In search for sustainable city solutions…

Hi everyone!

I am Palina and I am currently in my fourth year of the BBA Management degree.


I have recently finished my industrial placement programme with Deloitte, which allowed me not just to gain essential for my future career technology consulting skills, but also to experience life in one of the most largest and vibrant cities in the world – London.

As consulting industry is very demanding and both time and energy consuming, I realised how important it is to be able to stay efficient and energetic all the time. I also realised how hard it can be… And one of the reasons for this is being located in the overpopulated and super busy megapolis not being able to restore the balance as easily as countryside residents living in nature do. Possessing numerous positive aspects such as variety of job and entertainment options, cities like London have significant negative sides, which, unfortunately, have deteriorating impact on people and the planet overall. Such an experience encouraged me to expand my interest in sustainability and sustainable cities in particular. I started to search for a way to minimise the negative impact the city has on myself, others and the Earth.


Therefore, the opportunity to join the group of Lancaster University students to facilitate the WBCSD meeting in Chennai became a great source of enthusiasm and inspiration for me as well as a fantastic chance to enhance my knowledge on the sustainability issues.

I am really happy to be able to meet progressive, sustainability-conscious individuals who realise the impact sustainability issues have and are actively working on the solution identification and implementation. As I see myself as a future business leader, it is essential for me to be aware of the role businesses play and indispensable actions they should undertake to mitigate and prevent environmental consequences.

In the course of the WBCSD meeting preparation, I have come up with some thoughts regarding sustainable cities, which I hope will shortly be expanded to reflect on the information and knowledge obtained at the WBCSD in Chennai.


The city is home to more than a half of the world’s population and is expected to accommodate 66 per cent by 2050 (UN, 2014). “It consumes up to 80 per cent of global material and energy supplies and produces around 75 per cent of carbon emissions” (UNEP, 2012). Such consumption and emission pattern, supplemented by a significant city dwellers increase, might negatively affect climate change situation leading to the irreversible consequences for world environmental sustainability. Therefore, it is essential the timely and effective set of solutions addressing city’s problems is established and recognised as one of the main priorities on the city officials’ agenda. Designing and further implementing such a solutions set is likely to be a complex task requiring significant amount of expertise, competence and diverse perspective on every matter. Thus, it is important to ensure government, environmental institutions and organisations like WBCSD facilitate effective collaboration with businesses, which “can play a vital role not only in providing specific infrastructure, technology, services and financing solutions, but also in contributing to the strategy that will support the overall optimization of urban systems to drive sustainability” (WBCSD, 2014).

One of the most significant problems to be addressed by the sustainable cities programme is reducing carbon emission produced by traffic, which is considered to be one of the causes and accelerators of climate change. Restructuring public transportation system, making it more efficient, convenient and easily accessible for the city dwellers could provide a good alternative to the car commuting and thus contribute to tackling carbon emission problem. Improvement to the traffic management system, enhancing communication and tracking of the traffic jams and parking options, enabled by the innovative smart networks solutions could, however, lead to the opposite effect encouraging city inhabitants to use their personal means of transportation. Nevertheless, it is considered that spending less time in traffic could contribute to the carbon emissions decrease, which, supplemented by the appropriate legislation and charges for driving in the city center together with efficient public transportation system with affordable fees, could make a significant contribution towards reducing carbon emissions level in the city and on the planet overall – “the transportation grid we build today is our quality of life tomorrow” (Planet Forward, 2016).

What is more, replanning and renovating commercial and residential areas is another matter to appear on the sustainable cities programme. Making it more convenient for people to live in close proximity to the workplace and all the necessary infrastructure could eliminate the need to commute and thus lead to carbon emission reduction. This could be particularly applicable to the rapidly growing and developing Asian and African cities, where the urban areas are being designed and built for the first time. As a large percentage of carbon emissions is produced not only by transport, but also heating, lighting and other necessary city functioning enablers, it is essential to ensure they are being renovated as well in the conditions of constantly increasing urban population. Possessing numerous innovative capabilities and expertise businesses might support city government in equipping homes and offices with smart grids reducing non-renewable resource consumption and thus carbon emissions. Such a trend aiming at achieving Internet of Things underpinning smart and sustainable city development would allow not only on-demand consumption pattern, reduction in resource usage, but would also provide a control over the resource production, storage and distribution increasing resource efficiency. This could, therefore, address a challenge and limitation of the carbon emission programmes trying to tackle the problems with common solutions by allowing identification of the cities’ own emission source and, therefore, creation of the most effective mitigation plan. Another solution relevant to the residential, industrial and other urban areas is planting more trees and creating more green areas in the city to facilitate replacement of the deteriorating carbon gases with oxygen generated by the plants. This might be, however, not easily achievable considering the space limitation and time required to grow a plant. Nevertheless, such an approach to the urban replanning could be reconciled with the tall multi-story buildings construction, accommodating rapidly growing city population, and unusual choice for planting such as roofs of the buildings.

Moreover, as cities consume a significant amount of non-renewable energy resources even extraction of which deteriorates climate change situation, the need to address this issue is undeniable, and possible solution for this is alternative energy sources. Hydro power plants, windmills, solar panels are the examples of the successfully applied renewable energy sources generating no waste and air pollution. These sources of energy are, however, unreliable because of their dependency on the weather and climate conditions, which, therefore, might not be a common solution for every city. It can also be admitted that alternative energy resources might be expensive to set up. Large quantities of the equipment and land might also be needed. Despite this, advantages renewable sources of energy provide the cities and thus the whole Earth with are indispensable, which, if supplemented by the continuous work with numerous business partners and scientific institutions on the discovery of widely applicable renewable energy sources, could significantly contribute to addressing climate change and sustainability issues. Additionally, a lot of solutions related to alternative materials are also being developed in order to address sustainability issues. Numerous technical companies are staring to respond by working on the 3D printing and other alternative materials propositions, which could be used to construct buildings quicker requiring less energy and producing less waste than traditional methods. All the above measures might add great value to transforming cities into sustainable urban places improving environmental situation and addressing climate change.

To conclude, sustainable city is a hot topic requiring a lot of attention, as cities currently have a very negative impact on the environmental sustainability and climate change. Fortunately, there are numerous possibilities and solutions to address this issue and reduce the negative influence urban places have on the environment. Tackling traffic problem, restructuring residential and commercial areas, finding alternative resources are some of them. Although all of the sustainable city solutions could deliver some benefits, it is important to take into account the climate specificities, commuting habits, population growth together with consumption and emission patterns in order to identify the most relevant and advantageous solutions set for every city, as “managing urban areas has become one of the most important development challenges of the 21st centuries” (The Guardian, 2014). 

By Palina Malash

Planet Forward, 2016. Mobility: How Will We Get Around Our Future Cities. Available at:—-mobility-how-will-we-get-around-our-future-cities

The Guardian, 2014. Urban population boom poses massive challenges for Africa and Asia. Available at:

United Nations, 2014. World Urbanization Prospects: The 2014 Revision. New York: United Nations. Available at:

United Nations Environmental Programme, 2012. Cities and Buildings. Paris: United Nations Environmental Programme. Available at:

World Business Council for Sustainable Development, 2014. The Urban Infrastructure Initiative. Genève: World Business Council for Sustainable Development. Available at:



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