SDG #11: Make cities inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable
Sustainable Development Goals Blog Series
On January 1st, 2016, the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development officially came into force. Over the next 15 years, with these 17 goals, countries will combine efforts to end all forms of poverty, fight inequalities and tackle climate change. In this article we aim to familiarize you with SDG #11 “Make cities inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable” and how businesses can all contribute to that goal.
By Erica Kostense-Smit and Jennifer Muller | 21-12-2017
With half the world’s population dwelling in cities and with levels of urbanization expecting to rise, SDG #11 recognizes the importance of cities. Not just as a place to live, but to work, be creative, conduct business, harbor culture, science and much more. However, due to the nature of cities, they are also more prone to negative impact like (natural) disasters. For instance the micro-climate in cities makes them more susceptible for heat and their often coastal locations make floods and hurricanes a more eminent risk together with poverty and crime. For that reason SDG #11 focuses on ensuring that cities become and remain a vast pool of opportunities for all, where everybody has access to basic services like energy, housing and transportation.
Environment & Health
You might have seen the front page pictures of the situation in New Delhi that have been in the newspaper for the last months, in which the smog has become so bad that it seems like the city is wrapped in a blanket of smoke. Not only does it affect the health of residents, it has dominated and changed daily routines. In fact the toxicity of the smog in New Delhi was so high WHO norms for healthy air were exceeded multiple times impacted especially vulnerable groups.
An effect often seen when conditions in cities deteriorate is that people start moving outwards; beyond administrative boundaries. This effect seems contra intuitive and is called Urban Sprawl. It essentially leads to less densely populated cities worldwide, with the exception of regions in which urban slums have increased. Unplanned Urban Sprawl is known to enhance CO2 emissions and pollution per capita and negatively affects sustainable growth.
The health aspect might seem rather obvious, however, the situation in New Delhi also illustrates economic consequences1 like a reduction in productivity of the workforce due to illness, closing of schools and costs of economic degradation. The situation leads to drastic and immediate actions that affect mobility and accessibility of the city. For instance, flights were cancelled and transportation was restricted. Hindering not just your normal live for residents, but businesses as well.
The situation in New Delhi also shows us that solutions, though sometimes simple or obvious might not be easily achieved as different stakeholders have different needs and actions are not easily managed. For instance, in the case of New Delhi, the smog is caused by a variety of sources like farmers burning stubbles, pollutions from vehicles and factories and a (micro) climate that strengthens formation of dust. This combination of factors leading to issues is different for all cities and does not always lead to the same effects. In fact, a study from the WHO teaches us that not all cities react alike to the changes ahead. For example, some cities seem to be more likely to develop slums, whilst others are more susceptible to the earlier discussed Urban Sprawl. Both leading to negative, but different consequences. However, in all cases, businesses, governments and inhabitants of cities might not all be chasing the same goals.
The report furthermore shows us that the increased problem of stress on urban areas is not just a problem of the developing world but also affects cities in all regions, including the western world. Either though increased poverty and / or climatologic effects like rising see levels. This makes it even more important for businesses to act upon SDG #11.
So, we have established that effects can be diverse, difficult to predict but unfortunately quite serious. Nevertheless businesses have the opportunity to contribute to this complex ecosystems of stakeholders in many ways and through that contribute to achieving SDG #11. We highlight some examples below: using technology, obtaining green certifications for office buildings and getting engaged in public private partnerships.
Think about the use of drones for areal transportation and inspection, social robots that aid professional care takers in their jobs to diminish loneliness for elderly and with that, contribute to the inclusiveness of cities, or 3D printing that reduces waste and enables minimal storage, making cities more environmentally sustainable. The following Deloitte report gives insight into how making cities more smart through the use of technology can make them more resilient. Disruptive technology can play an important role.
The internet of Things (IoT) should also be on this list, as costs for sensors never been so low and wireless communications widely available the possibilities for IoT are endless. What to think about using sensors to optimize traffic light which will increase the accessibility of cities or measure microclimate on roads and indicate optimal waste collection routes, contributing to a healthy and clean city?
Companies can also help in crisis management solutions so cities, companies and residents can act quickly when needed. Think about cyber-attacks or extreme weather conditions. Relevant in this light is for instance communication strategies to streamline the information from the many stakeholders, their interest and facilitate alignment or problem solving. Digital solutions and big data are expected to play an important role in this.
But even if the list above might seem too technical or perhaps far-fetched for your company, more direct measures relating to its own acting can be taken.
Sustainable office buildings
A direct impact and very measurable impact companies have right now is though their office buildings. Buildings have a large environmental impact. In fact, they account for an average of more than forty percent of the world’s energy use and are responsible for almost forty percent of the CO2 emissions2. To assist companies in diminishing the environmental impact of office buildings “green building” guidelines can be used. Three well known examples are LEED3, BREEAM4 or WELL5 certification. Though each have their own characteristics, it is well worth investing which type can help you and your company further. Besides, it is not just the environment that benefits from due to a reduction of CO2 emissions. Occupants of LEED Gold certified buildings are for example almost 30% more satisfied compared to non-LEED rated building occupants due to higher comfort levels. Resulting even in a lower absence rate.6
Public – private partnerships:
A third example of how organizations can contribute to sustainable, inclusive cities, is to seek collaboration initiatives. Public-private partnerships are often set up to contribute to this goal, and gives businesses the opportunity to contribute to public initiatives. Examples of this are green deals around cities like the Green Deal Smart Energy Cities7, and the Human Cities Coalition8. The coalition is focused on contributing to SDG #11 and brings together public and private partners to influence the development of cities. Example projects are financing mechanisms for infrastructure projects and creating affordable housing.
As divers and unpredictable the consequences for cities and their inhabitants can be, so can contributions to SDG #11 as we hope we have illustrated above. And, it is likely that people, governments and companies have their own reason for taking them. Either there is a business case, or a highly motivated CEO. Important is that you choose something in you can do well. Do not try to do everything but focus on what you can actually change most significantly in order to make an impact. Set your mind to it, stick your neck out and do not forget to share and celebrate success or as we at Deloitte call it “Making an impact that matters”.
Sustainable Development Goals Blog Series
This blog is part of the Sustainable Development Blog Series: a blog series that highlights the 17 SDGs one by one on a biweekly basis. In these blogs you will find more information about each SDG, why it is important for your organisation to contribute to the achievement of it, and specific examples of how you can do that.
For more information about the Sustainable Development Goals and what your organisation can do to contribute, please contact Anne Huibrechtse-Truijens via email@example.com / +31882882071