Following is a list of publications by year that Sustainable Pittsburgh produced or commissioned.
Get Started with Sustainability Reporting
This brief slideshow presents high level characteristics of good sustainability reporting and a basic reporting outline.Get Started with Sustainability Reporting
Kendall Simon Sustainable Business Case Studies
Featuring Eat’n Park Hospitality Group and PITT OHIO, these case studies offer lessons for getting started with and realizing the bottom-line benefits of business sustainability. The case studies are offered through a partnership between Sustainable Pittsburgh and the Berg Center for Ethics and Leadership at the University of Pittsburgh Joseph M. Katz Graduate School of Business and College of Business Administration. The project was made possible with support from BNY Mellon, UPMC and the BNY Mellon Foundation.Download the PDF here
Southwestern Pennsylvania Sustainability Goals + Indicators Report 2016
Sustainable Pittsburgh last presented this regional sustainability goals and indicators report in 2004. In tracking the region’s progress, we see that much has changed, while too many things remain the same. Not changing however, is the reason we produce the report. The old saying, “You can’t manage what you can’t measure,” applies. Sustainable Pittsburgh is resolute that we as a region need to take stock of key issues, throw all we have at the ones that need to be fixed and continually take stock of our progress.
This 124 page report provides a suite of measures of the overarching, regional issues that cut across our geopolitical boundaries of southwestern Pennsylvania. The 29 sustainability indicators detailed in this report were selected during an extensive public engagement process. Overall, the indicators show a region that has one foot squarely planted in a new and promising economy that is clean, equitable, renewable, healthy and based on sustainable business and community practice.Download Report
Introduction to Sustainable Development
by Sustainable Pittsburgh
The most widespread, common meaning for the terms “sustainability” and “sustainable development” come from the Brundtland Commission Report from the United Nations. According to this report, sustainable development “meets the needs of the present generation without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs” (Brundtland Commission 1987).
In the ensuing thirty years since this definition has been introduced, many people and organizations have explored what it means. Complexities abound in terms of the choices that individuals, corporations, governments, and other organizations need to make from this perspective. For example, just asking the question, “how far into the future do we need to project in order to consider the needs of future generations?” is inherently complex. Such choices inherently affect the autonomy and well-being of those who come after us as well as those of us who are here now.
Despite these complexities, pragmatic approaches that embrace the notion of sustainability are being brought to fore by people, all types of companies, organizations, and governments because doing well by doing right is its promise. For example, we see that consumer preferences are lining up to favor companies that are good stewards of people and community, the environment and profits. Good stewards of all three of these concepts are following a triple bottom-line approach to sustainable development.
Sustainable development has emerged as a way of thinking and pursuing innovation that continually asks questions, connects the dots, and makes course corrections to make things better today and over the long haul. Such a process involves understanding how things work and how they are connected. This requires a systems approach to finding problems and lasting solutions. Systems approaches look for how our lives have rich interconnections with economic, environmental, and social factors, and then finding ways of integrating these interconnections in new ways that encompass a balance among them. As a result, the process of sustainable development takes hold where economic, social equity, and environmental needs are simultaneously addressed.
Frequently, the term “sustainability” gets mistakenly associated with notions of environmental performance, exclusive of economic and social considerations. This situation comes about because environmental considerations in the past have been an underappreciated aspect of the systems that support our lives. Everything we know, use, and consume ultimately comes from nature. Our world economy relies entirely on natural capital: sunlight, wood, oil, water, oxygen, carbon dioxide, nitrogen, plants, animals, soil, metals, and many other things. Because of this foundation of our economy, we are able to organize ourselves in wonderfully diverse and rich societies all around the globe. Nature truly remains at the core in the pursuit of sustainable development.
The Native American credo of “don’t eat your seed corn,” Dr. Seuss’ (1971) The Lorax, and William Forster Lloyd’s (1833) “Tragedy of the Unregulated Commons” also illustrate dimensions of sustainable development. For the first item, obviously if someone consumed the seed needed for next year’s planting, today’s small meal comes at the expense of being able to produce food entirely in the future. In The Lorax, deforestation and devastation remain once all of the resource trees are removed for consumption without planning for their replenishment. The commons metaphor describes a pasture shared by local herders who want to maximize their yield and so will increase their herd size whenever possible. The dilemma is that as each herder individually gains as each grazing animal is added, the pasture is slightly degraded. The situation illustrates how it is easy to be caught in an individual race to accumulate the most before overgrazing collapses the whole resource for all other herders. All three clearly illustrate examples that are not sustainable.
What are some systems level issues that jeopardize the commons? Consider Jared Diamond’s book, Collapse (2005) that identifies five factors that contribute to collapse of a civilization: climate change, hostile neighbors, trade partners or outside sources of essential goods that go sour, environmental problems, and, finally, a society’s response to its problems. The first four may or may not prove significant in each society’s demise, Diamond claims, but the fifth always does. The salient point, of course, is that a society’s response to environmental problems is completely within its control, which is not always true of the other factors. In other words, as his subtitle puts it, a society can choose to succeed or fail.
