City of Pittsburgh Releases First Voluntary Local Review of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals

PITTSBURGH, PA (November 24, 2020) Mayor William Peduto has announced the release of the City of Pittsburgh’s first Voluntary Local Review (VLR) of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). 

In 2019, the City of Pittsburgh became the second city in the country to formally integrate the SDGs into city operations, best practices and goals. The SDGs are 17 universal goals to eradicate poverty, protect the planet and improve the quality of life for every human being. Mayor Peduto was joined by public, private and nonprofit partners, who pledged their support and made similar commitments for their organizations. 

First developed in New York City, a VLR is a local government’s assessment of progress towards the individual targets of the SDGs. Pittsburgh’s VLR was developed and conducted in the summer and fall of 2020 to focus on city government operations. Data was collected through examining city reports, reviewing online surveys and hosting discussions with city and authority personnel to determine how the City’s existing work aligns with individual SDGs.  

The report classifies city work, projects and initiatives under each SDG outcome to produce an understanding of what work is contributing to what outcome. This also helps to identify opportunities for inter-department and cross-sector partnerships as multiple departments or organizations may be working toward common goals. The City will use this periodic report to hold itself accountable to its work and operations supporting the SDGs and measure its progress towards achieving the SDGs. 

“Today we release our first VLR, another step towards a continuous cycle of improvement to create a culture of measurement and accountability within city government,” Mayor Peduto said. “We will align our work to the SDGs to make sure that our efforts are always working towards the 17 common goals that improve life for all of our residents: goals such as no poverty, zero hunger, reduced inequalities, good health and wellbeing. We hope this will provide a blueprint model for other organizations and industries within our region to join us in measuring their work against the SDGs. We will have a greater impact when we all work together.” 

“It's fantastic that Pittsburgh is joining the global movement of cities who are publishing their progress towards the SDGs,” said Alexandra Hiniker, the current Executive Fellow for Sustainability Initiatives at Carnegie Mellon University who previously worked for the City of New York and helped develop the first VLR. “When I created the concept of the VLR in 2018, I knew it would only be successful if cities around the world participated.”   

Collectively achieving the SDGs by 2030 in Pittsburgh will require cooperation and participation of external partners to create strategies for implementing the SDGs to improve outcomes for all residents in the region. The City is partnering with nonprofits, universities and philanthropies to align internal and external efforts toward ensuring a thriving Pittsburgh for all, with the VLR serving as a periodic report card on the progress. 

One such partner is Coro Pittsburgh, whose Executive Director Selena Schmidt said, “Thanks to the City of Pittsburgh’s leadership to develop a VLR, Coro can incorporate these goals and measures as baselines to enhance our capacity building work with all of our nonprofit, private sector, innovation, and government partners- expanding the reach of the SDGs as a framework for collective impact.”  

Coro Pittsburgh and other external partners like The Forbes Funds are revising their business models and processes to position their organizations to lead this work. Fred Brown, President and CEO of The Forbes Funds explained, “As an intermediary foundation, The Forbes Funds continues to align our work to the SDGs to not only address the inequities within our region, but to innovate and empower the nonprofit sector to play a role in driving solutions. The City of Pittsburgh has made notable internal progress toward each of the 17 goals, however we know that this global work requires a network of local partners to support the most resilient communities and populations in our region.”  

Adopting the SDGs and conducting the VLR demonstrates Pittsburgh’s leadership in thinking global and acting local. It connects our communities throughout the region by promoting equitable and resilient solutions for all while also plugging Pittsburgh into a global support network of cities looking to lead the way to a sustainable future.   

“We are witnessing one more great American city join a growing global movement grounding this extremely relevant agenda locally. Together with the citizens of Pittsburgh, local stakeholders, including Carnegie Mellon and other universities, local NGOs, the private sector, and city government, this collaboration will serve as a model eco-system for how to create more peaceful, just and inclusive communities that benefit all Pittsburghers,” said Sarah Mendelson, who heads CMU’s Heinz College in Washington, D.C. As a former senior official at the U.S. Agency for International Development and then as an ambassador to the United Nations, she helped shape and then advocate for the SDGs.   

Pittsburgh is a participant of a multi-city leadership convening on the SDGs led by the Brookings Institute along with New York, Los Angeles, Orlando and a host of international cities. Tony Pipa, Senior Fellow, Global Economy and Development at Brookings Institute said, “Congratulations to the City of Pittsburgh on producing its first VLR. Its seriousness in measuring its progress against the SDGs reflects the city’s commitment to equity, inclusivity, and sustainability, reinforcing its leadership as one of the top places to live and visit in the U.S.”   

Mayor Peduto will be sending a resolution to City Council requesting a formalized adoption of the SDGs to serve as a framework for city policies, practices and procedures.  

The City’s adoption of the SDGs and the development of the VLR is a cross-departmental partnership between the Department of City Planning, the Mayor’s Office of Equity, the Commission on Human Relations, and the Gender Equity Commission. 

The City of Pittsburgh’s first Voluntary Local Review of the UN Sustainable Development Goals can be viewed here



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Molly Onufer
Communications Director
Mayor's Office