Delivering on sustainability

Back in July, the LGA declared a climate emergency and endorsed the United Nation’s Sustainable Development Goals, at its annual conference in Bournemouth.

When implemented, each of these goals has the potential to be transformative in moving our areas toward a more sustainable society. Many of them are best supported by local co-ordination and delivery through councils and their partners, and are inextricably linked to our local priorities – from tackling poverty, inequality, and climate change to supporting inclusive societies and access to health and education for our citizens.

In Bristol, we have undertaken a whole-city approach to delivering the sustainable development goals (SDGs). For example, the aspirations and visions in our One City Plan have been mapped against them.

The plan contains ambitious initiatives to help Bristol reach its goal of becoming “a fair, healthy and sustainable city”. These aspirations align strongly with the targets of the SDGs and the partnership approach of Bristol’s City Office, which encourages partners from across Bristol to come together and contribute to the immediate and long-term challenges it faces.

Bristol continues to lead the way on this agenda, with the launch of the UK’s first ‘voluntary local review’ (VLR) into our progress against the 17 goals and a new VLR handbook that aims to help other local authorities with this issue.

The VLR, produced by independent researchers at the University of Bristol’s Cabot Institute for the Environment, includes data on more than 140 indicators covering all 17 SDGs and information on the activities of nearly 100 Bristol-based organisations. These groups are working to make the city more economically, environmentally and socially sustainable.

In Bristol, the VLR has helped us make our own independent assessment against each of the SDGs and support conversations with partners across the city to shape our shared local and global priorities.

For example, while we were able to identify good progress on the quality of education in the city, particularly in early years, the review indicated that we need to do more to eliminate child poverty and food insecurity.

As a result, one of the actions we have prioritised is a partnership approach to tackling ‘holiday hunger’ by providing fresh meals every weekday of the school holidays in the wards where the proportion of children receiving free school meals is highest, alongside more strategic actions to tackle the longer-term position.

Our new handbook, produced jointly by the Cabot Institute and Bristol City Office, with support from the British Council, draws from Bristol’s experience of undertaking a VLR as well as discussions with other leading cities that have also undertaken VLRs.

The handbook details the variety of styles and types of VLRs that have been completed thus far around the world, and aims to facilitate greater uptake of the SDGs in other cities and local authorities in the UK.

Bristol is grappling with pressing local, national and global challenges. The SDGs give us a common language to describe the issues and solutions we find. This handbook shares the learning from our own and others’ experiences to help support others in the achievement of our common goals.

This includes the recognition of the value and soft power in a common shared approach, and I invite other local leaders to share in this.

The VLR handbook and more information about Bristol’s SDG work are available at Further information on the VLR itself and mapping of the SDGs through the One City Plan is available at


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