Other systems factors that contribute toward making sustainable choices include ensuring we avoid:
- an economy that is overly reliant on distant resources controlled by someone else—such as oil
- an economy that rewards things that make life worse, such as lower prices for products that harm; or not accounting for externalities or carrying costs which tend to pervert the free hand of the market
- having exclusively a short term view of gain over a long term view of prosperity
- social values that allow bad things to happen, or just plain apathy
- overpopulation, loss of biodiversity and human cultural diversity
- exploitation of resources at a rate faster than they can replenish themselves
- messing with nature at a rate faster than it can cleanse our ill deeds or regenerate itself
- not investing in future alternatives if today’s actions will come to haunt us tomorrow
The commons is not your great grandfather’s pasture anymore—with issues of famine, genocide, war, drought, poverty, hunger, monopolies, the collapsing or fisheries, and climate change. As we grow in number and the world shrinks, the world’s problems hit closer to home—the commons becomes more real and less distant. Recognizing and embracing this reality is key to the pursuit of sustainability. Fortunately, getting it right means that everybody wins. This is one reason enlightened enterprises are hotly pursuing sustainable solutions and innovations.
Another reason is that sustainability provides an edge, as it fundamentally requires addressing the complexities of managing an enterprise. Organizations continually struggle in today’s business and governance environment to anticipate and respond to rapidly-changing market conditions, to align and focus the necessities of what makes that enterprise profitable and functional, and to discover new ways of distinguishing themselves from their competitors. Sustainability is therefore what happens as a result of the choices that an organization makes and how it operates. Sustainability is not a coherent philosophy, panacea or a mechanism that in itself directs the choices that a firm makes or how it operates. Sustainability follows from the culture of practice within an organization that allows that organization to continue, adapt, and thrive, despite continuous challenges. The ultimate goal for an organization that embraces the concept of sustainability is therefore creating this culture of practice—an integrated functioning of resources (such as material items), energy, people, ideas, and information, all aligned according to the perspective that the main goal of the enterprise is to ensure that the organization can adapt to complex changes and prosper. People and firms that accomplish this feat will build capacity to adapt and shape the competitive landscape across not just environmental issues but other imperatives in their industries. People and firms that do not accomplish this feat will place themselves at risk in the future. A direct analog to this perspective is that quality products are what emerge from a business that invests in building the capacity to produce quality products. Toyota is widely recognized and respected as such a business.
Sustainability is certainly not a gimmick nor a fleeting fad or trend. Its payoffs and practicalities converge, and the results speak to the very survival of companies, communities, and people. No wonder more and more people are embracing a system of values that is in sync with sustainable development. This is indeed a good thing as quite simply, the planet is not capable of supporting, among all peoples of the globe, the level of materialism and consumption common in the U.S. today. The limits and severe strains we increasingly place on the material and energy mechanisms that govern the world are visible. Increasing costs and social unrest in the face of higher demands and dwindling resources as well as the potential irreplaceable loss of many dimensions of the complex ecosystem of the planet, remind us of the commons we share. These trends are creating new constraints on people’s lives and current business practices; they also represent new opportunities—sustainability’s promise of doing well by doing right—for those who build the capacities for responding to them.
Diamond, Jared (2005). Collapse: How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed. New York: Viking Books
Dr. Seuss. (1971). The Lorax. Random House Books for Young Readers.
Lloyd, W. F. (1833). ”On the Checks to Population,” as published in
Population and Development Review, Vol. 6, No. 3 (Sep., 1980), pp. 473-496.
United Nations. (1987). Brundtland Commission Report of the World Commission on Environment and Development. Accessible online at http://www.un.org/documents/ga/res/42/ares42-187.htm
Pittsburgh’s H2Opportunity–An Assessment of Southwestern Pennsylvania’s Water Sector
On January 13, 2011, the Pittsburgh World Environment Day Partnership, of which Sustainable Pittsburgh is facilitator, released the Pittsburgh region’s first economic analysis of the water industry sector. Completed at a time when the overall water market is growing (up to ten percent annually), Pittsburgh’s H3Opportunity: An Assessment of Southwestern Pennsylvania’s Water Sector offers a snapshot of the region’s strengths in water-related industries and highlights future opportunities for innovation and growth.
Key recommendations in the report include:
- Assess, organize and advance regional opportunities related to water and coordinate resources to support them;
- Identify the occupational pipeline and workforce needs for the high priority water industry sectors and develop training on more efficient uses of water for energy, industry and agriculture;
- Strategically identify and selectively recruit innovative firms and industries that can benefit from and be good stewards of the region’s abundance of high quality water;
- Support innovation and commercialization in water technology;
- Promote green water management infrastructure; and
- Initiate partnerships with other regions and identify national and international export opportunities for regional firms.
Click here to view the report.
