The outcomes of the WBCSD Urban Infrastructure Initiative (UII) suggest that all cities seeking to realize their sustainability objectives can benefit from engaging with business early in the planning and strategy development process. Early engagement leverages the capability of business to identify innovative and cost-effective solutions to complex, cross-cutting urban sustainability challenges.
Cities are at the leading edge of the global sustainability agenda. By 2050, 70 % of the world’s population will live in cities and they are rising to this challenge by pursuing ambitious objectives that will make them more competitive, resource-efficient, resilient and inclusive.
Realizing these visions 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.
While there are already excellent examples of cities and business working together at the strategic level, this is the exception rather than the rule.
The WBCSD established the UII to advance the urban sustainability agenda by showcasing the critical role that business can play as solutions providers and by providing a platform for collaborative strategic engagement between cities and business. The UII brings together 14 leading member companies – Cemex (Co-Chair), GDF SUEZ (Co-Chair) Siemens (Co-Chair), ACCIONA, AECOM, AGC, EDF, Honda, Nissan, Philips, Schneider Electric, TNT Express, Toyota and United Technologies – with an array of knowledge and skills to help unlock opportunities for urban authorities to create cities that are more sustainable, efficient and livable.
This multi-sector, multi-company group worked with the following leading cities: Turku (Finland); Tilburg (The Netherlands); Ahmedabad, Rajkot, Surat and Vadodara in Gujarat State (India) ; Yixing (China) ; Kobe (Japan) ; Guadalajara (Mexico) ; and Philadelphia (USA). In each city, the UII mobilized a multi-disciplinary team of company experts to work collaboratively with senior city officials. These teams took an integrated, cross-sector approach to analyzing the city’s major sustainability challenges and to developing an innovative “solutions landscape” (i.e., a portfolio of practical solutions) to address these challenges.
This final report summarizes the work done in these cities and highlights the lessons learned and potential applications where the early collaborative engagement with business should be considered by cities. It makes a number of recommendations for cities, businesses and other key stakeholders to take this critical agenda forward. The WBCSD believes that the example of the UII and these recommendations can provide clarity and guidance on how cities and business can make early collaborative dialogue happen in practice to produce real benefits.