissions by 20% by 2020, with respect to 2005, to be achieved through the following strategies:

  1. New “zero CO2” energies;
  2. A greener and more energy efficient city;
  3. Energy efficient services and infrastructures;
  4. A city with a better mobility;
  5. A low emission economy;
  6. Adapting to a changing climate.

In defining the Action Plan, a particular emphasis has been given to the active involvement of local stakeholders, in continuity with the experience of the local Agenda 21 process (PadovA21). Ideas and proposals from stakeholders related to the energy topic had already been collected in 2006 and 2007 within a participatory “Action plan on energy savings and renewable energies” containing over 70 concrete actions. These proposals, together with the energy policies of the Municipal Administration and the contents of the Land Use Plan, have been assumed in an Operative Energy Plan, a technical document preparatory to the Action Plan for Sustainable Energy and Climate. During 2010 a specific workgroup on “Energy efficiency and renewable energies”, involving environmental NGOs, category associations and professional orders and organizations, have been set up and specific meetings with institutional stakeholders (Chamber of Commerce, Industrial Association, Hospital company, public services utilities) have been organized, aimed at presenting and reviewing the Action Plan.

The Action Plan has been approved by the City Council on 6th June 2011 with Decision of the City Council n. 2011/0048
City example: City of Padua, Italy

Evaluation & reporting

After an intensive phase of implementing activities and with the monitoring data output at hand, it is time to step back and – together with others - evaluate what has been achieved. The data collected through monitoring are used for evaluating both the results obtained through implementation and the way the management cycle is working.

Evaluation and reporting is the last step of the cycle, but provides the basis for starting a new year with a new cycle. It analyses what has happened during the year in order to understand why things happened or failed to succeed. It provides the politicians with a basis for taking further decisions on the targets and actions for the next year. It provides the stakeholders, including the public, with a report on what the city has done during the year and how they have succeeded in fulfilling their targets. The importance of this step is the actual city council decision on how to act on the results of the evaluation process. How will the knowledge gained be used to adapt or set the short-term targets for the next year? What actions should be implemented next year? Is there a need to revise the baseline review because of major changes in the city or its surroundings? In any case, a decision should be taken and a new annual cycle should begin.

The sustainable development reporting system of the City of Turku represents a joint effort between the city departments, companies and regional offices. It is also part of a joint reporting system of the six biggest cities in Finland and an important part of the Turku IMS respectively.

The annual Sustainable Development (SD) Report evaluates the execution of city’s SD Policy. It is produced in collaboration with various city departments, regional offices and city companies. An important part of the reporting and evaluation system is also the annual SD Seminar where city politicians and employees gather to discuss last year’s experiences.

The main elements of the SD report are the SD policy of Turku, Ecological Indicators, Environmental Accounts, Social Indicators and Sustainable development in the departments. The full report is available online and the executive summary is also printed. After the discussion in the Executive City Board the report goes to the City Council and all political committees for further discussions and decisions.

City example Turku, Finland

Organisational setup

Integrated management cannot function without structured processes. A system itself cannot function without people behind it. An IMS requires people who know their responsibilities and people who work together towards common goals in accordance to a plan and contribute to continually improve performance. In fact, management – in its core – is structured communication between people.

Many cities already have elements of an environmental management system (EMS) in place or have established procedures that enable them to meet legal requirements. Nevertheless, it is rare to find an organisational setup which connects all direct responsibilities and indirect aspects of a local authority regarding environment or sustainable development.

The structure of the IMS should incorporate and make use of the existing public management structures in municipal administration and strengthen sustainability capacity of acting bodies, communication rules, responsibilities and decision making processes. The core parts of the organisational setup are a coordination team and a cross-departmental coordination board. The coordination team is preferably arranged centrally in the administration to manage the coordination of the system. The coordination board is responsible for supervising the whole IMS.

Sustainable development is a challenging and complex objective that requires special and updated knowledge. Capacity-building for the staff involved is therefore an important aspect within the organisational setup.

