Chicago's Cumulative Impact Assessment

As directed by the Executive Order issued in May 2023 and the City's ongoing commitment to environmental justice (EJ) and accountability, the City has released its first version of the Chicago EJ Action Plan Report on December 22, 2023. 

Download the Chicago EJ Action Plan Report


In our daily lives, people can be exposed to pollution through the air, water, and land. These exposures add up over time, together with health conditions and social factors that can affect individuals and communities in both positive and negative ways. This is referred to as cumulative impacts. Unfortunately, certain communities experience unequal exposure to multiple environmental, health, and social stressors and their cumulative impact is then greater.

In September 2023, community and City of Chicago leaders released the findings and recommendations from a 15-month process to develop Chicago’s first Cumulative Impact Assessment (the “Assessment”), a citywide project to provide data on how environmental burdens and other stressors vary in impact across the City. This Assessment, co-led and co-designed with people and organizations who live with these issues every day, identifies neighborhoods that experience the greatest cumulative impacts. It also reinforces and supports the requirements of the City’s voluntary compliance agreement with the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development announced last May. Recognizing that environmental protection and public health require a whole-of-government approach, the Assessment also provides strategies and actionable policy recommendations to guide decision-making on issues such as land use/zoning, permitting, enforcement, transportation planning, and more. 

“Advancing environmental justice alongside economic development is necessary for a better, safer, stronger Chicago”

- Mayor Brandon Johnson

This Assessment is a critical step to promote environmental justice in Chicago – and one way that we are advancing the vision of Healthy Chicago 2025, the citywide plan to close Chicago’s racial life expectancy gap by addressing the root causes of health.

Why Now?

Chicago has a long, rich history of community-led environmental justice advocacy.

For years, Chicago’s environmental justice organizations and community members have voiced concerns about cumulative impacts. Through the media, public participation in meetings and written comments on zoning and permit applications, they have described how industrial development affects their neighborhoods, health, and quality of life. They have called upon the City to recognize and remedy the harms caused by policies that compound cumulative burdens in certain parts of Chicago.

The Assessment was conducted by the Chicago Department of Public Health (CDPH), Office of Climate & Environmental Equity (OCEE) and the City’s Environmental Equity Working Group (EEWG) – community representatives, environmental leaders, and local organizations that provide strategic counsel and advice on Chicago’s environmental initiatives – from May 2022 to August 2023, supported by funding from the Chicago Recovery Plan.

Read the Cumulative Impact Assessment

a Summary Report that describes our goals, process, findings, and recommendations:

Updated 10/11/2023

The Cumulative Impact Assessment report includes key deliverables:

Community Input - Key Findings

Community Input Summary | Key Findings - English

English | Spanish

Initial Community Input Summary

Community Input Provided During Assessment

Updated 10/11/2023

Plan For The Lessons Learned Assessment

An Initial Community Input Summary and Community Input Provided During Assessment report, which include a qualitative analysis of community comment provided on City plans and actions in recent years, as well as feedback gathered through various engagement events conducted this summer. 

We will also be conducting a Plan for the Lessons Learned Assessment to determine how well our process reflected our values so we continue to improve through future phases of work.

Chicago Environmental Justice Index

Updated 11/21/2023

Environmental Justice Index Methodology

Updated 11/21/2023

Chicago Environmental Justice Map

Chicago Environmental Justice Index and Map

Chicago EJ Index Values Data File

Chicago EJ Index Values Data File

A Chicago Environmental Justice Index and Map that identifies EJ neighborhoods – Chicago communities that are most burdened by pollution and most vulnerable to its effects based on environmental exposures and conditions, sensitive populations and socioeconomic factors at the census tract level. These communities include Austin, East Garfield Park, Englewood, Humboldt Park, Lower West Side, McKinley Park, New City, North Lawndale, Roseland, South Deering, South Lawndale, West Englewood and West Garfield Park. A Methodology Overview describes how we developed the Chicago EJ Index.

The Chicago EJ Index Values data file provides a complete list of all indicator values, indicator percentiles, component and category scores and the final Chicago EJ Index Score used in the 2023 Chicago EJ Index (Version 1.0). A Technical Documentation report will be available by the end of 2023, which will include a detailed description of the indicators (including indicator selection process), identified data gaps and limitations, methodology (weighting, etc.), calculations and statistical analyses.

