Although the West Coast is often considered to be ahead of the sustainability curve in the U.S., led by top performing cities such as San Francisco, Seattle, and Portland, there is still quite a bit of activity here in Massachusetts that is worthy of mention. Recently, Fall River published an A-level GRI-certified sustainability report. In a world with continually strained public budgets, the city still placed priority on developing this report, partially due to its ability to generate future cost savings, but also because of its overall importance as an issue for future generations. GRI reports from municipalities are quite rare, largely due to the aforementioned budget constraints, but also as a result of their inherent complexity. Fall River reported on 67 different indicators to develop their report, far more than an organization is usually willing to bite off on their first reporting attempt.
Part of Fall River’s success with this report can be attributed to one of their partners in the process. To meet their aggressive goals, the city tapped into local resources and utilized the talent of UMass Dartmouth’s MBA program. Not only did this help to keep costs low for the city, but it also provided an outstanding learning experience for the students who worked through the process to receive class credit. UMass Dartmouth is a leader in the sustainability reporting field as well, as it holds the mark of being the first academic institution to ever develop its own A-level report within the GRI framework. Furthermore, the university remains as one of only a handful of academic institutions that produces a GRI-certified report.
Partnerships like this which utilize Massachusetts’ academic resources will continue to provide the Commonwealth with a distinct competitive advantage in implementing sustainability solutions into the future. Some of Fall River’s reported accomplishments and programs include:
- Annual CO2 emission reductions
- Diversion of over 40% of solid waste, reduced water usage, and an overall increase in recycling activities
- Restoration of historic sites and creation of green spaces
- Preservation of a 13,400 acre Bioreserve containing at-risk species
- Development of the “Building Blocks” neighborhood revitalization program
- A balanced budget, and overall fiscal responsibility
Congratulations to both Fall River and UMass Dartmouth for their outstanding efforts and progress in this important field!