When EMAS was first implemented in Lewes it was recognised that not only the environmental performance needed to be managed, but staff needed to be involved and have a voice on a steering group. The heads of departments have the responsibility for their department’s environmental performance, but the day-to-day management is delegated to a department representative. These meet quarterly in an Environmental Steering Group (ESG) to coordinate the EMAS. The group is chaired by the Head of Environment and Health (HEH) and the secretariat is run by the Environmental Coordinator (EC).

The EC reports to the HEH. The EC also implements the Council’s Environmental Policy, produces the Environmental Statement etc. In addition to the formal organisational setup, Lewes also has a system of volunteer Eco Monitors in each department.

In expanding the EMAS to encompass further sustainability dimensions, a small team of officers has been established specialising in sustainable development known as the Dedicated Sustainability Unit. Their focus has been to develop sustainability practices and to develop the Lewes District Sustainable Community Strategy both within the organisation and across the area.

Whenever the external verifiers have audited the council, they have remarked on the ‘buy in’ of the staff to the Lewes’ Environmental programme. Having a strong, well-established organisational set up already in place has greatly helped when expanding the system to include further sustainability dimensions.

City example Lewes, United Kingdom

Involvement & communication

Appropriate involvement is a key principle of sustainability management. There is no effective implementation without acceptance, understanding, will, interest, awareness and recognition of benefits and responsibilities among different actors. In addition, limited local government responsibilities and resources demand partnership with citizens and stakeholders. To achieve this, an effective communication and involvement strategy is needed. The relevant stakeholders are defined in terms of whether they are affected by the issue or affect the issue, possess information, resources and expertise needed and control implementation instruments.

On the basis of this knowledge, the city can get a clear overall picture of what each player’s role is at what stage in the game. The knowledge is used to set rules for how to engage relevant stakeholders in all the steps of the Integrated Management System. By making the rules public, stakeholders are kept informed about when they are expected to be involved and how they can be a part of shaping a sustainable city respectively the IMS implementation.

Once the stakeholders are involved, it needs to be clear how the communication both within the system and from the system outwards is handled. Communication and involvement are baseline steps that initiate and give the power to the implementation of the Integrated Management System and are closely related to the organisational setup. The degree, and therefore the success of exchange of ideas and approaches through cross-departmental working groups as well as cooperation in cross policy areas, is a result of the involvement and communication.

More than 1000 citizens were involved in the process of creating the Ludwigsburg Town Development Plan - Chances for Ludwigsburg - and a vision for their city in the years 2005-2006. Workshops with key decision-makers and telephone interviews with citizens were the initial source of ideas for the plan’s main themes. Two visionary and dialogue-oriented Future Search Conferences involving diverse groups of citizens and other stakeholders resulted in recommendations and suggestions for projects and measures.

From the management point of view the work was done by two competent staff members who were to handle the organisation of the entire city development and participation process. The guidance and conceptual work was taken over by a control group together with the Lord Mayor and a Deputy Mayor. Due to its success, the Future Search Conferences will remain a part of Ludwigsburg’s future planning work.

The resulting plan will be the tool for the strategic orientation and future development of the city and will be updated as necessary. Fulfilling the objectives will require continuous cooperation between all departments of the city administration. The overall aim is that sustainable development – in the fields of ecology, social questions, economy and citizen participation – will be the goal of both the administration and the city council.

City example Ludwigsburg, Germany

Repeating the cycle and expanding the system

With these five steps and the two cross-cutting elements completed, the work with the IMS is in action – and with it a new working style. However, the annual process is a continuous story of assessing, reviewing and improving. It is not possible to do everything in the beginning. The model suggests a journey approach where cities can start small and expand with time. This expansion takes place on three axes:

  1. Territorial expansion: the application of the IMS to the whole urban area with the selection of appropriate indicators and targets.
  2. Actor expansion: the cooperation with all relevant stake-holders in the city and cooperation with neighbours.
  3. Dimension expansion: the integration of all sustainability dimensions into the management system.

