Local sustainability in Nantes (France) and Reykjavík (Iceland)


ICLEI-Local Governments for Sustainability

1 - Nantes: A sustainable city wins the 2013 European Green Capital Award

Nantes was awarded the European Green Capital for 2013. The award provides the city of Nantes with the opportunity to market the city’s achievements, enhance its reputation, and send a strong signal to its citizens. At the same time it incentivizes cities to improve their sustainability policies and better quality of living for citizens. The award recognizes Nantes’long history in sustainable urban development initiatives in particular those relating tobiodiversity, climate change, transport and water.

City profile

Case Study # 145 Nantes

Population: 579,000Ii

City size: 523km2

Membership:Nantes joined ICLEI in 2008.

Appr. municipal budget per capita: US$ 2,200

GDP per capita: (85 billion e GDP/579,000 is not accurate)

1.1 - Competing for urban sustainability: An urban role model

Europe is an urban society with many environmental challenges. The European Green Capital Award aims to provide an incentive for cities to share best practices and pursue sustainable urban development initiatives. Nantes, France was awarded the European Green Capital for 2013. It is recognition of the consistent, comprehensive and long term sustainable strategy of Nantes. The award has provided Nantes with the unique opportunity to have its achievements and commitments, dating back over 2 decades, recognized at European level. The award is a powerful signal to the city’s citizens, whose involvement and awareness made many successes possible. The winning city takes on a role model character for other cities to emulate.

1.2 - Recognition of a city’s long-term action

At the beginning of 2010 Nantes took the decision, following political endorsement, to participate in the European Green Capital award competition. A fulltime staff member prepared the application, while all departments from Nantes and Nantes Métropole were instructed to be part of the project and provide the required support. The application was divided into three stages:

Following the three successful stages mentioned the jury concluded and highlighted particularly Nantes’s environmental achievements in four fields: biodiversity, water, transport and climate change. Key factors for success were Nantes’ ability to show in figures and performance indicators consistent, comprehensive and long-term action and results.

For more than 2 decades Nantes’ actions have had a high budgetary weight, for example the grant for public transportation is 85 million Euros (US$ 113 million) annually, the consolidated cost of the ‘Neptune’ plans (Water & Waste Management Plans to improve fresh water quality and to reduce water pollution) is 260 million Euros (US$ 347 million). It is difficult to separate these costs and fully assess the benefits each has had. What is important, however, is that the consistency and the integration of all actions have allowed Nantes to move coherently towards sustainable urban development. The budget is thought as an investment into the quality of living, while the return of the investment is reflected in a 10 per cent population growth during the same period and the fact that many firms are choosing to locate in Nantes. Their choice is based upon what the city can offer in terms of environmental quality, livability, and cultural dynamism.

1.3 - Harvesting the success of a long-term comprehensive vision

A global strategy was designed to turn Nantes from a former industrial and port city of the 1980s into an eco-metropolis with improved quality of life, social cohesion, cultural renewal and commitment to addressing key challenges like urban sprawl, GHG emissions, and preservation of the natural environment. The strategy built upon public action in urban services, tools for sustainable development, like the Local Action 21 principles, inter-municipal management and realizing the opportunities these offered for comprehensive action to achieve sustainable urban development.

The governance model for implementation was built upon the support and the participation of local stakeholders, most notably through the Development Council, which is composed of representatives from civil society. This council provides advice through reporting and recommendations. A network of environmental NGOs, financially supported by Nantes Métropole, was also established. Sustainable management principles in form of Local Agenda 21 were adopted in 1997, as one of the earliest Agenda 21 operations in France. It was used as a basis for the newer metropolitan Agenda 21 adopted in 2006. The second generation of Agenda 21 involves more than 100 actions, including the better integration of global public policy. Nantes for example is showcasing through international participation and city networks the importance of local level action in both responding and acting on climate change at the United Nations climate negotiations. Actions on the ground include:

Climate change action: The 2006 Agenda 21, compiled in association with local players, highlights climate change as a priority. A Climate Action Plan was approved by the council in 2007. Quantitative objectives are based on a CO2 inventory from 1990 and 2003 for the 4 main energy consuming sectors: transport, residences, services and industry, within which mitigation measures are undertaken.

