The City of Dublin is the capital of Ireland and the country’s largest city. With almost a third of Ireland’s population living in the greater Dublin area, the city’s staff are responsible for maintaining thousands of kilometers of roadways, water pipes and sewers. Since January 2008, Dublin City Council (DCC) has been working to mobilise the staff’s intelligence and creativity toward strategic, organisational sustainability using The Natural Step Framework.

DCC had already made significant investments in energy efficiency, waste management, biodiversity and sustainable urban development when this work began. The purpose of the Sustainable Dublin project is to allow DCC’s commitment to further evolve and inform their overall business strategy. In June 2006, RealEyes Sustainability Ltd. and The Natural Step (TNS) presented city council with a workshop entitled Sustainable Dublin – A Smart, Competitive and Visionary City. The workshop described the power of a shared definition of sustainability to develop a vision of success, and described a step-by-step approach to achieving it. DCC decided to embrace principles of sustainability and work to align its activities to comply with them through a two-year project called Sustainable Dublin.

Education and engagement projects have included workshops and trainings in The Natural Step Framework, distance learning through the Masters’ of Strategic Sustainable Development department at Sweden’s Blekinge Technical Institute, webinars, and online and blended learning courses on sustainability. More than 100 senior managers and stakeholders have received training and support.

Current work involves a sustainability analysis with the development of a vision and strategic action plan towards the end of 2009. In the meantime, the city has been busy with a series of flagship projects to examine how key city services can become more sustainable using The Natural Step Framework. Each flagship takes a typical DCC service and examines it through the lens of the TNS Framework to identify how that service currently performs relative to principles of sustainability, what the service might look like if it was completely sustainable, and what early actions can be taken to help close the gap.

One example is the St. Patrick’s Day flagship project, which is working towards running the week-long festival as a sustainable event. Staff have identified 40 actions to help make the festival’s regular pyro show more sustainable in 2009, with further improvements in 2010. Other flagship projects include sustainable building management, housing, procurement, parks, homes, city development planning and the fire brigade.

Currently, DCC is developing a Performance Management Development System to include sustainability as a measurable part of each employee’s performance evaluation. This will help ensure that sustainability is integrated into each department and job description.

In November 2008, Sustainable Dublin held a launch event to celebrate and communicate DCC’s sustainability work. Dr. Karl-Henrik Robèrt, founder of The Natural Step, gave the keynote address. Watch his speech below.

More speeches from the Sustainable Dublin Conference in November 2008 are available below.

Karl-Henrik Robèrt’s second address at the Sustainable Dublin Conference; John Tierney, Dublin City Manager’s opening address and second address; and Forum for the Future’s Anne-Marie Brouder’s address.