7 challenges for sustainable urban development

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In addition to the activities of local authorities and residents themselves, business is also involved in the process of building friendlier cities. It can share its responsible practices and innovative solutions, among others, within the framework of 7 challenges identified by the experts of the Responsible Business Forum in the thematic analysis “Business for sustainable cities”.

The issue of sustainable urban development is becoming increasingly important in connection with the growing number of people migrating to urban areas. According to the UN, by 2030, 60% of the world’s population will live in cities.

That level has already been reached

In Poland, that level has already been reached. For that reason, sustainable city management, i.e. making a city a place friendly to its inhabitants and the environment at present, but bearing in mind the right of future generations to satisfy their needs to a similar extent as the generations living now, e.g. in terms of access to clean water or unpolluted air, starts to play a significant role.

In this field, responsible business can play the role of an inspirer, advisor and helper in implementing more ecological and pro-social projects or solutions. It also becomes a natural financial partner, for example, for local governments with limited resources. Business can also be an important entity in the process of including entire communities in the life of the city, e.g. by creating jobs or engaging in local problems. However, just like local governments, it faces barriers to a more sustainable future.

That level has already been reached.

The city is a particular area of influence for companies. It is where most of the customers are now located and where the employees live. It is there that business should work together with residents and local government towards sustainable development. Sustainable development is in the interest of both business and residents – says the president of the Responsible Business Forum.

Experts of the Responsible Business Forum in the thematic analysis “Business for sustainable cities” indicated 7 challenges related to sustainable development that are faced by cities in Poland.

  1. Waste since the introduction of the “garbage law” in 2013 has become a common problem and challenge for business, residents and local governments. The key here is the direction of reducing and segregating waste and getting as much of it reused as possible. The fact that Warsaw alone produces an amount of garbage from Monday to Friday that is comparable to the weight of the Eiffel Tower proves how big this problem is.
  2. Transportation. Public transportation, in order to become more sustainable, needs not only infrastructure (ring roads, parking lots) but also diversification of possibilities to move within the city. The movement should aim to make it more fluent, efficient and ecological.
  3. Uncontrolled suburbanization is depopulation of city centers and expansion of suburbs. It is the centers of agglomerations that are perceived as too cramped, noisy and unfriendly. The challenge remains to apply solutions within cities that will make people want not only to work, but also to rest and live there.
  4. Resources. City managers, citizens and business should aim to solve the issue of how to manage resources in a rational and efficient way in order to respond to the phenomenon of their shrinking in terms of energy and raw materials.
  5. Nature in the City. No one needs to be convinced of the positive impact of nature on human life. The city with increased levels of air pollution should pay even more attention to the planning of new settlements, which will allow for adequate space for nature or protect it from degradation.
  6. Social polarisation caused by differentiation e.g. by social or economic status, can lead to exclusion of certain groups or even whole cities.
  7. City management requires not only eliminating bureaucracy or making decisions on the basis of regularly collected data but also enabling inhabitants’ participation in the city development. In this context, the document “National Urban Policy”, currently at the consultation stage, is gaining importance. It is supposed to integrate approaches to the development of cities of different sizes in Poland.

That level has already been reached.

The main objective of the National Urban Policy is to strengthen the ability of cities and urbanised areas to create sustainable development and jobs, and to improve their inhabitants’ quality of life. This means that the purpose of this policy is to create development in such a way that it is carried out in a sustainable manner and that, in the entire process of shaping cities, the quality of life of all their residents is the overriding value – said the head of the Urban Development Department at the Ministry of Infrastructure and Development during a meeting on the National Urban Policy, organised by the Responsible Business Forum.

The “Business for Sustainable Cities” thematic analysis of the Responsible Business Forum is part of a campaign that aims to support activities for sustainable urban development with particular emphasis on the role of business. In the analysis, each of the seven challenges is provided with a commentary by an expert in the field and examples of good CSR practices of companies.

In addition, the publication provides an overview of initiatives supporting sustainable development of cities in Poland and around the world and contains interesting facts related to this topic.