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First Phase - June 1993 to March 1996
Second Phase: May 1996 through January 1997
Third Phase: 1997 through June 1999

First Phase: June 1993 through March 1996
During the first phase of council's work, from June 1993 through March 1996, the President charged the council to: 

  • draft recommendations on a national action strategy on sustainable development;
  • create and implement an awards programs honoring achievements toward sustainable development; and
  • conduct outreach to educate the American public on the importance of sustainable development.
To draft the national action strategy, the PCSD formed eight task forces, created opportunities for public input into their draft documents, and held meetings throughout the country. Seven policy task forces involved 500 additional participants, and held more than 50 public meetings and hundreds of informal meetings around the country over a 24-month period. The task forces focused on the following topic areas: The Council also established an eighth task force to draft overarching Principles and Goals on sustainable development. Each of the task forces involved outside participants as well as council members and their liaisons. Drafts of the evolving principles, goals, and policy recommendations were publicly circulated for comment.

In addition to meetings held in Washington, DC, the Council met in four cities throughout the country: Seattle, Washington; Chicago, Illinois; Chattanooga, Tennessee; and San Francisco, California. Each of these meetings drew between 200 and 500 persons, and more than 5000 persons have followed the council's work through its newsletters, announcements, and public comment surveys.

In March, 1996, the Council released to the public and transmitted to the President its first report, Sustainable America: A New Concensus for Prosperity, Opportunity, and A Healthy Environment for the Future. The 186-page report represents a remarkable consensus of all members of the council. Two and a half years of inquiry, observation and discussion produced unanimous agreement on:

  • A vision statement and fundamental beliefs on sustainable development;
  • Recommended changes in business, community institutions, individuals, and all levels of government that must occur to achieve sustainable development;
  • Ten goals and indicators of sustainable development; and
  • Scores of wide-ranging recommendations and actions to implement them.
Taken as a whole, this report attempts to define sustainable development and recommends how to move the nation toward achieving it.

Second Phase: May 1996 through January 1997
Upon receiving the council's report, Sustainable America, on March 7, 1996, the President thanked the council for their efforts that culminated in the report's completion, asked them to continue their work to promote sustainable development domestically, and to report on progress made through December, 1996. (See page 15 for the President's formal announcement on March 7, 1996.) He specifically asked the council to:
  • spend the rest of 1996 working on first steps to implement recommendations in the report;
  • support the creation of the Joint Center for Sustainable Communities, a project of the National Association of Counties and the U.S. Conference of Mayors; and
  • work with Vice President Al Gore who will lead efforts within the Administration to support sustainable development.
To work on implementing recommendations in the report, the council created three task forces:
    Innovative Local, State, and Regional Approaches Task Force (with working groups on: Joint Center for Sustainable Communities, Metropolitan Approaches, and Pacific Northwest Regional Council on Sustainable Development);

    New National Opportunities Task Force (with working groups on: Eco-Industrial Parks, Extended Product Responsibility, and Lessons Learned from Collaborative Approaches); and an

    International Leadership Task Force.

Vice President Al Gore created an Interagency Sustainable Development Working Group formerly co-chaired by Katie McGinty, Chair of the Council on Environmental Quality; and Laura D'Andrea Tyson to begin coordination with federal agencies to promote and support sustainable development. All agencies currently members of the Community Empowerment Board participate. In addition, many federal agency staff participate in one of three federal working groups on: Education for Sustainability, Materials and Energy Flows, and Sustainable Development Indicators.

In January 1997, the council issued its second report, Building on Consensus: A Progress Report on Sustainable America and transmitted it to the President.

Third Phase: 1997 through June 1999
On April 25, 1997, a revised charter was signed extending the council for two more years, through June 1999. President Clinton asked the council to continue to forge consensus on policy; demonstrate implementation of policy; conduct outreach and constituency building; and evaluate and report on progress.

In the policy arena, the council advised the President on:

The revised charter also directed the council to ensure that social equity issues are fully integrated into all of its efforts, and to develop appropriate linkages with the ongoing federal working groups on "Education for Sustainability," "Sustainable Development Indicators," and "Materials and Energy Flows."

The council met on April 29, 1997 to establish a new organizational structure and discuss options for how they will balance their activities and develop a workplan to carry out the next phase of work. They established four task forces, one for each of the policy areas prioritized by the Administration. They are the Climate Task Force, Environmental Management Task Force, International Task Force, and Metropolitan and Rural Strategies Task Force.