About the Sustainable Communities Program

Sustainable Communities Program Overview

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. Your community will establish priorities, develop a plan, and take action to create a more sustainable future for residents, businesses, and visitors. 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). Click here for a list of current Sustainable Communities Program members.

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 the community completes all program requirements to become an Audubon International Certified Sustainable Community.

The certification program requires communities:

(1) take actions that demonstrate sustainability principles are in place for all applicable focus areas and
(2) 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.

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. 

      Community Sustainability Focus Areas

      • Agriculture
      • Economic Development and Tourism
      • Education
      • Environmental Issues
      • Governance
      • Housing
      • Open Space and Land Use
      • Planning, Zoning, Building and Development
      • Population
      • Public Safety and Emergency Management
      • Recreation
      • Resource Use
      • Volunteerism and Civic Engagement
      • Transportation 

      How to Become an Audubon International Certified Sustainable Community

      A community’s first step toward certification is to join the Sustainable Communities Program.

      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 above.

      Click here to read about the benefits of joining this program.




       Listen to a Webinar!

      Title:  Introduction to Audubon International's Sustainable Communities Program

      Description: Joanna Nadeau, AICP, Director of Community Programs, discusses the benefits and steps of Audubon International's Sustainable Communities program, which helps participating communities achieve and actively communicate their environmental successes. Learn about how to get started in the program and the positive strides you can take to collectively enhance and protect your community‚Äôs natural, economic, and social assets for the future. 

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