Some steps are done on an annual basis, but a full revision is only needed every 3-5 years and at least once in an election period, unless changes in the surroundings call for a complete revision of the city’s strategic orientation. It is, of course, suggested to have this revision at the outset of the Mayoral term to make it the Mayor’s programme.

The five steps of the IMS fulfil the requirement of ISO 14001 and EMAS. But IMS manages more than the environmental aspects and focuses mainly on strategic aspects within the responsibility and/or the influence of a local/regional authority – the so called “indirect” aspects within EMAS and ISO 14001 – rather than the improvement of “housekeeping” issues such as reduction of energy consumption of the own administration. For this reason, the IMS has to be organized centrally in the city management and not in a single department as has often been the case with the traditional environmental management systems. The approval of the strategic programme and the organisational setup by the city council as the highest decision-making body represents on of the minimum requirements within IMS. The involvement of the central political body in target-setting and in the evaluation, in line with the annual budget cycles, ensures political commitment, legitimization and maximized impacts. While the coordination is based within the local administration, the strategic objectives and targets are to be implemented via a range of actors including administrative departments, private companies and relevant stakeholders. Therefore, stakeholder involvement in all key elements of IMS is a minimum requirement. These and other minimum requirements regarding the content and the process have been selected in a careful process to guarantee the quality of the IMS.

Cities and regions equipped for future challenges

The benefits of the Integrated Management System

Cities need a strategic tool that can help them address their challenges in an efficient way. An Integrated Management System (IMS) provides this strategic tool. The IMS answers to the needs, functions and existing structures of cities. Previous experiences are summarised in the following six good reasons for an Integrated Management System:

  1. Improvement of governance capacity
  2. Enhanced efficiency and effectiveness of public administration
  3. Local Government acts as role model
  4. Improved coordination of individual needs and municipal services
  5. Enhanced competitiveness
  6. Securing futures (intergenerational justice)

Even though cities in different countries have various structures, tasks and management approaches, they also have elements in common. In summary, they provide a framework for local democracy. They have elected politicians that are ultimately responsible for their citizen’s quality of life and the management within each city’s administrative boundaries.

Cities have been using various instruments and tools to steer their work. Given the rapidly changing conditions of our world today, not least with regards to the Climate Change challenge, the traditional long- and medium-term planning approaches appear insufficient to tackle the problem. With respect to the environment, some cities use traditional environmental management systems (EMS), such as ISO 14001 and EMAS. However, the ways traditional EMSs have been implemented by cities have shown deficiencies in targeting the whole urban area with its indirect aspects, the lack of political commitment and inability to handle all sustainability dimensions, etc. So what then is the added value of working with the IMS? The following sections identify some of its benefits.

All forces in the same direction

The goal of the Integrated Management System is to provide sustainability. Sustainability is all about integration. It includes the integration of various policy sectors, levels of authority and governance, different stakeholders, etc.

In the IMS model, the concept of sustainable development must regard maintenance of our natural resources as a prerequisite for using economic means and activities to achieve human well-being and a better quality of life. This perspective views natural resources as “life-support mechanisms” and as a basis for enabling the society to flourish. Economic activities are the means of making use of these resources. Economic activities are the human activity that continually converts natural resources into human quality of life. They are not just business practices but include every kind of economic behaviour of human beings – whether this occurs in a household, in one’s leisure time, the office, a city or in companies. Everyone has his/her role to play in these economic activities. Nevertheless, economic activities must be based on human rights (e.g., freedom of choice/action) and make the values of activities accessible to society as a whole in order to meet human needs.

In this context, we need to be innovative in order to achieve ambitious targets in the fields of environment and the society. We also need to stay innovation–friendly, as our environment is rapidly changing. Different information may mean that, come tomorrow, we will have to modify the decisions we have made today.

