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Lessons Learned in Sustainability Reporting at the Metropolitan Sewer District of Greater Cincinnati

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Private corporations have been reporting sustainability performance for over two decades, using frameworks such as the Global Reporting Initiative (GRI) guidelines (GRI, 2000). However, for U.S. public utilities and municipal organizations, sustainability reporting is relatively new. In 2010, the Metropolitan Sewer District (MSD) of Greater Cincinnati retained CH2M HILL sustainability experts to compile and publish the utility's first comprehensive sustainability report. The multiple goals of the effort included establishing a framework for measuring sustainability performance, aligning sustainability goals with organizational strategy and the goals of a federally mandated wet weather control program, measuring baseline sustainability performance, educating stakeholders about sustainability, and improving stakeholder relations. The methodology used by the MSD/CH2M HILL reporting team included six steps that met MSD's goals for the report and led to successful, on-time publication: (1) Identifying best practices in sustainability reporting, (2) Engaging stakeholders, (3) Developing tailored sustainability performance indicators, (4) Collecting baseline performance data, (5) Compiling and reviewing report drafts, and (6) Distributing the report. A primary outcome of the reporting project was a set of customized sustainability indicators – in the triple bottom line areas of operational and environmental performance, social and community performance, and financial and risk performance – by which MSD can consistently and meaningfully report its sustainability performance over time. In addition, the report showed the alignment of sustainability goals and indicators with MSD's 2009–2011 strategic plan. MSD's experience in this new area of utility management provides many insights and lessons learned that other utilities can use to streamline their efforts sustainability performance reporting.
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Keywords: Sustainability report; environmental sustainability; social sustainability; stakeholder engagement; sustainability indicator; sustainability performance; sustainable utility management; triple bottom line

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: 2011-01-01

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