The authors argue that sustainable development is a political concept arising from interactions between socio‐economic and physical systems. As such, political values are implicit in many qualitative aspects of sustainability and its communication through indicators. In Great Britain, local government has played the lead role in Local Agenda 21, involving interest groups and community organisations in varying degrees, through public participation. However, the need for local solutions to sustainability problems also exists in Northern Ireland, where governmental bodies are unwilling or unable to accept responsibility for Local Agenda 21. In the Northern Ireland context, the evolving role of Non‐Governmental Organisations (NGOs) and the community sector in the indicators issue has been markedly different to that in the rest of the UK. There are potential problems concerning political values and mandates when the NGO/community sector assumes the lead in such tasks. The authors argue that, while criticisms of explicit and/or implied political values can be well grounded, addressing these must go beyond questions of objectivity in collection and presentation of indicators and projects must be understood by developing feedback and review mechanisms. The authors review the Northern Ireland sustainability indicators project and evaluate the feedback procedures in place. Lessons learnt from this exercise are explored with reference to (i) the current organisation of Local Agenda 21 within local government in Northern Ireland and (ii) national and international parallels.