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Structure of a Voluntary Local Review

Voluntary Local Review
The City of Malmö conducted its first Voluntary Local Review in 2021. The review focuses on how the city’s steering and management system connects to the SDGs. The review comprises an evaluation and analysis of a selection of the city’s steering documents, as well as an analysis of how the principle of Leave No One Behind is incorporated through development programs for the city. In addition to evaluating the city’s progress through steering documents, a survey was disseminated to the city administration and Malmö owned corporations. The city organization arranged several workshops to discuss the results.

The review had three purposes: the first one was to identify how the city’s strategy relates to the SDGs; the second one concerned how the principle of Leave No One Behind was made visible in the city’s work for equal rights and opportunities; and the third one was to report on the progress towards the SDGs on the local level. The goal was to identify how the existing city strategies, programmes, goals and other processes steer towards the SDGs. In accordance with recommendations in guidelines, the City of Malmö analyzed the same nine goals that were highlighted at the 2021 High Level Political Forum. These goals were also especially suitable for Malmö’s local context: a majority of them concerned the social dimension of sustainability, and based on earlier evaluations of the city’s sustainable development, Malmö has identified social sustainability as an especially pressing challenge for the city.

The analysis of how the City of Malmö is working with the SDGs is based on nationally identified indicators. It has also been complemented with data taken from city departments as well as regional and national authorities.

The Voluntary Local Review is voluntary in every sense of the word: it is voluntary in its implementation as well as its content and structure. The fact that the target groups for the VLR were city officials and of Malmö owned companies had an effect on the structure and content of the review. Since they focused on the internal steering and reported on how it connected to the SDGs, the target groups for participation in the process of developing the VLR, as well as who it was designed for, were employees within the city organization. The reason why the report targeted the city officials was because Malmö had experienced that their SDG work had lost some of its power – and they therefore identified the VLR as a tool to fuel their sustainability work. It gave them the opportunity to reflect over earlier efforts and their effectiveness, as well as develop a common guidance on how they would continue working with the SDGs.

Malmö demonstrates the importance of constructing a VLR that is suited to the city’s own context. The goals that are analyzed are within an area that the city experiences especially challenging, which is also why there is a need to examine what has been effective and not in order to identify how to proceed. Therefore, the VLR does not have to include all 17 SDGs and the sub-objectives in order to be successful. Rather, a successful VLR is one that supports the city in its continued work with the SDGs – which Malmö identified in their own VLR process.

Further reading:

Voluntary Local Review – City of Malmö 2021 – A review of the city’s steering towards the Sustainable Development Goals


Photo: Pontus Ohlsson/Unsplash

Hållbar utveckling 2022 Initiative

Hållbar Utveckling is a platform offering education and knowledge exchange about sustainable development, particularly targeting SMEs, larger companies, and public institutions. It was founded in 2012 by CEO Helena Lindemark.

One notable initiative from Hållbar Utveckling is the 2022 InitiativeTM in which they invite organisations to participate in a planned 2022 manifestation of the 50-year anniversary of the first UN conference for sustainability, held in Stockholm in 1972. The 2022 Initiative aims to promote further matchmaking between users and problem-solving actors and networking between actors working for achieving the Agenda 2030 SDGs.

Further reading

Hållbar Utveckling

Redistribution of food for social purposes

The CAUTO Network is an organisation that brings together a consortium of 5 different social cooperatives from the city of Brescia, Italy. Founded in the early 1990s, the network cooperates together with local businesses and implements a number of projects focused on empowering socially marginalized and vulnerable groups. The food pantry, a large-scale food redistribution scheme from retailers to charities, is one of the most successful activities of the CAUTO network.

In the EU, around 88 million tonnes of food waste are generated annually with associated costs estimated to 143 billion euros. Wasting food is not only an ethical and economic issue but it also depletes the environment of its limited natural resources. By reducing food loss and waste we do not only come one step closer to achieve the SDGs, but it also contributes to the fight against climate change since food waste alone generates about 8 percent of Global Greenhouse Gas Emissions. On top of that, it also saves nutritious food for redistribution to those in need, helps eradicate hunger and malnutrition; in the EU alone, 43 million people cannot afford a quality meal every second day. The economic benefits of reducing waste are evident as it saves money for farmers, companies and households.61 Challenges of the CAUTO project include difficulties in establishing a constant flow of food donations since the amount of waste differs. Moreover, collaborating with retailers has been a challenge as their priorities vary. At the moment, only 5 percent of discarded food is recovered.

Good practices and solutions

In 1993, CAUTO started to procure food for social purposes from wholesale fruit and vegetable markets in the city of Brescia. Since then the activities have increased exponentially and the CAUTO network is today partnering with a local network of food companies, canteens, hypermarkets and supermarkets who donate unsold goods, no longer tradable but still edible and safe. The selected food is donated to a network of about 200 local charities. The beneficiaries are thousands of people in need. The food unsuitable for people is donated to local farmers and used for animal nutrition. For retailers, the redistribution scheme is a great way of reducing disposal costs for mixed and organic waste.

Outcomes & opportunities

CAUTO successfully extend the life cycle of food by reducing waste, repurposing it and making it into food donations or animal fodder. It is economically beneficial for the supermarkets who enjoy a decrease in disposal costs and for the charities who depend on food donations. Annually CAUTO redistributes 3 000 tons of food waste.