Transport: A shift in public transportation started in the 1980s with the refusal of a ‘city designed for cars’ and the re-introduction of the tramway as mass transport system. Nantes was the first French city to do so and the idea spread to other cities. Nantes meanwhile offers a complete range of mobility options for its inhabitants, workers and visitors including rental bikes, car-sharing, high service buses etc. Through its transport investment policy, Nantes has shown commitment to improving the quality of the mobility options and urban transport. This created a sustainable transport system that is easy and efficient, and redirects the reliance away from motor cars.

Waste: A strong commitment existed to develop a waste-district heating system and coexistence of public and private management of the waste collection process.

Water: From drinking water to waste water management, a combination of four comprehensive plans called Neptune have been implemented since 1990 to improve the fresh water quality of rivers and to reduce the waste pollution into waters.

Biodiversity: The objective is to make the metropolitan area of Nantes a refuge city for biodiversity, to protect nature and its various components, for example by reducing waste and tackling urban sprawl.

1.4 - Factors for success

Consensus among citizens is needed for strategies and long term action. Projects and policies need to be shared with citizens.

Political consistency and a commitment to long term initiatives, throughout successive political terms or change of government are extremely important. This was essential to ensure that Nantes could compete the European Green Capital award process by showcasing its long history of achievements in sustainability.

Mainstream indicators can be a challenge but are important to measure performance, report upon progress and raise citizen awareness.

Awarding role models and setting goals for others to follow is crucial aspect of European Green Capital award. It Nantes’ case it provided an incentive for the city to showcase their achievements in urban sustainability and to share best practices as well providing recognition to the city and that of its citizens.

2 - Reykjavík: Green cleaning and sustainable procurement

The Green Cleaning Program in Reykjavik is an outstanding example of sustainable procurement. It ensures that public cleaning contracts are fulfilled in a way which minimizes negative impacts on the environment and human health. Environmental criteria are added as a requirement in the procurement process for cleaning contracts. The results have been impressive: the cleaning costs were cut in half and the program has also incentivized the market to provide cleaning service providers who use green cleaning techniques.

City profile

Case Study # 146 Reykjavik

Population: 120,000

City Size: 275km2

Membership: Reykjavik joined ICLEI in 2002.

Appr. municipal budget per capita: US$ 4,025

GDP per capita: (ICELAND US$ 39,500)

2.1 - Green public procurement

The Green Cleaning Program in the City of Reykjavik has been a driving force in Iceland showing the various merits of sustainable procurement. Today’s challenges are not just resource exploitation to produce products and chemicals, but also the limited capacity of the environment to absorb wastes. Chemical use is commonplace as cleaning products are used to clean homes, offices, etc. These can affect human health and the natural environment. Harmful concentration of chemicals can easily be avoided through sustainable procurement criteria. While environmental awareness has been high, the market response for such green cleaning products and services was lagging. Reykjavik’s Green Cleaning Program has sent a powerful signal to the market, leading to wider positive change.

2.2 - Reykjavík: An increase in green cleaning services

The Green Cleaning Program aims to obtain environmentally sound cleaning services in the city’s operations through the procurement process. One of the goals is that all cleaning service providers have a certified ISO 14001 management system, are Nordic Swan eco-labeled or fulfill comparable criteria. This new criteria in the procurement process was first introduced in 2009 for the new city office building (10,218m² floor area) and then to 63 kindergartens in Reykjavik(30,353m²), where eco-labeled cleaning providers won the tendering contract.

Reykjavik increased the proportion of green cleaning services purchased by the city from almost zero in 2009 to 74 per cent in 2011, with 95 per cent of the chemicals being eco-labeled. This has resulted in a significant decrease in negative effects on the environment. For example a 65 per cent decrease in chemical consumption for the new office building and 33 per cent from the kindergartens have been estimated. The financial gains have been equally impressive; cleaning costs have been reduced by 50 per cent through the two tenders mentioned, totaling an annual saving of US$770,000. There has also been a significant decrease in plastic bag use in the city’s office building, resulting in savings of around US$1,300 per annum. Hereby the quality of service improved, while the number of cleanliness complaints decreased.

The most significant achievement of the Green Cleaning Program has been the incentive for the market to supply greener cleaning services. This successful pilot project began a wider green cleaning movement in Reykjavik and Iceland as a whole. It incentivized cleaning service providers to use environmentally friendly methods and products. The program facilitated a boom in the applications for the Nordic Swan cleaning services eco-label, resulting in a market share increase from 10 per cent to 50 per cent and an increase in the number of Nordic Swan licensed service providers.

