City Sustainability Reporting: An Emerging and Desirable Legal Necessity

22 Pages Posted: 5 Jun 2016 Last revised: 7 Jun 2016

Date Written: June 3, 2016


The goal of this article is to explain why, correctly understood, publishing environmental, societal, governance, and economic indicators – a practice known as sustainability reporting, among other names – is both good public policy and may quietly be evolving into an expectation of municipalities in the United States in the early 21st century.

First, this article begins by summarizing the growth of sustainability reporting – now standard practice in the private sector but at an earlier stage of adoption in the public sector. This article then considers two major developments. First, that the exemption that shielded municipalities from the requirements of U.S. securities laws has eroded and second, that sustainability data, as reflected by investor demand, is now a material disclosure that all securities issuers should make. Considered together, these two trends clearly indicate that cities which finance themselves by issuing securities should, as a matter of law, publish regular sustainability reports. Finally, the author concludes that the trend of sustainability reporting by cities should be embraced as a pragmatic development that ought to be supported by all stakeholders with an interest in good governance.

Keywords: Sustainability reporting, sustainability, cities, urban centers, securities laws, disclosure, municipal bonds, municipal securities, sustainable development, disclosure, soft law, materiality

JEL Classification: K22, K32, R00

Suggested Citation

Sulkowski, Adam J., City Sustainability Reporting: An Emerging and Desirable Legal Necessity (June 3, 2016). Available at SSRN: or

Adam J. Sulkowski (Contact Author)

Babson College ( email )

231 Forest St.
Babson Park, MA 02457-0310
United States


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