It’s been a year since the last SWFL Sustainability Summit and the announcement of the transfer of Lee County’s completeLee: A sustainability plan to the Southwest Florida Community Foundation. Since then, the Foundation, alongside the community partners who contributed thousands of hours, expertise, and leadership to the development of the plan, has laid the groundwork for bringing the plan back to life and creating a path forward to make it the basis for a more sustainable Southwest Florida.

Our mission at the Southwest Florida Community Foundation is to Cultivate Regional Change for Common Good, and that is really what sustainability is all about. We want to ensure people will always choose to live, work, and play here. That means all of us working together to make positive changes that promote the social, economic, and environmental health of Southwest Florida in perpetuity. To do so, we have to collaborate, innovate, be efficient, measure progress, and adapt. That is what the sustainability plan is poised to do for Lee County and the region.

So what has happened in a year? We went on a listening tour to understand what people think about sustainability (there seems to be growing consensus that a focus on sustainability is critical to the future success of the region), established ourselves with STAR (Sustainability Tools for Assessing & Rating) Communities, got the sustainability plan champions back together, established a steering committee of passionate experts, and figured out where there’s been progress since the plan was presented in 2013.

This work positions us to publish the first report card for the Lee County Sustainability Plan on behalf of the community. Doing so gets the community back on track after the nearly 2-year pause before the transfer of the plan to the Foundation and ensures the plan can be used by partners to collaborate and enhance resources for change. Look for the report card on our website this summer.

Next, we’ll be working on transitioning the plan to a dashboard that can be used by the region. We’re excited to complete this groundwork so we can begin to focus on expanding the plan to others throughout the region. In the meantime, as new partners and sustainability champions express interest in incorporating their goals into the plan, we’ll welcome them with open arms.

Sustainability is not a project for us. It is not something that even one person or department manages. We’ve taken the time to ensure it is a core value and driving everything we do from growing our assets and grants to taking on regional initiatives. Sustainability is truly at the heart of what we do at the Southwest Florida Community Foundation.