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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Taking responsibility for sustainability : the sustainability performance management system model applied to three local governments & one regional government in Greater Vancouver Everdene, Barbara Ann


Cities and regions contribute to global and regional ecological degradation and there is a need to focus sustainability efforts at a scale suited to understanding and mitigating their impacts. In Greater Vancouver, as the trajectory of economic and population growth, and over-consumption of materials and energy (and production of their associated wastes) continues unabated, local and regional government practitioners are professionally called upon to take preventative measures within their own jurisdictions. With new sustainability responsibilities and some regulatory authority, their democratic legitimacy and resources as public institutions, and their technical expertise and coordinative capacity, local and regional governments in Greater Vancouver have key opportunities to demonstrate leadership on sustainability. This study focuses specifically on what I term corporate ecological responsibility as a means to lend credibility to service provision and regulation roles and model sustainability processes and activities for replication in the community by other actors. Managing for sustainability performance demands a clear definition and understanding of ecological sustainability as a physical condition rather than simply a principle or an idea, and an effective system for managing institutional performance. A review of the literature on sustainability and performance management reveals that a practical model has not yet been devised to assist North American local and regional governments in adopting a strategic and systematic method to make a corporate contribution toward achieving ecological sustainability milestones. To fill this gap, I advance a Sustainability Performance Management (SPMS) model that is comprised of distinctive system components and recognizes five fundamental sustainability principles and organizational conditions of culture and capacity. In the study, I focus on corporate purchasing policies and building policies and projects as key tools for sustainability performance management. I then apply my SPMS model as a tool to assess what I term the sustainability performance management activities of four case organizations in Greater Vancouver: the Greater Vancouver Regional District, the City of Vancouver, the City of Richmond, and the City of Burnaby. The case presentations and assessments with a qualitative scoring tool demonstrate that the SPMS model has practical value for use in local and regional governments as a first template to encourage the development of a strategic, systemic, and sensitive approach to sustainability performance management where it does not yet exist and to correct organizational "blind spots" in existing approaches. The best practices of the case organizations enrich the model with specific examples of how to put the five sustainability principles into practice. In addition, the use of the model as an evaluation tool reveals specific areas in which each case organization can its sustainability efforts. Assessed against the SPMS model, the City of Richmond is the clear sustainability performance management (SPMS) leader, although the GVRD and the City of Vancouver are more prolific in implementing performance management tools. To date, the GVRD has experimented most aggressively with ecologically responsible and innovative facility development, while the City of Vancouver has recently adopted ambitiously scoped purchasing and building policies. The City of Burnaby's efforts are rated least effective of the study organizations when compared to my model.

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