An open participatory conceptual framework to support State of the Environment and Sustainability Reports

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It is fundamental to monitor, evaluate and report the state of the environment at global and local levels, to better implement sustainable development principles and practices. The State of the Environment and Sustainability Reports should be written in an understandable and accessible way for stakeholders and also be developed from the beginning with its involvement and participation. Despite several initiatives that refer public engagement in State of the Environment and Sustainability Reports, from the national to the corporate levels, usually the participatory approaches are restricted to consultations of key actors. They do not explore the role that could be played by stakeholders as part of the report staff, from designing to production and reviewing. The aim of this research is to develop a conceptual framework to support open participatory, interactive and adaptive State of the Environment and Sustainability Reports, where the stakeholders' involvement (non-experts and experts) will effectively contribute to the design, data gathering and evaluations produced in the reports. The proposed open participatory approach will support the design and implementation of a collaborative report. The stakeholders' assessment of the State of the Environment and Sustainability Reports can also be used as an indirect way for formal results evaluation, allowing for cross-validation. The paper analyses and explores two practices of regular and formal State of the Environment reports: the “European Environment – State and Outlook (transnational scale) and the “Portuguese State of the Environment Report” (national scale). In both reporting initiatives, the participatory approaches in the design and production of the reports are weak or inexistent and many times merely formal. A set of steps and procedures, embedded in a formal framework, is proposed for adoption in the both initiatives. The proposed framework should be implemented through gradually and prioritised steps to mitigate practical difficulties, due to the complexity of institutional reporting processes. The open participatory State of the Environment and Sustainability Report will represent a joint commitment among stakeholders for active reporting development with new information and knowledge. Rethinking traditional reporting and related participatory approaches can move the State of the Environment and Sustainability Reports to a new stage of evolution: a continuous updating of information. In this process, data and information will come from formal and informal sources and, stakeholders can scrutinize each other's participation and increase the overall content and quality of the collaborative disclosures.