Investing to meet the global goal: sustainable cities

Written by Seb Beloe on 24th Dec 2017

Today is the last day of the Good With Money Alternative SDGs Advent – how to invest in one global goal by one expert, every day. Seb Beloe, head of research at WHEB Asset Management, offers the final contribution, on meeting the Global Goal: Sustainable Cities and Communities.


Urbanisation has been an underpinning theme through much of the 20th and 21st centuries. In 2015, 4 billion people or 54 per cent of the world’s population lived in cities. By 2030 this will be more than 5 billion people. Ensuring that these communities live safe and sustainable lives represents one of the most profound challenges – and opportunities – of the coming decades.

Multiple sectors play a role in ensuring this rapid urban development is sustainable. At its core, urban living is widely regarded as offering more opportunity for sustainability than living in rural areas[i].  This is particularly true when cities are designed with sustainable living in mind. One business that specialises in assisting in this process is the Canadian environmental and engineering consultancy Stantec.

Working with cities and other municipal authorities around the world, Stantec provides infrastructure planning and design services that embed sustainability in the fabric of urban developments. A good proportion of their work now addresses climate change either through mitigation efforts or increasingly in supporting climate adaptation. For example, the company helped to rebuild communities following the impact of Hurricane Sandy on New York City and is involved in early discussions to provide similar support to communities in Texas and Florida following the hurricane season this year.

The company also works proactively with communities in order to embed resiliency to future climate change and other environmental trends affecting new infrastructure developments. The company has worked with Harvard University and the Institute of Sustainable Infrastructure to set up the Envision Sustainable Infrastructure Rating System[ii]. The company is a charter member and has completed the first Envision certified projects in Canada and on wastewater treatment and transportation projects.

While the vast majority of the company’s projects are in developed economies, notably Australia, Canada, the UK and the US, the company does also have activities in many emerging markets. For example the company has worked on projects in Argentina, Chile, China, the Middle East and Turkey. These are important growth markets for the company where the company is focused primarily on helping support the development of renewable energy and sustainable infrastructure projects.

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[i] David Owen (2011) ‘Green Metropolis: Why living smaller, living closer, and driving less are the keys to sustainability’, Riverhead Books.

[ii] http://research.gsd.harvard.edu/zofnass/menu/envision/