City-business collaboration is key to a sustainable future for humanity
Matthew Lynch is the director of Sustainable Cities at the World Business Council for Sustainable Development. The WBCSD is a CEO-led organization of leading companies from around the globe that works to galvanize the global business community to create a sustainable future for business, society and environment.
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The WBCSD aims to be the leading voice of business that will support companies in scaling up true value-adding business solutions and in creating the conditions where more sustainable companies will succeed and be recognized. Through its Action2020 initiative, the WBCSD mobilizes the global business community to address the urgent needs of the planet and its people. Action2020 sets an agenda for business to take action on sustainable development to 2020 and beyond, providing a roadmap for how business can positively influence environmental and social trends while strengthening their own resilience to issues like climate change, demographic dynamics and skills shortages.
One of the areas in which business can make the biggest impact is urban sustainability.
By 2050, 70% of the world's population will live in cities – this is where the battle for a sustainable future for humanity will be won or lost. City governments around the world are rising to this challenge by pursuing ambitious sustainability visions that will make them more competitive, resource efficient, resilient and inclusive.
Realizing these objectives in practice is a complex challenge for city leaders. In particular, they will typically necessitate major transformations in the design, construction and operation of a city's infrastructure systems – including buildings, energy, mobility, telecommunications, water, sanitation and waste management services – and optimizing the inter-linkages between these systems.
Businesses that are committed to sustainability and experienced in delivering effective solutions can help cities navigate these challenges and turn a high-level vision into practical and implementable action plans. Business can play a vital role not only in providing specific infrastructure, technology, services and financing solutions, but also in contributing to the strategy that will support the overall optimization of urban systems to drive sustainability.
WBCSD's Urban Infrastructure Initiative (UII), a major global programme to facilitate dialogue between city leaders and businesses, has demonstrated the value of early collaborative engagement for sustainable development. The UII mobilised multi-sector expertise from 14 leading companies to help 10 cities spanning Europe, Asia, US and Latin America identify innovative and effective infrastructure solutions to realise their sustainability visions.
Cities are already following project recommendations. Yixing, in China, is promoting a detailed feasibility study for the establishment of a network of green transportation for the city. Tilburg, in the Netherlands, has adopted the model of UII dialogue as part of their planning process for sustainability. Philadelphia, in the United States, works to improve the environmental efficiency of 6000 vehicles and aims to become the "greenest city in America" in 2015.
The multi-sector approach underlined by UII, is essential in providing an integrated response as sustainability cuts across all functions and specialisms. Making our cities more resilient and sustainable to address the requirements represented by a rapidly changing climate constitutes one of the greatest challenges of the next decade. Early business involvement in urban decision-making processes and collective problem-solving will be key to success. WBCSD continues to explore ways to scale up strategic engagement between cities and businesses through their Action2020 initiative.
More Information: www.wbcsd.org