The local government develops a program to assess environmental performance and analyze information resulting from those evaluations to identify areas in which performance is or is likely to become substandard.
Measurement of performance is necessary to understand how well the local government is meeting its stated goals. Businesses often measure their performance by such indicators as net profit, sales volume, or production. Two approaches to performance measurement are discussed below.
Gather and Analyze Data
The local government institutes a systematic program to periodically obtain information on environmental operations and evaluate environmental performance against legal requirements and stated objectives, and develops procedures to process the resulting information.
Urban managers should be expected to provide much of the necessary information on performance through routine activity reports that include environmental issues. Performance of local governments and individuals in comparison to accepted standards can also be accomplished through periodic environmental audits or other assessment activities.
The operation of a fully-functioning system of regular evaluation of environmental performance along with standard procedures to analyze and use information gathered during evaluations signal a local government's conformance with this principle.
The local government institutes a formal program to compare its environmental operations with other local governments and management standards, where appropriate.
"Benchmarking" is a term often used for the comparison of one local government against others, particularly those that are considered to be operating at the highest level. The purpose of Benchmarking is twofold: first, the local government is able to see how it compares with those whose performance it wishes to emulate; second, it allows the local government to benefit from the experience of the peak-performers, whether it be in process or managerial practices.
Benchmarking against established management standards, such as the ISO 14000 series, may be useful for those organizations with more mature environmental programs, particularly if the organizations' activities are such that their counterparts in the private sector would be difficult to find. However, it should be understood that the greater benefit is likely to result from direct comparison to a local government that is a recognized environmental leader in its field.
The local government implements an approach toward continuous environmental improvement that includes preventive and corrective actions as well as searching out new opportunities for programmatic improvements.
Continuous improvement is approached through the use of performance measurement to determine which local governmental aspects need to have more attention or resources focused upon them.
Continuous improvement may be demonstrated through the implementation of lessons learned and employee involvement programs that provide the opportunity to learn from past performance and incorporate constructive suggestions. In addition, the local government actively seeks comparison with and guidance from other local governments considered to be performing at the highest level.