The way forward is public-private partnerships

Rapid urbanization is demanding a new, collaborative approach to keeping our biggest cities both liveable and loveable. Great work is already being done.

By André Veneman, Corporate Director Sustainability

I’ve seen AkzoNobel’s Human Cities initiative make a positive difference in so many communities. Impacting nine million people in 2016 alone, it has proven that balancing business and societal goals is part of running a successful business.

But in line with the New Urban Agenda and the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals, we knew that we could do even more in partnership with others. Slums will be home to three billion people by 2050. It will be a huge challenge for our cities to keep pace with this growth, and still provide an environment that is liveable and safe for all, including the urban poor.

So we focused on Goal 11, shaping the future development of cities to make them more inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable. That’s when AkzoNobel, with the Dutch government, conceived of a different kind of public-private partnership that sees all parties as equal partners. The Human Cities Coalition (HCC) was born.

Power of public-private partnerships

Public-private partnerships accelerate financing, pool expertise and encourage innovation. They pave the way for a much larger impact than any of us could have individually. We know this concept can work.

One example is the Eneco bio-steam project, where AkzoNobel worked together with the Dutch government to lead a sustainable initiative to convert Eneco’s biomass plant. With joint investment by AkzoNobel, Eneco and Groningen Seaports, pipes now link Eneco’s bio-steam to AkzoNobel’s Specialty Chemicals facilities.

The converted plant delivers twice as much sustainable energy for the same amount of biomass. It increased the amount of renewable energy sourced by AkzoNobel, decreased CO2 emissions and improved the regional economy. It’s a project that has resulted in big wins for all partners.

The way forward is public-private partnerships

A broad and inclusive coalition

While the bio-steam project involved only a few partners, we are thinking much bigger for HCC. As a key founder, AkzoNobel has committed to building a broad and inclusive coalition of action-oriented stakeholders. To date, more than 20 partners and 150 stakeholders, including international companies, government agencies and academic institutions, have joined.

The challenges faced by megacities are not going to be solved by a handful of people, so it’s important that we change our mindset. Public and private interests do converge. We all have something to bring to the table, and a responsibility to do so. By pooling our expertise and working together, we will make a positive impact on the world.

The Human Cities Coalition in action

Although we have just officially launched HCC, the work has already begun. We are doing assessments for our first projects in Jakarta, Indonesia and Manila, the Philippines. Our first step is to determine the local needs and forge strong partnerships. It is becoming clearer how we can help provide access to water, sanitation and safe housing, making life better in these slum areas.

And that is why I am so proud to see the coalition solidifying. The official launch creates a sense of purpose and movement of winning together for all parties involved. But most of all, I anticipate seeing the results as our cities become more human.