Baltic Cities Environmental bulletin No 2, 2013

Publication date:
February, 2014
Issue:
2
1455-0903

Make Solutions with Businesses!

During the last decade there has been not only much talk but al- so much action on sustainability and social responsibility among businesses. At the same time, the global business community has strengthened its involvement and made its voice better heard in international sustainable development processes. This is a very welcome and necessary development and one of its culmination points so far is the much debated concept of green growth, which was also an intellectual backbone of the Rio Summit in 2012. In the Baltic Sea Region, businesses have also been demonstrating good initiatives and commitment for improving the marine environment.

These contributions of businesses have been enabled and backed up by good mobilization of competence and knowledge resources. The Vision 2050 report by the World Business Council on Sustainable Development (WBCSD) is a good example of this and provides an example to any stakeholder group or think-tank on a well-founded systematic analysis leading to comprehensive recommendations for action.

As Humankind is moving to cities – to work, live and do business there – it follows that both business opportunities and global sustainability challenges focus on cities ever more. Urbanization means great challenges for planning and construction as well as transport and services. If these challenges are well met, we have great possibilities to create sustainable cities and reduce carbon emissions. This challenge can and should be turned into a joint venture of cities and businesses. When this venture will be a successful one, there will be only winners at the table and round it.

What could such a venture mean in practice? During the last three years I have had the pleasure to cooperate with leading global businesses on urban sustainability. In 2010-2011 the city of Turku was chosen as the first pilot city for the Urban Infra- structure Initiative of the World Business Council on Sustainable Development. This global project experimented with new meth- ods to build city development strategies utilizing early engagement and co-creation between cities and companies. During the project, experts from six global infrastructure and mobility com- panies evaluated together with our own experts and managers the infrastructure challenges of Turku and recommended solutions that were then assessed in cooperation. As an outcome, we have a wealth of proposed solutions in the fields of energy and mobility, and many of these solutions are now moving to- wards implementation.

Building on this successful project, we then started a three-year strategic development partnership with Siemens in order to jointly study and elaborate some fields of work further. For us this has been an exciting opportunity to learn from the World’s leading urban infrastructure specialist on the company side and for our partners it has been a useful chance to test their approaches and learn from a mid-sized European city. Everybody involved found these processes to serve them well and bring added value both to city and business development. Sustainable cities are a good business indeed!

In order to be able to share from our lessons learnt throughout the Baltic Sea region, both Turku and Siemens are now contributing to the CBSS/Baltic 21-endorsed Baltic Urban Forum for Smart Cities initiative, which has been jointly created by the UBC and BDF. I warmly encourage all Baltic cities to join this new regional city-business knowledge alliance for sustainable development.

Risto Veivo Senior Advisor, Climate and Environment Policy City of Turku