Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Sustainable Urban Enterprise

It is not just the world’s mega-cities like Sao Paulo, Mexico City and Shanghai that will need to evolve in response to a range of issues like climate change, resource scarcity, population growth and changing lifestyles. All of Britain’s cities will need to look at how resilient they are in the context of these challenges. How can they provide the right environment for sustainable enterprise to flourish?

Businesses consider a range of issues when deciding where to locate, looking at practical issues such as proximity to market, transport and communication links. They want an environment that will attract the people who are crucial to business success. Businesses look to the public sector to provide incentives, support skills development and create places where their employees want to live.

But sustainability is also rapidly becoming a factor for forward thinking businesses as outlined by Forum for the Future in “Sustainable Urban Enterprise: creating the right business environment in cities” (Sustainable Urban Enterprise). Commissioned by economic development company, Opportunity Peterborough, the report found that traffic issues are the most prominent frustration with current business locations, with one in three business leaders citing poor public transport, traffic congestion or commuting times as their biggest gripe. But while efficient urban mobility will be become critical, a desirable business location will also mean access to a clean, green, and culturally vibrant city centre – enhancing the quality of life for employees and the visitor experience. Highly efficient and flexible ‘green’ premises are also likely to become more important for businesses.

The report, which aims to help cities to better understand and respond to future sustainability trends, outlines the following framework for creating a sustainable business environment:

Proximity to market - Think connectivity, rather than physical distance. Web-enablement, supply chain flexibility including local sourcing, and resilient logistics will all be important.

Communications - Think access, rather than movement. Interconnected low-carbon transport, reduced urban sprawl and ICT systems to connect people can support businesses and peoples’ work-life balance.

Access to resources - Think lower consumption, and higher quality of life. Regional supply chains and storage for key resources, resource-efficient infrastructure, recovery and recycling will all help cities ride out fluctuations in resource availability.

Provision of utilities - Think independent supply streams. Local energy generation, smart metering, smart grid technologies, and closed-loop utility systems, such as heat recycling can reduce a city’s environmental impact and enhance resilience.

Land/space premises - Think systematically about the interaction between buildings and the urban infrastructure around them. Urban planning needs to foster climate change adaptation and the provision of flexible, resource and energy efficient workspace.

Access to talent - Think about matching green skills to green business needs. A dynamic research sector for green skills, mechanisms for linking talent to ‘green’ jobs, programmes to boost sustainable skills and links to like-minded companies.

Attractiveness of place - Think about designing the city for people, not cars. Accessible amenities, attractive, walkable neighbourhoods with integrated business space and improved access to community information can enhance quality of life.

Government incentives - Think big AND small: infrastructure investments need to be big, but community planning should be small-scale. Cities need a clear vision of a sustainable future to guide bold investment in infrastructure, whilst fostering local entrepreneurship and innovation at the community scale.

Project Team
Ivana Gazibara, Senior Sustainability Advisor
Fiona Dowson, Senior Sustainability Advisor
Martin Hunt, Head of Built Environment
Sam Kimmins, Principal Sustainability Advisor

For more information contact
Ivana Gazibara:
i.gazibara@forumforthefuture.org 020 7324 3673
or visit: http://www.opportunitypeterborough.co.uk/