2.3 - High quality and environmentally friendly cleaning in Reykjavík

The city’s Procurement Office, with support from the Environmental Department, developed the Green Cleaning Program in 2009, and is responsible for its implementation. The program is underscored by the city’s stated environmental commitments, including the 2009 ‘Environmental Action Plan’, which emphasized the role of the city’s departments, and setting good examples in terms of environmental protection in procurement processes. It is also in line with Iceland’s National Action Plan on green procurement and international strategies such as the Europe 2020 strategy.

When the main city departments were relocated to a new building a unique opportunity arose to green the city’s operations. Prior to the programs implementation a market research analysis was undertaken. It discovered that only one eco-labeled cleaning service was available on the market in Iceland. The Procurement Office’s implementation team stated a clear commitment that one of the goals within the program shall be that all cleaning service providers will have to be certified under ISO 14001 or are Nordic Swan eco-labeled, or fulfill comparable criteria.

To achieve this goal gradually two important pilot projects were undertaken. In March 2009, the cleaning contract for the new city office building became the first procurement process conducted under the auspices of the Green Cleaning Program. In September 2009, there was a tender process established for the cleaning contracts of 63 kindergartens in the city. A similar process was undertaken for the procurement exercise conducted for the new city office building. Both processes involved:

Following the tendering process a cleaning service provider with a Nordic Swan eco-label license won both contracts. This proved to be a major breakthrough, as it transformed the nature of cleaning procurement in Iceland, in terms of quality, environmental protection and financial gain. This successful pilot project encouraged the wider program on green cleaning in Reykjavik, and incentivized other cleaning service providers to offer green cleaning services.

2.4 - Factors for success

A step by step approach proved successful. Beginning with two pilot projects, it triggered a widespread response to the Green Cleaning Program, which resonated locally and nationally.

Eco-label criteria were fundamental to the program. It acted as a catalyst for not only improving the environmental quality of cleaning, but it also increased the market share for green cleaning products and services.

Local Agenda 21 and national cooperation;active engagement to involve relevant stakeholders was undertaken. This was vital to the program gaining public and private support and for developing criteria.

International support through events on sustainable procurement, such as the Procura+ campaign and the ‘EcoProcura’ conferences (Barcelona 2006 and Reykjavík 2009), provided an excellent institutional framework for knowledge sharing and capacity building.

Availability of alternatives, in terms of eco-friendly products, was essential to ensure that the program was viable and allowed for sustainable procurement principles to be integrated into the tendering process.

A needs analysis is a viable methodology for highlighting areas of improvement. It was pivotal in pinpointing negative environmental impacts and options for reduced cleaning times.

Local Sustainability 2012 Case study series: Showcasing progress in local sustainability

Published by :

In Partnership with :

  • Charles Léopold Mayer Foundation for the Progress of Humankind

  • United Nations Human Settlements Program UN-HABITAT

Study and editing team :

  • Richard Simpson, Shay Kelleher, Monika Zimmermann, Rüdiger von Krosigk, Steven Bland (ICLEI World Secretariat, Bonn, Germany)


This case study series is part of the Local Sustainability 2012 study that consists of this publication and a global overview report (ICLEI 2012, Local Sustainability 2012: Taking stock and moving forward, Global Report).

To download both parts, visit local2012.iclei.org

ICLEI Case Studies 138-151 summarized in this Global Report are available in full length at www.iclei.org/casestudies.

ICLEI Global Reports are research and analytical reports produced by ICLEI - Local Governments for Sustainability. By featuring different themes and characters the ICLEI Global Report series contributes to international discussions and policy developments.

ICLEI Global Reports are available at www.iclei.org/globalreports or in print for a cover fee.

To go further

The cases are presented in alphabetical order by world region and country, but are not representative for that region. Rather the presented cases are a cross-collection of sustainability themes across the world from cities that can be considered pioneering and especially advanced within their regional culture. Also the selection attempted to feature ìnot the usual suspectsî. They illustrate the diversity of approaches to highlight global progress in local sustainability in cities and by local governments. Each presented case showcases progress towards urban sustainability. Firstly by providing an overview of the locally identified challenge and response. Secondly, highlighting significant achievements and results. Thirdly, detailing the process and actors involved in the preparation and implementation, and finally, key factors for the cityís success.

To dowload the complete study : local2012.iclei.org/local-sustainability-study/