“Facing rampant urbanisation, cities have no choice but to adapt and innovate”

green cities - villes vertes

 

“Cities and regions of the future”. That is the theme of the 2018 European Sustainable Development Week. The event offers an opportunity for Catherine Rehbinder, CSR Director at ALTAVIA, to introduce us to Smart Cities, a concept to be developed in the not-so-distant future. These cities put innovative systems in place in order to adapt to heavy urbanisation.

 

There are presently 7 billion people on the planet, and this number will grow to 10 billion by 2050. Where? More and more in cities! A full-fledged urbanisation trend has been observed, as populations migrate to megacities in increasing numbers.

 

Cities guzzle 75% of the earth’s resources and produce 70% of the greenhouse gas emissions.

 

Methods of producing, consuming and exploiting resources must be fundamentally and sustainably overhauled.

 

Reorganising cities

In response to climate change and rapid urbanisation, cities must adapt and implement innovative systems, particularly in light of new information and communication technologies. Ground-breaking urban services have begun to emerge, underpinned by brands and adopted by consumers looking to reduce their environmental footprint and improve their quality of life. These services expand across various domains:

 

The circular economy will be at the heart of the city of the future. Communities will need to reduce waste production, or eliminate waste altogether, and put in place efficient waste recovery and recycling systems.

 

Urban agriculture is growing in response to food supply issues. It has led to a comeback of city farms and rooftop vegetable gardens. From Paris and New York to Montreal, the benefits of urban agriculture are clear, including carbon fixation and the maintenance of biodiversity. With regard to the latter, the new World Bee Day has been officially declared for 20 May in an effort to highlight the importance of these pollinators! Another benefit is the shorter circuits, given the growing number of locavores.

 

Transportation methods are integrating smart mobility solutions. Since January 2018, the regulations have been modified: companies with more than 100 staff are actually required to prepare a mobility plan, in other words, to analyse the way in which staff will commute. They must also encourage alternatives to solo driving (biking, ride sharing, public transportation, etc.).

 

Housing is paramount in a world where living together has become a key challenge. City skylines are being redesigned and reinvented to promote the well-being of its inhabitants, to respect their privacy, ensure they receive sufficient sunlight, and much more.

 

Energy. Eco-neighbourhoods are sprouting throughout some metropolises, where everything is remodelled on the basis of energy consumption, thanks especially to connected meters. They make it possible to monitor consumption and operations remotely. Smart management of the data reveal users’ real needs and allow for optimum control of resources. Another growing trend is self-consumption (individual and collective): users produce their own power from renewable energy (mainly photovoltaic panels).

 

In smart cities, you will find electric vehicle charging stations, lighting fixtures fitted with motion sensors, monitoring systems to detect the amount of waste in bins, and smart parking: find your space ahead of time to reduce traffic congestion, limit pollution and improve quality of life!

 

Preventing possible deviances

What is there to say about the murkier side of smart data management? For some people, open data and surveillance can be equated to constant monitoring and loss of freedom. Continued vigilance will be required on this point.

 

Looking to San Francisco as a model sustainable city

Over a less than 20-year span, the U.S. city has become a model for sustainable living. In a country where the waste recycling rate tops out at 35%, San Francisco boasts a rate of 80%.

In fact, the city made recycling mandatory. What’s more, plastic bags, bottles and cups are banned. Even paper bags are gradually being replaced with fabric bags, which residents are encouraged to bring with them to do their shopping.

Incentives have also been put in place, including a refund of the rubbish collection fee, granted to households who reduce their production of non-recyclable waste. This policy has had a significant economic impact, with recycling creating new jobs tenfold compared to previous waste incineration systems.

 

Evaluating its impact on retail

The world is experiencing a wake-up call. Consumers are increasingly more aware of the ecological crisis unfolding, and are adopting more responsible purchasing and consumer practices. Companies who fail to look beyond the profit motive will be left behind in favour of those who are working to benefit society and preserve the environment. CSR thus becomes a real competitive advantage.