Southwestern Pennsylvania Blighted and Abandoned Solutions Project
This report substantiates that addressing blight and abandonment offers the chance to build assets in a community and deliver economic, environmental, and social equity benefits for both the community and region as a whole. At present, there exists no regional plan, decision-making table, nor coordinated regional effort to tackle the growing crisis of blight and abandonment in our communities. The figure of 67,886 abandoned housing units in Southwestern Pennsylvania commands attention, particularly when factoring that vacancy begets abandoned properties and the compounding associated costs to individuals, neighborhoods, social networks, the economy and region which is working so hard to reach its economic aspirations. Given the regional impacts and nature of this issue, regional approaches are in order.”Download Report
Inclusion in the Workforce: Positioning the Region to Prosper and Compete
The stark racial disparities that characterize Greater Pittsburgh’s labor market weaken the regional economy and levy — much like an onerous tax — high costs on the entire community. Building an urban economy in which everyone participates and prospers is not merely a matter of altruism or social justice, but rather a crucial step towards transforming an aged industrial center into a dynamic, 21st century city.
This strategic report explains why, in this global information economy, racial equity and inclusion are the cornerstones of sustained development and successful, healthy regional economies. This report analyzes racial disparities in employment in the Pittsburgh metropolitan area, reviews the critical role that a diverse workforce plays in improving economic competitiveness, and recommends policies for enabling the region to reach its full potential.Download Report
Sustainability Assessment Tool – Southwestern Pennsylvania
Guidance for Municipal Leaders, Developers and Concerned Citizens
Sustainable Pittsburgh recently launched a Sustainability Assessment Tool with local government officials in mind. Guiding growth and development in your municipality is a big responsibility. Planning for the long term impacts of development is both a challenge and one of the most enduring ways to enhance quality of life in your community. SP’s intent is to provide tools and models to help you usher in development that delivers economic, social and environmental value… simultaneously and long into the future.
Indeed, this defines sustainability. This Sustainability Assessment Tool strives to help you know sustainable attributes when you see them and to evaluate and plan for your community’s sustainable development. We also recommend incorporating requirements for sustainability in your zoning and subdivision/land development ordinances.Download Report
Southwestern Pennsylvania Citizens’ Vision for Smart Growth: Strengthening Communities and Regional Economy
There is increasing public awareness that our region’s sprawling land use patterns have negative social, economic, and environmental consequences. Accordingly, we are increasingly hearing pronouncements by insightful public officials and community leaders that it is high time for reforms that favor a regional approach to land use planning for our region’s prosperity.
Based on insights from land use trends forums we held around the region, Sustainable Pittsburgh has created a vision for the region’s development. Southwestern Pennsylvania Citizens’ Vision for Smart Growth: Strengthening Communities and Regional Economy identifies our region’s sprawling development trends and consequences.Download Report
Building Communities through Recreation, A Guide for Organizing an Outdoor Festival
How does one strengthen and promote their community? By organizing an outdoor recreation community festival – getting all types of people together to sample outdoor recreation offerings. Promoting the recreation facilities and unique amenities located within a community or county is a great way to strengthen any community. Learn how by obtaining your copy of “Building Communities through Recreation, A Guide for Organizing an Outdoor Festival” a new publication written by Donna Bour and produced by Sustainable Pittsburgh.Download Report
New Report: Regional Visioning Public Participation – Best Practices
Regional visioning is going on across the country and around the world. In response to concerns about global competitiveness, sustainability and quality of life, major metropolitan regions, smaller regions, and even rural areas have undertaken public participation visioning processes. Regional Visioning is characterized as an effort to resolve key economic, social, environmental and growth issues in a manner that represents the values of the region’s residents and stakeholders. To remain economically competitive, a region needs to have an integrated economic development strategy tied to sound land use management and targeted infrastructure investment. To acquire and retain a trained workforce, which is a key element in an effective economic development strategy, a region needs to address social access and environmental quality issues. A regional visioning process provides an opportunity to address these issues and develop a strategy in a coordinated and inclusive manner. “The process should create a platform for participation,” John Parr, founder of the Alliance for Regional Stewardship.Download Report
Southwestern Pennsylvania Regional Indicators Report 2004
This report is Sustainable Pittsburgh’s second comprehensive assessment of regional sustainability trends for the six-county region of Southwestern Pennsylvania. This revised and updated edition improves significantly on the first assessment, first published in 2002, and is the product of hundreds of people’s contributions, all focused on an attempt to answer this central question: are we going in the right direction?
And the answer? In some ways, yes … but in too many ways, the answer must be a resounding “No”.
We can celebrate our relative successes in areas like employment stability, affordable living costs, improved water quality. We have positive trends to build on.
But other areas, ranging from poverty and a deeply entrenched equity gap, to increasing fossil energy consumption, to declining rates of recycling, raise troubling questions about our future. They suggest the need for renewed, spirited, and concerted action to turn these negative trends around.Download Report