Combined Authority Sustainability Benchmarking Technical Report – analysis of strategies 2018

Date of the resource

September 2018

Author of the resource

Sustainability West Midlands

Purpose of the resource

Sustainability West Midlands (SWM) is the sustainability delivery partner for the West Midlands Combined Authority (WMCA). This report is part of an ongoing support programme to help the WMCA integrate sustainability within its strategy and operations, drawing on good local and national practice. This report looks at how the WMCA is performing against the other combined authorities (CAs) in England in terms of reported sustainability activity in leadership, strategy and delivery and provides a series of recommendations to improve performance. This is the second sustainability benchmarking exercise undertaken for CAs (following the first last year) and the intention is to continue to repeat this annually to help measure progress and identify and share good practice. The research for this report was carried out in August/September 2018 and then reported to the WMCA to inform their environmental priorities and action plan in September 2018. There is also an accompanying report looking at the benchmarking of the CAs nationally against key sustainability outcome indicators developed by the WMCA. Again, the second iteration of this report was published in May 2018 and the key findings of this have been drawn upon for this new benchmarking report.

Key findings

  • Greater Manchester is the best performing combined authority area on sustainability issues, followed by the West Midlands, Liverpool and West Yorkshire.
  • West of England is the poorest performing to date.
  • Cambridge and Peterborough CA has shown the greatest improvement since 2017.
  • No combined authorities are yet showing ‘leading evidence’ against any of the metrics. The average sustainability score across all combined authorities is 44%, which is an improvement on last year but still fairly low.
  • The metric against which there is greatest progress is around transport, averaging 53% overall. The lowest is activity against the social aspects, at 36%. This is the same as in 2017.
  • All bar two of the authorities now have an elected mayor and one of the reasons that the top three performing authorities were ranked as such was due to a strong presence of sustainability in the mayoral manifestos.
  • West Yorkshire should be commended for being ranked a strong fourth despite having no mayor in place.
  • There is a huge variation in combined authorities showing leadership on sustainability.
  • Strategy is comfortably the strongest area, with most CAs recognising the need to integrate aspects of sustainability into their strategic plan, to implement targets or to produce sustainability-specific related plans.
  • However, translating this strategic evidence into delivery is still proving more difficult, although there is an improvement on this aspect compared to last year.
  • Overall, there has been an improvement in performance in each CA area.

The good news is that across all CAs there are examples of good practice in leadership, strategy, and delivery that can be rapidly shared and applied to help improve sustainability performance.

Links and contact information

SWM can share the results of this study with other individual CAs if they wish to see the details and justification of their allocated scores. We can also suggest areas for improvement and develop an improvement plan with their local partners. For national organisations seeking to identify good practice around a particular sustainability theme we can also provide some further analysis. Please contact SWM on 0121 237 5890 or at for more information.


Combined Authority Sustainability Benchmarking Technical Report – analysis of strategies

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