Related SDG practices
  • 2.1 By 2030, end hunger and ensure access by all people, in particular the poor and people in vulnerable situations, including infants, to safe, nutritious and sufficient food all year round.
  • 10.3 Ensure equal opportunity and reduce inequalities of outcome, including by eliminating discriminatory laws, policies and practices and promoting appropriate legislation, policies and action in this regard.
  • 12.3 By 2030, halve per capita global food waste at the retail and consumer levels and reduce food losses along production and supply chains, including post-harvest losses.


Photo: © Aneta Pawlik/Unsplash

Rosendals Trädgård

The project has transformed and cultivated 2000kvm of land, at the organic café Rosendals Trädgård. This is an attempt to change the narrative of sustainable food production and to develop a sustainable food box out of the cultivation testbed.



A just, global food production regime allows for each human being to cultivate 2,000 square metres of land. Currently, however, the distribution of land is asymmetrical and is focussed on maximising output while minimising cultivation spaces, contributing to nutrition shortage and “welfare diseases” as well as to eutrophication in the Baltic Sea, for example. Moreover, the debate around farming in Sweden is polarised between conventional versus ecological farming. There is a need to change the narrative from one positioning humans as victims and/or perpetrators to having a transformative role. 2000 kvm (English: “2000 sq. m.”) explores the overlooked concept and narrative of regenerative farming within the just space of 2000 sq. m. in an open environment located at the organic café Rosendals Trädgård. Thus, Rosendals Trädgård attempts to create means for developing both innovative business models and healthy sustainable meals for tomorrow’s cities, while re- writing the narrative of sustainable food production and visualising transformative scenarios. The concrete purpose of the project is to develop a sustainable food box out of the cultivation testbed.

Good Practices & Solutions

The team of 2000 kvm are conscious of the challenges emanating from initiating such a project. The design process in itself is rigidly structured. The project does not employ pre- designed methodologies but instead utilises three overarching structures to design and facilitate the co-creative process. First, the project’s theoretical starting point is to work with Systems Change in Open Networks, taught within GAIT (Guild of Agents for International Transformation). Many of the involved individuals share experience from GAIT, thus facilitating a common understanding.

Second, achieving a common basic view is prioritised. In order to have a functioning team, utilising official team contracts based on established joint principles is key to achieve an inclusive culture for diverse experiences and epistemologies, as one generally tends to work with like-minded individuals if principles are not outspoken.

Third, a non-coercive principle is emphasised because it is considered necessary for change processes to be voluntary and interactive. People need to be integrated and involved into the change process.

Starting from these overarching structures, methods are designed according to each structure and operation in a flexible way. The same goes for the people involved; depending on which actors are required in a certain phase, the translation of knowledge – and, consequently, the level of ambition – needs to be continuously adjusted.

The concept “Take care of your square” – with regards to global justice and planetary limits – was coined as guidance for everyone involved in testing the 2000 square metre testbed.

Outcome & Opportunities

As the 2000 sq. m. food box is realised, the expectation is that it will eventually expand into a commonly embraced concept, complementary to currently acknowledged sustainable diet options. Another expectation is that this will contribute to regenerative farming becoming an alternative to the aforementioned dichotomisation in the current discourse around sustainable farming.

Lessons learned & Recommendations

Goals of co-creation processes are not likely to be met if calculations do not include time and resources being set aside for developing the co-creative process as an acknowledged practice. Co-creation is dependent on stakeholders “owning the change process not being required to translate their thinking to the concepts of researchers”, while the researcher needs to respect the narrative of these stakeholders to be met in the co-creation process. Thus, funders need to put higher demands on these aspects; otherwise, researchers or other project coordinators might end up ruining the transformative process.

Other more general challenges for co-creation for sustainable development are the lack of concepts and vocabulary, but equally so the lack of co-creation as a practical craft. Knowledge of these aspects is usually non-existent, even though many prefer and encourage working across sectors and diverse stakeholder groups. The reason for this is that there are no professional requirements for initiating co-creation; it is open for everyone.

The creative sector – art, design, and other cultural crafts – is a valuable asset to foster co-creation. However, using artists and scientists together might be deemed unprofessional and even “fudged”, and this is a risk that might prevent some actors from enabling full co- creation.

Nature must be present in co-creation processes such as 2000 kvm, either through research, a certain space, or a craft because the work being done refers to a constellation involving both humans and nature.

Using and targeting public procurement as a means of enhancing and scaling results is a proven asset, at least within sustainable food innovation.

Related SDG targets
  • 2.4 By 2030, ensure sustainable food production systems and implement resilient agricultural practices that increase productivity and production, that help maintain ecosystems, that strengthen capacity for adaptation to climate change, extreme weather, drought, flooding and other disasters and that progressively improve land and soil quality
  • 2.4.1 Proportion of agricultural area under productive and sustainable agriculture
  • 3.9 By 2030, substantially reduce the number of deaths and illnesses from hazardous chemicals and air, water and soil pollution and contamination
  • 11.A Support positive economic, social and environmental links between urban, peri-urban and rural areas by strengthening national and regional development planning
  • 11.B By 2020, substantially increase the number of cities and human settlements adopting and implementing integrated policies and plans towards inclusion, resource efficiency, mitigation and adaptation to climate change, resilience to disasters, and develop and implement, in line with the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction 2015-2030, holistic disaster risk management at all levels
  • 12.2 By 2030, achieve the sustainable management and efficient use of natural resource
  • 12.7 Promote public procurement practices that are sustainable, in accordance with national policies and priorities
  • 12.8 By 2030, ensure that people everywhere have the relevant information and awareness for sustainable development and lifestyles in harmony with nature
  • 15.9 By 2020, integrate ecosystem and biodiversity values into national and local planning, development processes, poverty reduction strategies and accounts
Further reading

Experiment 2000 kvm