Combined Authority Sustainability Benchmarking Technical Report – analysis of strategies 2019

Date of the resource

October 2019

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 third sustainability benchmarking exercise undertaken for CAs (following the first in 2017 and the second 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 2019 and then reported to the WMCA to inform their environmental priorities and action plan in October 2019.

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 remains 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 with little change from last year.
  • Cambridge and Peterborough CA showed the greatest improvement in 2018 and again in 2019.
  • Greater Manchester is the first Combined Authority to begin to demonstrate ‘leading evidence’ against metric areas, by scoring 83 against the Environment benchmark.
  • North of Tyne was included in this report for the first time. As it is a newly formed Combined Authority, the score is reflective of that. This Combined Authority has not had the same time as the more mature CA’s to develop the strategies and policies that have ranked them more highly.
  • The average sustainability score across all combined authorities is 43%, which is slightly worse than last year, but this can in some ways be attributed to the addition of North of Tyne Combined Authority.
  • The metric against which there is greatest progress is around transport, averaging 55% overall. The lowest is activity against the social aspects, at 35%. This is the same as in 2017 and 2018, with there being a reduction in the average score for social benchmarks.
  • 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.
  • Overall, there has been an improvement in performance in all CA areas, other than the North East.

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.


WMCA Sustainability Benchmarking Report – Analysis of Strategies