The integration of economic, social and environmental considerations is a prerequisite for sustainability. Other important things are the integration of various levels of authority and governance, the integration of tools and instruments and the integration of stakeholders’ actions.
In each and every city, a discussion has to be initiated on what sustainability means in practical terms within the local context in relation to global sustainability challenges. As sustainability is a long-term commitment and because local challenges vary with time due to the rapidly changing world we live in, this must be continuously addressed. The management approach of the IMS allows cities to regularly reconsider the definition of local sustainability challenges. It consequently allows for cities to consider new available data and research.

Similarly, achieving change is a long-term process. The management system therefore has to mature so that the people involved get used to this way of working. Sustainability is about inclusiveness. It requires many people to be involved in the process. Sustainability management is about managing people, or better: people’s communication – not the environment or the money or the built society as such. Consequently, the effect the IMS has on sustainability will be the result of how the IMS succeeds in managing the people involved. As sustainable development represents a long-term commitment, it also signals that development cannot occur via short-term and isolated projects, which has often been the case. Instead projects have to be a part of a long-term process for which the IMS forms a basis. Within a long-term process, projects can be carried out with the aim to support the same.

To analyse if a city is successful with its sustainability work requires data and measurement. The indicators and targets that form the core of the IMS for performance and progress monitoring, evaluating and communicating achievements are crucial. Challenges to the choice of appropriate indicators are a natural component when developing new ways of working, but these can be adjusted as part of the process.

An integrated approach to managing a city also contributes to the reduction of risks on a continuous rather than on an ad hoc basis. It helps to prevent the potential of environmental damages/catastrophes, social conflicts, legal conflicts with citizens and improves the planning reliability for investors, etc. The integrated approach is put forward by overarching EU policies as the way forward for local sustainability. An Integrated Management System could therefore benefit cities when applying for financial support from the EU.

All strings in the hands of politicians

Politicians are responsible for balancing the resources available to them to ensure citizens a good quality of life. It means dealing with natural, social and financial resources in an efficient way. All of these resources are core to cities. Politicians also need to see the connections between the various resources. Dealing with resources in isolation from each other does not offer the potential for an efficient use of all resources. And in fact, many municipal services capitalise on services provided by ecosystems. An IMS facilitates the balance between resources and the integration of resources.

Politicians are the ones who take the decisions and provide the broad directions for the city. Politicians also allocate the resources to the administration for carrying out their decisions. Their decisions need to be based on relevant and accurate information about the current situation. Information also needs to be fed back to politicians to show whether their decision had the desired effect when implemented and if they represent efficient means in attempting to solve local challenges.

The IMS provides a strategic framework for local sustainable development in which plans and programmes for all relevant aspects can be included and managed in an integrated manner. The IMS is organised centrally within the city management rather than inside a single department. Similarly to the budget process, the IMS is an annual process. Preferably, the IMS process is aligned with the budget process to give politicians the possibility to continuously check not just the financial expenditure of the city but the effects of their decision-making on sustainability as well. As the world is changing rapidly, politicians need an instrument that assists them to frequently and critically review plans, actions, achievements and performance. The traditional long- and medium-term planning approaches appear insufficient in tackling problems, which have been in many cases created depite or even due to planning. A cyclic management approach is a more favourable option, as it allows for timely corrections of measures when new information and data suggest them.

After becoming the first Province in Italy to gain the environmental certification ISO 14001 (in 2003) and one of the first to obtain the EMAS registration (in 2006), the Province of Siena continues on its journey towards and effective integrated sustainable management setting a new ambitious target: the aim of achieving an emissions balance of zero for its entire territory by the end of 2015.
In order to reach this target the tools employed are a Greenhouse Gas Emissions Balance, yearly calculated by IPCC methodology and certified according to the international standard ISO 14064, and many energy projects activated.
The territory of the Province of Siena is the first case in Europe in which this type of Balance has been extended to an area of large size, with a surface area of 3,821 kmq, 36 municipalities with a population of 270.000 inhabitants and more than 4 million tourists per year. The strategy for achieving the target includes a variety of actions, supported by extensive communication campaigns and based on the active involvement of all the 36 Municipalities.

