On the Benefits of Using Process Indicators in Local Sustainability Monitoring: Lessons from a Dutch municipal ranking (1999–2014)

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The sustainability performance of cities is subject to an ever-growing number of monitoring tools. While most initiatives work with outcome indicators that are generally associated with limited direct policy relevance, a minority of tools focuses on sustainability-related processes and particularly local government policies. In this article, we explore the benefits, limitations and conditions under which this approach can function. While several process-oriented tools offered to European local governments have lacked participation and foundered, the Local Sustainability Meter (LSM) has been widely used in the Netherlands, with close to 90% of all Dutch municipalities participating since 1999 in some of its multi-year editions. An evaluative case study presented in this article shows that the LSM stimulated competition for policy performance, conceptual learning and the strengthening of local governance and inter-municipal networks. The LSM's design choices of combining voluntary, transparent self-assessments at periodic intervals with public rankings and awards proved to be an effective – and economic – way of disseminating sustainability policies. Its limitations include an inherent focus on generic, standardized policy prescriptions and little knowledge on actual sustainability outcomes. These findings are relevant for policy-makers and developers of (local) sustainability monitoring tools. This study contributes to the growing literature on (i) sustainability policies and (ii) municipal monitoring and ranking tools. Copyright © 2016 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd and ERP Environment
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)28-44
JournalEnvironmental policy and governance
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Feb 2017



  • METIS-317954
  • IR-101333

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