Environmental Justice Action Plan

Updated 10/11/2023

EJ Action Plan Strategies (.zip)

An Environmental Justice Action Plan that includes dozens of specific, actionable policy changes that can be implemented now based on current municipal codes and authorities. Full department strategy writeups are available via the download at the left. A few key examples from the Plan, which was developed in partnership with more than 10 City departments, include commitments to:

  • Expand the City’s community air monitoring network (Public Health)
  • Implement recommendations from the Southwest Industrial Corridor Transportation Study to minimize the impact of trucks and heavy vehicles on streets, restrict truck traffic, manage truck parking and idling, expand the 3-1-1 system for truck complaints, incorporate emission reduction goals into transportation planning, and establish freight health metrics (Transportation)
  • Create new/update industry-specific operational rules for businesses that create the greatest community impacts (Public Health)
  • Increase community benefits, such as trees, vacant lot greening and expanded waste collection (Streets & Sanitation)
  • Propose updates to zoning regulations for manufacturing, recycling, waste-related, and other intensive industrial uses (Planning & Development)

EJ & Cumulative Impacts Policy Recommendations Overview

Updated 11/21/2023

Recommendations to inform the development of an EJ & Cumulative Impact Ordinance that would establish new governance structures, authorities, and resources to protect neighborhoods more fully from the cumulative impact of environmental burdens. Recommendations include mandates that the City consider environmental, health and social stressors in its decision-making and new requirements to ensure that people who live in these neighborhoods benefit directly from local development.

Next Steps

Key next steps to be taken in 2023 include advancing the proposed City policy and implementing practice changes; additional quantitative data gathering and analysis, to be displayed in a public-facing data dashboard; and continued and strengthened community engagement. The co-governance approach employed during the Assessment will extend into this next phase of work, with OCEE and CDPH working with the EEWG to make decisions together and ensure ongoing accountability.

Our Values

For this Assessment, our goal was to work in alignment with the values set out by the EEWG:

  • ANTIRACISM — Actively challenge and redress racist systems through processes, policies, and strategies.
  • EQUITY-FOCUSED — Consider who benefits and who is burdened by proposed solutions and how issues may disproportionately burden communities.
  • FIRST VOICE — Ability of individuals or community to express their condition in their own voice. Nothing about us without us: No policy should be decided without the direct participation of the members of the group being affected.
  • ACCOUNTABILITY & TRANSPARENCY — Practice mutual accountability and transparency by sharing data, information, and resources, and taking responsibility.

Learn More

Cumulative Impact Assessment - Project Structure
Timeline of Assessment Process

Meet the Team!

  • Environmental Equity Working Group (EEWG)
    The EEWG was established by the City in 2021 and serves as a collaborative space for community representatives, environmental leaders, and local partners to provide strategic counsel and advice on the City's environmental initiatives.
  • Office of Climate and Environmental Equity (OCEE)
    OCEE was established as part of the City's 2023 budget to provide an integrated approach to environmental leadership at the City of Chicago, through forward-thinking policy development, strategic coordination, and capacity building for departments.
  • Chicago Department of Public Health (CDPH)
    As the health department for the City of Chicago, CDPH works with communities and partners to create an equitable, safe, resilient and Healthy Chicago.
  • Tetra Tech
    Tetra Tech is a nationally respected team of scientists who conduct research on environmental burdens in cities across the country.
    Read Tetra Tech's Scope of Work in English | Spanish
  • Illinois Public Health Institute (IPHI)
    IPHI is a Chicago-based nonprofit whose mission is to catalyze partnerships and lead action to improve public health systems to maximize health, health equity and quality of life for people and communities.
    Read IPHI's Scope of Work in English | Spanish
  • Jasculca Terman Strategic Communications
    JT is a Chicago-based strategic communications firm that provided support to the Communications and Engagement Working Group.
    Read JT's Scope of Work in English | Spanish

Project Management Team

The Project Management Team established systems to foster ongoing coordination across working groups, ensured that working group plans were implemented, and oversaw the production and public dissemination of the Cumulative Impact Assessment report and related materials.


Data & Methods Working Group

The Data and Methods Working Group focused on proposing key indicators, data sources and methods for the Cumulative Impact Assessment. This team conducted necessary analyses and supported the preparation of the final report and public-facing data tools.


Communications & Engagement Working Group

The Communications and Engagement Working Group co-developed the engagement process and implemented strategies to meaningfully and authentically engage partner groups during all phases of the Assessment process. This team will continue to drive broad, ongoing public awareness of the Assessment and its findings.


Policy Working Group

The Policy Working Group defined policy goals to inform the scope of the Cumulative Impact Assessment process. Additionally, this team worked to create policies that will operationalize the Assessment as part of future decision-making to advance environmental equity in Chicago.


Interdepartmental Environmental Justice Working Group

The Interdepartmental Environmental Justice Working Group helps City departments work together to address disproportionate environmental, health, and social stressors in certain neighborhoods. The group promotes changes to how departments use their existing authorities so that environmental justice and equity principles are part of day-to-day operations and decision-making.


  • Megan Cunningham, CDPH
  • Gabriela Wagener-Sobrero, Office of Climate and Environmental Equity

Contact Us

If you have questions about the Cumulative Impact Assessment, please contact us through this form.

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