Easier implementation for administrators

While politicians have the utmost responsibility for decision-making, their decisions are realized by the administration. A city has many policy areas to work with and is organized in many departments: it has numerous stakeholders, ranging from citizens, NGOs and companies to universities, etc.

Neighbouring cities and their citizens influence the administrative area of a city and vice–versa, just as national and regional authorities affect the lower levels of administration. In total, this makes up an enormous multitude of people who should be coordinated towards the same goal.

Furthermore, when analyzing a city and how it is steered, one will find a multitude of visions, plans, programmes, strategies, action plans, legislation, national regulations, budgets, etc. It is often a scattered picture, lacking coherence and making it difficult to see how different policy areas relate to each other. For a person in one department, it makes it difficult to see one’s own role in fulfilling such plans, programmes and strategies, etc. In summary, the challenges of sustainable urban management are partly found in the difficulty of coordination. This is due to complexity in the role of the cities. The management must be efficient in handling all people involved.

Cities applying the IMS see it as a coordinating mechanism. The annual process makes coordination and coherence easier. The organisational setup of the IMS is an engine that runs the process. The fact that it is based on systematic and annual steps allows the city to continuously go back and re-evaluate plans, strategies and action plans, etc., if needed. The process gives a frame for the work of the city and within this frame it becomes clear how and when to use the different existing tools of a city. Cross-sectoral cooperation is a crucial part of the IMS. The cross-sectoral discussions between different professions is important for understanding the value of the work in other sectors and how the work in one sector affects the work of other sectors. Again the annual process provides the frame for understanding why, what, how and when to discuss between the different sectors. It also affords a better understanding for targets set and their related commitment. It also secures implementation and diminishes the risk of plans to gather dust on shelves.

Legislation, regional, national and EU statistical follow-ups require cities to monitor and report data to various levels of authority or organisations. Also, voluntary commitments on the part of the cities require progress reports. These monitoring and reporting processes are often not harmonised, creating the risk of doing double-work in different parts of the administration. The harmonisation of monitoring and reporting duties can be achieved if they are included in the overarching process of an IMS.

Transparency for stakeholders and citizens

Cities are limited in both influence and resources. To this end, participation is pivotal for success. Correspondingly, the IMS provides a frame for participatory processes. Participatory processes were the core of the Local Agenda 21 (LA 21) taken at the Rio conference in 1992. Since that time, many cities have worked with LA 21. However, at the Johannesburg Conference in 2002, it was recognized that the LA 21 processes needed revitalization. There was a need to go from agenda to action. Incorporating the participatory processes as part of an IMS allows for the administration to see where and how participatory processes can be used in the strategic steering of a city. Even though there are various participatory methods, it requires the facilitation and integration into the strategic processes of the city to make a difference. The participatory approach secures transparent and sound decision-making and motivates citizens to implement their part of targets that calls for individual behavioural change.

The work in improving the sustainability of a city has to be visible for its stakeholders and citizens. It cannot only look at the internal actors of the city administration. To secure successful implementation of sustainable measures, the participation of local stakeholders is inevitable. For a stakeholder, it is important to understand when and how one can take part in the decision-making processes of a city. It is also important to understand the influence their participation can have.

As part of the IMS, cities establish public and transparent rules for the participation of stakeholders. It contains clear and straightforward information of when and how the stakeholders can participate and what influence their participation will have. For stakeholders and citizens in particular, the IMS provides transparent information about their city and how decisions are taken and followed up. It also gives transparency to the analysis being the basis of decision-making, i.e., deriving from the baseline review. The set targets provide citizens with a clear indication of the ambitions of their politicians and the follow-up mechanism tells them how well the politicians proceed towards the targets as well as how the tax money is being used in the municipality. It forms the very basis of the accountability that elected politicians have towards their citizens by informing them about how successful they are in leading the city through the steps set out by them.

