"Bologna Sharing the Environment" actions for sustainability.
The integrated and collaborative Plan for urban sustainability in the city
of Bologna, applying the Aalborg Commitments.
The Council of Bologna, capital of the Emilia Romagna Region, extends over an area of
approximately 14,000 hectares and on 31/12/2007 it had a resident population of approximately
It is an important link for national railways and motorways and a considerable pole of attraction
because of its internationally renowned Exhibition Fair and the University of Bologna, which was
founded in 1088 and is considered as the oldest University in Europe. The local economy is based
on small and medium sized enterprises, which carry a reputation of prestige and relevance
In June 2004, the participants in the Fourth European Conference on Sustainable Cities approved
the "Aalborg Commitments" 1. The Aalborg Commitments highlight the need to implement
integrated policies able to face the growing challenges of sustainability. They were designed in
order to increase the effectiveness of local sustainability initiatives as reported on the "Charter of
European cities for a long-lasting sustainable development". This is also known as "Aalborg
Charter" and was approved during the "European Conference on Sustainable towns" held in
Aalborg on May 27 1994. The Aalborg commitments were signed by over 500 local firms
throughout Europe, including 135 local Italian organisations.
This document includes tangible commitments aimed at the improvement of the quality of life in
European cities. These concern specific areas of urban intervention: governance, local
management for sustainability, common natural resources, responsible consumption and lifestyles,
urban planning and design, sustainable mobility, health, local sustainable economy, equity and
social justice, local and global relations.
In March 2007 the "Declaration of Seville" was presented, following the V European Conference on
Sustainable Cities, which was held in Seville. In this document cities confirm their commitment to
adapt their policies and initiatives to the challenges of sustainability, to put in practice the Aalborg
Commitments and, in particular, to "take the Aalborg Commitments to the streets" by involving
politicians, citizens, firms, associations and partnerships.
In the last years, Bologna has carried out significant sector planning: the new Council Strategic
Plan (PSC), the Traffic Plan (PGTU) and the Energy Program (PEC), which were concluded in
2007 and envisaged for the improvement of the city's environment and for reducing the impact of
its transformation. Public negotiations regarding these plans took place through public discussion
forums, which followed the different stages of the Plan preparation process. Similarly, the
scheduling of various territory transformation initiatives was the subject of joint workshops.2.
Based on the agenda voted by the Town Council, in November 2006 the Municipality signed the
"Aalborg Commitments", aiming to form an overall view of urban sustainability. As a result of this,
the' Environmental Quality Department of the Environment and Urban Green Spaces Sector',
based on guidelines from the Enviplan project 3 and the Managing Urban Europe 25 project,
4drafted the plan of work for a project that was subsequently named "Bologna Sharing the
Environment, actions for urban sustainability". The aim of this was to create an integrated and
collaborative plan for urban sustainability in the city of Bologna, applying the Aalborg
In July 2007 the project qualified for co-financing by the Savings Bank Foundation of Bologna. As a
result of this, the project's first year operations started and lasted two years.
The project was drafted in close synergy with two important instruments available to the institution:
the Company Accounting procedure and the Environmental Balance 5.
The Council of Bologna started the social accounting process in 1996, which derived from the
concept of Corporate Social Responsibility. In 2006 it completed its first Social Budget, which
concerned all operations carried out by the Organization. Since 2007, the social accounting
process is employed as a means for the strategic monitoring of the organization's activities.
The Environmental Balance, on the other hand, is used for environmental management. Since
2001, the year when the life ecoBudget  project was launched, the Council of Bologna uses this
to keep an account of its environmental policies and of the achievement of objectives identified
both for the short and long term. The Environmental Balance is employed as an instrument to
monitor and manage the sustainability plan.
Even though it is not possible to speak of a certifiable Environmental Management System as it is
traditionally defined by EMAS and ISO14000, through the implementation of the Aalborg
commitments the three main EMS procedures are followed step by step: the definition of
Environmental Policies, the activities monitoring system and the external audit to verify results.
Under this perspective, the implementation of the Aalborg commitments can be viewed as a
voluntary process carried out by public administrations for a steady improvement in respect of the
3. Activities required by the project
The project for the implementation of the Aalborg Commitments is structured around the following
1) Preparation of the Sustainability Analysis ("baseline review")
2) Interactive and shared definition of sustainability objectives
3) Communicating and negotiating with citizens through the various Districts.
4) International validation of the process
5) Start-up of a workshop for sustainability initiatives
6) Implementation of sustainability initiatives
Technical support during the plan elaboration process is ensured by an intersectoral team within
the Institution, which already operates for the Environmental Balance. This team involves offices
and jurisdictions at various levels and guarantees a systemic approach. AmbienteItalia srl carries
out the sustainability analysis, while Punto3 srl coordinates and manages the interactive
3.1 Preparation of the Sustainability Analysis
The first step of the procedure consists of analyzing the current state of the main environmental
and socioeconomic components in the city of Bologna, in strict coordination with the activities of
the Environmental Balance, the Social Budget and the Council's Strategic Plan 7. The document
includes quantitative and qualitative information on the condition of various aspects identified by
the Aalborg Commitments and, at the same time, it attempts to summarize the main sustainability
activities undertaken on a citizen's level.
