Completed Projects

+ The Sustainable City Book

Living sustainably is not just about preserving the wilderness or keeping nature pristine. The transition to a green economy depends on cities. For the first time in human history, the majority of the people on the planet live in urban areas. If we are to avert climate catastrophe, we will need our cities to coexist with nature without destroying it. Many places are already investing in the infrastructure of the future—including renewable energy, energy efficiency, mass and personal transit, and advanced sewage and waste management—but the modern city still has a long way to go.

In The Sustainable City, Steven Cohen provides a broad and engaging overview of the urban systems of the twenty-first century, surveying policies and projects already under way in cities around the world and pointing to more ways progress can be made. Cohen discusses the sustainable city from an organizational-management and public-policy perspective that emphasizes the local level, looking at case studies of existing legislation, programs, and public-private partnerships that strive to align modern urban life and sustainability. From waste management in Beijing to energy infrastructure in Africa to public space in Washington, D.C., there are concrete examples of what we can do right now. Cohen synthesizes the disparate strands of sustainable city planning in an approachable and applicable guide that highlights how these issues touch our lives on a daily basis, whether the transportation we take, where our energy comes from, or what becomes of our food waste. Providing recommendations and insights with immediacy and relevance, this book has invaluable lessons for anyone seeking to link public policy to promoting a sustainable lifestyle. Read the full press release here.

+ Sustainability Policy Book

Sustainability Policy book croppedWritten by Steven Cohen, Bill Eimicke, and Alison Miller, Sustainability Policy: Hastening the Transition to a Cleaner Economy presents an overview of the opportunities for government to encourage sustainability in the public and private sectors and is a fundamental guide to sustainability policy development, implementation, strategy, and practice. It focuses on the critical role of government and public policy in accelerating the shift to a sustainable economy. Featuring detailed cases highlighting innovative sustainability initiatives, the book explores the elements that constitute effective policy, and the factors that can help or hinder implementation and adoption. Emphasizing politically-feasible policy tools at the federal, state, and local levels, the book focuses on public sector actions that spur innovation and organizational change in the private sector and behavioral change at the individual level towards more sustainable practices. It was written to be accessible to all audiences – including policy leaders and the general public.Sustainability Policy: Hastening the Transition to a Cleaner Economy

+ Environmental, Social, and Governance Analytics Scoring Application

Led by Satyajit Bose, and sponsored by ESG Analytics, the Earth Institute Research Program on Sustainability Policy and Management created a benchmarking methodology for a scoring model for users of environmental, social, and governance (ESG) data available on Bloomberg terminals.  The model facilitates analysis, comparison, and scoring of publicly listed companies on relative ESG performance.  We have collaborated with ESG Analytics to develop a statistical methodology for the assessment framework.  This research has enabled ESG Analytics to develop the software application that provides users with critical ESG information relevant to investment decision-making.

+ Institute for Sustainable Communities (ISC)

The Earth Institute Research Program on Sustainability Policy and Management conducted a project for the Institute for Sustainable Communities (ISC) with the aim of advancing our collective state of knowledge about Environment, Health & Safety (EHS) training programs.The Research Program conducted a review of ISC’s EHS+ training program with a primary focus on the training program’s existing approach of relying on leadership and advocacy of trainees to affect EHS change on the factory floor. The review identified metrics and tools that could be used to assess the success of the program in terms of its effect on program participants, and in turn, on the factory floor. This research included a literature review that focused on EHS programs and relevant and similar training programs in China and elsewhere in the world, onsite visits to ISC’s EHS+ training facilities, and interviews with training participants.

+ The Sustainability Consortium (TSC)

The Earth Institute Research Program on Sustainability Policy and Management and the Columbia Global Center | East Asia are executing study for The Sustainability Consortium (TSC), complementing its research in China through an evaluation of the application of the Sustainability Measurement and Reporting System (SMRS). The study will assess the deployment of the SMRS in China, and its success as a tool for improved decision making on sustainability initiatives.  This project aims to assess the effectiveness, appropriateness, and The-Sustainability-Consortiumpracticality of the SMRS in China, which would be an integral part of TSC China’s initial research agenda, and critical to the development and expansion of TSC in China. The project will evaluate the subsequent outcomes for user entities like Walmart and how it helps them achieve their sustainability goals.

+ Environmental Metrics for Jiyuan, China

The potential tradeoff between the twin goals of reducing environmental impact while maintaining growth will require China’s cities to evaluate the economic impact of urban pollution at the local level. Using economic input-output analysis, city-level indicators of economic activity and environmental impact, and available estimates of the benchmark relationships between output and pollution by sector, we outline a method to quantify–in monetary terms–the marginal damages of air pollution by sector at the city level. By applying the framework of environmental accounting to the pilot case of Jiyuan, a small city in Henan province, we demonstrate a method for local public agencies to facilitate administrative tracking of monetized air pollution based on underlying economic activity, and outline a minimum set of metrics which a small city in China must track in order to estimate the monetized damage of air pollution by sector.

Publication: Development of a Parsimonious Set of City-level Environmental Performance Metrics for Jiyuan, Henan, China

Chinese Summary: 济源市环境审计系统研发

+ Pollution Reduction and Job Creation in China, Lessons from the U.S.

Economic growth is still the top priority in China, but to maintain sustainable growth, the emphasis has been shifted towards maintaining employment level while eliminating the devastating effects of environmental pollution. Therefore, in this study we examined the perceived tradeoffs between environmental regulation and employment, and the most effective policy measures for the creation of sustainability-related jobs in the U.S. This study also outlined the government policy responses, local or federal, which are seen to reduce pollution while not impeding economic growth, with examples of industries and companies that appear to have increased value added by reducing pollution impact. Lastly, the study uncovered the mechanisms through which such improvements were made; for example, outsourcing of dirtier processes to other countries or reengineering of materials handling processes, and how these efforts can apply to low labor cost countries such as China.