London is a victim of its own success: the Office for National Statistics (ONS) forecasts that our capital will reach megacity status – a 10m population – by 2026, which reflects its commercial and cultural clout. But this rapid urbanisation has created manifold challenges, not least a housing crisis and congestion, with gas-guzzling cars contributing to London’s toxic air.
However, business can help cities to become more inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable – the eleventh of the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
Graham McClements, a director of Building Design Partnership (BDP), a firm of architects, engineers and designers, recommends, occupying existing buildings rather than creating new ones, which can sometimes keep carbon emissions down.
He also advises making the office more energy efficient – well-insulated, for instance – and managing waste. Many offices have a ban on single-use plastics, for example.
Empowering staff to be advocates for positive change is also effective, he says. Business can promote cycling over cars, for example, and eating low-carbon foods grown locally and seasonally.
This can also help firms to hire and hold talent – especially young people who are demanding action on climate change, McClements says. So there is a business case as well as a moral imperative for sustainable cities.