It includes project tables describing environmentally sustainable interventions and measures of
particular interest, which are being implemented in application of the Aalborg Commitments.
While the Sustainability Analysis was being elaborated, a number of interactive initiatives for
sustainability were carried out locally through meetings and interviews with institutional
representatives from the 9 Districts of the City.
The description of interactive events which are most appropriate for different realities is defined
by reports submitted by District Presidents. This choice enhances and strengthens the role of
Districts, who guarantee their involvement and their role as mediators between the Local
Government and the citizens.
3.2 - Interactive and shared definition of sustainability objectives
Within the general framework of the Aalborg Commitments, on the basis of results emerging from
the sustainability analysis and based on the accurate analysis of the Districts, certain areas of work
have been identified as most significant with respect to initiatives that have been carried out in the
past or with regards to high priority interventions.
A specific team of “experts” has been selected among citizens and assigned to each area of work.
Stakeholders (Associations, Authorities, Organizations, Firms etc.), who have experience in the
field in question are invited to take part.
The proposal of sustainability objectives and targets and their order of priority is determined jointly,
using the typical procedures employed in participatory processes, whilst helping to form an overall
vision of a sustainable city model.
The active involvement of stakeholders also takes place through telematic forums by using the
Partecipa.net tool, which has been developed regionally.
3.3 - Communicating and negotiating with citizens through the various Districts
The sustainability objectives and target proposals for the Council of Bologna, which emerged from
the "specialised" workshops together with the sustainability analysis outcomes, are presented and
submitted for negotiation through the organization of a public meeting in each of the 9 Districts.
Each meeting is preceded by a preparation process consisting of direct talks with active members
of the region (e.g. Associations, Authorities, Committees and individual citizens). The aim of
District workshops is to collect project proposals able to implement each objective of high priority.
Workshops also take advantage of initiative proposals collected during the Council Strategic Plan
listening process and then introduced as standards in the plan itself (Conditions section).
The final Document, which is produced at the end of this stage and relates to sustainability
objectives and to operations of high priority identified in the participatory process, is submitted to
the Municipal Council for discussion and approval.
3.4 - International validation of the process
The validation/assessment process carried out by ICLEI (Local Governments for Sustainability) ,
includes the assessment performed using the "Peer review" method, consisting of targeted visits
by two other European cities which are similar in size and socio-demographic characteristics to
Bologna. The objective of the peer review analysis is that to inform, accelerate and approve the
implementation of the Aalborg Commitments. Moreover, it aims for the reciprocal evaluation of
each context, the identification of strengths and weaknesses, the definition of challenges and
priorities to improve the system and the specification of the Aalborg Commitments from a local
point of view. This procedure offers the opportunity to exchange experiences and skills and allows
local authorities to negotiate and learn from each other
3.5 - Start-up of a workshop for sustainability initiatives
Based on results obtained during previous operations, workshops are organised to promote and
implement sustainability initiatives to be carried out in partnerships between institutional actors and
the world of associations and companies.
3.6 - Implementation of sustainability initiatives
Previously approved sustainability initiatives are carried out. The execution is subject to monitoring
and audits and results obtained are reported in the Council's Environmental Balance.
Sustainability Analysis Issue/ Commitment No.
The BASELINE REVIEW Teams of experts on Issue/ Commitment No.
Stakeholders experienced Issue/ Commitment No.
in each area considered
Issue/ Commitment No.
1 2 3 4
Public meetings for
the 9 Districts
5 6 7 8
Presentation of the Aalborg
Commitments and of the
baseline review Integrated and collaborative plan towards urban
Web support and
Telematic forums Workshops for sustainability Implementation of sustainability
Adhering to the Aalborg Commitments is an opportunity for cities to review and strengthen their
sustainability policies, ensuring continuity and consistency with the many operations needed in the
environmental area, it is not only local authorities who are required to implement them.
Consistency with the local dimension, the participation and contribution of different actors
summarize Bologna's experience.
The Council of Bologna does not have an environmental management system in place, except for
the environmental balance mentioned above. The environmental balance is also employed as a
tool for monitoring the implementation of the Aalborg commitments, involving the Municipal Council
in the execution of the strategic plan.
1The Aalborg Commitments
2 Participatory processes in the Council of Bologna
3 Enviplan Project Guidelines
4 Managing Urban Europe 25 project Documentation
5 Environmental balance and social budget of the Council of Bologna
 Strategic Plan of the Council of Bologna - Description