Managing the local to address the global – multilevel governance

Analysing the local possibilities of meeting regional, national, EU and global challenges and targets as part of the baseline review provides the possibility to pinpoint the local role in a global world. The city is indeed the sphere closest to the people. However, the local sphere is also part of other spheres and is affected by these spheres. A city has neighbouring cities and is part of a region – which again is part of a country in the EU, and ultimately it is part of the global world. As we know today, sustainability challenges are global challenges, and the problems do not end at the municipal borders. However, it is in the local sphere that a lot can be done to get all sections of society onboard in meeting the global challenges. Therefore, the IMS needs to facilitate the connection between local challenges and global challenges.

The IMS provides a follow-up mechanism for seeing the impact of the local level on the global level. When the monitoring and reporting duties are harmonised on the local level, the regional, national, EU and global level have easier access to local data used as input for their work and strategies.

To be able to reach targets that are affected by external actors, cities must find various strategies to ensure that the impacts on and from neighboring municipalities and regions are dealt with. Cities may have their own IMS but also form partnerships with their neighbours to agree on targets and actions for joint concerns.

The City of Oslo is finding ways to cooperate with their neighbouring municipalities, the regional level and the national level to deal with joint challenges. Greenhouse gas emissions in the Oslo region have increased by approximately 19% since 1991. Most of this increase occurred in the last ten years. This is primarily due to the growth in road traffic. However, emissions of greenhouse gases from stationary sources are stabilizing. The City of Oslo approved a climate and energy action package for the greater Oslo region in collaboration with the counties of Akershus and Buskerud as well as with support from the Norwegian Ministry of the Environment. The package aims to reduce the climate gas emissions in the region by 50% until 2030. These efforts will also contribute to Norway’s commitments to the Kyoto Protocol. To this end, the Oslo City Commission has decided to replace 95% of the oil burners in municipal buildings with bio-fuel burners or district heating. In addition, the City is eco-certifying all agencies and service units, which will reduce the energy use further. It is important for the City to take the lead as a good example, in order to bring the rest of the city on board.
City example Oslo, Norway

How to get the IMS to benefit your city?

With online guidance at www.localmanagement.eu!
On the website, you can find the full IMS guidelines, as well as tools, methods and city examples for Sustainable Development and Climate Change. Have a closer look at the management cycle and the individual steps. City examples and practical guidance on how to start working with the IMS and on getting the “wheel to spin” are available for your use. Links and resources are collected to find even more information on management systems, sustainability, EU policies and legislation, stakeholder involvement and other related issues.

The material related to Climate Change has been developed during the CHAMP project (2009-2011) within the project consortium consisting of Union of the Baltic Cities, ICLEI Europe, Ambiente Italia, Lake Constance Foundation, Coordinamento Agende 21 Locali Italiane, Lake Balaton Development Coordination Agency and Association of Finnish Local and Regional Authorities.


City examples written or edited by:
Torbjörn Hedhammer (Växjö)
Timo Permanto (Lahti)
Maria Carlsson (Stockholm)
Pekka Salminen (Turku)
Ian Kedge (Lewes)
Albert Geiger (Ludwigsburg)
Vilija Guzyte (Kaunas)
Guttorm Grundt (Oslo)

Stakeholder definition (Involvement and Communication) according to UN Habitat

Tools for working towards sustainable development:
Aalborg Commitments
The Eco-Management and Audit Scheme EMAS
ISO 14001
Future Search Conference

Strategical environmental assessment:
Directive 2001/42/EC
Air Quality Directive 96/62/EC
Habitats Directive 92/43/EEC
Noise Directive 2002/49/EC
Water Framework Directive 2000/60/EC

Thematic Strategy on the Urban Environment
Managing Urban Europe-25 project