There are several different approaches to evaluate regional environmental and sustainability performance, where regional indicators are an emerging issue. Academia could play an important role in many sustainable initiatives, giving credibility, scientific and technical support and contribute to increasing public participation. This paper intends to trace the Portuguese profile on regional Sustainable Development Indicators (SDI) initiatives and contribute to an understanding of the key factors related to the role of academia in those processes. A national survey was conducted to obtain data on SDI initiatives on a regional scale and the Portuguese profile was defined. Overall results show that SDI implementations are concluded in one region and are being implemented in three of the total of seven regions, despite a significant lack of institutional guidelines and policy guidance from national authorities. The particular approach conducted in the Algarve, the most southerly region of Portugal, was analysed. The indicators developed for this region are a practical example of how academia and regional public authorities can cooperate efficiently, involving multi-stakeholders, to obtain the desired outcomes. (C) 2009 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.