About the Sustainable Communities Program
The Sustainable Communities Program (SCP) is an international, science-based, third-party certification program that guides communities through a customized journey to become healthy and vibrant places in which to live, work, and play. That vision is founded in the three pillars of sustainability: a healthy local environment, quality of life for citizens, and economic vitality. The program is tailored to your community to ensure that its specific needs, priorities, resources, and challenges are addressed.
The certification process is a joint effort between your sustainability coordinator and an appointed Audubon International staff person. To create a more sustainable future for residents, businesses, and visitors, Your community will
- establish priorities
- develop a plan
- take action
Along the way, Audubon International provides tailored guidance, tools, and technical assistance. You will set the pace for addressing each of the fifteen broadly defined sustainability focus areas. Audubon International will help you share your community’s successes with our international network.
This program works with public sector communities such as towns and cities in the Public Track or private sector communities such as property owner associations in the Private Track.
What is an Audubon International Certified Sustainable Community?
An Audubon International Certified Sustainable Community has a long-term, flexible framework to support its sustainable future. To verify that a community’s approach to sustainability is effective, Audubon International ensures that each community completes all program requirements to become an Audubon International Certified Sustainable Community.
The certification program requires communities:
- take actions that demonstrate sustainability principles are in place for all applicable focus areas and
- institute plans and policies that ensure a long term, community-led commitment to a sustainability program.
While there are mandatory elements in both the action and process areas, every element has broad requirements that can be met in a wide variety of ways.
Most communities use Audubon International’s three-stage process to achieve certification. Each stage educates and engages community members in the community’s sustainability initiative. The process will be tailored to fit any steps your community has already completed.
Each step towards certification brings immediate, long-lasting benefits to the member community. Also, the community’s progress through these steps is recognized by an award at the end of each stage. The first stage provides a simple starting point, establishing a baseline assessment of your community focusing on environment, quality of life, and economic vitality. Stage 1 is helpful for engaging a wide group of residents in discussing sustainability and identifying both community strengths and areas needing improvement. If the community decides to move through Stage 2, the community’s sustainability goals will be incorporated into a long-term vision plan. This plan will be held to Audubon International’s standards for planning. In Stage 3, the community will report initial implementation of the plan to earn certification.
Some communities pursue a Fast Track to certification. These communities have completed certification requirements prior to joining the Sustainable Communities Program. Contact us for a consultation about whether the Fast Track is right for you.
An annual membership fee and progress reporting maintains certification and provides the community with continuing access to Audubon International’s customized support and guidance. Whether through the three-stage process or the Fast Track, a community is certified as an Audubon International Certified Sustainable Community once it meets all program requirements as stated below.
"This acknowledgement from Audubon International will aid in the promotion of our continued efforts to place environmental sustainability in the forefront of Town initiatives. For many years Hilton Head Island has been known for its great natural beauty and for innovative, environmentally sensitive practices. This achievement recognizes the Town's commitment and strides toward creating a sustainable environment."
- Drew Laughlin, Mayor
Town of Hilton Head Island
Action Requirements- In addition to establishing an educational demonstration site and a sustainability policy for the community, members must show 50% of applicable best practices in every focus area. During Stage 1, a baseline checklist assesses how many applicable best practices are already in place, and in the planning stage, any actions needed to reach 50% practices in a focus area before certification are identified.
Process Requirements- Process requirements are elements that ensure that a community has institutionalized its commitment to sustainability and that plans for the future reflect a shared vision among residents.
Sustainable Community Focus Areas
Economic Development & Tourism
Open Space & Land Use
Planning, Zoning, Building & Development
Public Safety & Emergency Management
Volunteerism & Civic Engagement
Benefits of Membership
Pursuing sustainability is an investment in your community – in the well-being of the people, the economy, the environment, and the future. In many ways, your participation in Audubon International’s Sustainable Communities Program is the first deposit in that investment.
As a member of Audubon International’s Sustainable Communities Program you will receive:
- The expertise of Audubon International’s staff
- Step-by-step instructions to create or enhance your community's sustainability effort
- Tailored guidance in enhancing existing sustainability efforts, strategic planning, and
establishing measures of success
- Tools for engaging and educating community members about sustainability
- Subscriptions to Stewardship News, our quarterly newsletter
- Regular email updates with new resources and funding opportunities
- Fact sheets on common topics
- Access to a network of communities pursuing sustainability and facing similar issues
- Assistance with promoting your successes
Over time, you’ll invest in other ways as well: with money, human capital, time, and effort that help to make your community a healthier, more desirable and more vibrant place in which to live, work, and play.
But what kind of return might you expect on that investment? In strict financial terms, some of your efforts will pay off immediately and start saving or earning you money. Other efforts will have an up-front cost, but will have a definite payback period. Others still will not be as easily measured in economic terms, but will pay off in other ways that are just as meaningful, tangible, and important.
In addition, by becoming a more sustainable community you can expect to see many of the following long-term results:
- Recognition as a leader in defining a future for your community
- Enhanced community pride and heightened cooperation among community members
- Improved environmental quality
- Improved quality of life and community safety
- Enhanced recreational opportunities
- Increased tourism and other economic development
- Financial savings through more efficient practices
- Increased desirability of your community for potential residents and increased property values