A Pathway to Sustainable American Cities: A Guide to Implementing the SDGs

From the Executive Summary:


With this guide, cities can take advantage of the SDG framework and other cities’ experiences, saving valuable time and resources in setting goals and strategies while not reinventing the wheel. This guide also provides case studies and examples from U.S. cities that have begun to use the SDGs to fortify their own planning by adapting them to the local context. Cities such as Los Angeles, New York, Orlando, and San José are leading the way, showing the utility of the SDG framework to broaden their ambition and bolster their existing plans and strategies.

Following the ten tested steps within this guide can help make such planning exercises a success. These steps are based upon lessons from recent planning exercises in New York, San José, and other cities, as well as the extensive experience of the authors, who have collectively been involved in urban sustainability planning for more than 30 years.

10 Steps to Support Sustainable Development Planning in U.S. Cities

1. Setting up the leadership and management structure, including budgetand timelines, for the planning process

2. Identifying core values for your city

3. Establishing work teams

4. Assembling baseline data, including population trends and economic conditions

5. Taking stock of what your city is already doing that aligns with the SDGs, identifying gaps, and analyzing those most important to fill

6. Identifying budget resources and potential funding sources

7. Developing a draft framework for the plan, including targets, benchmarks, metrics and indicators

8. Identifying stakeholders, outside advisors (including university and academic partners), and community resources; establishing processes to work with them; and integrating their knowledge and ideas into the drafted plan

9. Aligning budgets and accountability mechanisms, including metrics and indicators, and final reviews

10. Launching the plan while establishing the feedback and accountability mechanisms

The SDG framework may help cities identify priorities and set long-term goals. The goals are designed to reveal the interdependent systems at play in sustainable development, such as how the use of fossil fuels affects not only climate change but also air quality and public health, and thus poverty rates and economic opportunities. By following these ten steps, cities can harmonize common goals across agencies. Added benefits include finding gaps, infusing priorities into a budget process, cutting programming redundancies and saving resources, and tracking outcomes. Cities can also engage across an expanding network of other governments and institutions that are pursuing the same goals for ideas and expertise. If integrated and managed well, the SDGs can help to strengthen local communities with their values of transparency, inclusion, and engagement.

Topics of interest: 


Nilda Mesa, with Melika Edquist and Jessica Espey

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Infrastructure refers to the basic physical and organizational structures and facilities (e.g., buildings, roads, and power supplies) needed for the operation of a society or enterprise.  Sustainable infrastructure refers to anything built...