How Inclusive Business Methodologies Can Transform Slums

Last week, Human Cities Coalition attended and gave a workshop at the Dutch Sustainable Development Goals event ‘Transform Your World’ in Rotterdam. The event was co-hosted by the Sustainable Development Goals Charter, the Dutch Sustainable Growth Coalition, and EFR – Erasmus School of Economics Study Association. The day drew several hundred people currently working in some aspect of sustainable development – from expertise and focus areas ranging from climate, to gender, to water management, to health and urban development – in order to hear from speakers like Minister for Foreign Trade & Development Cooperation Lilianne Ploumen and former Prime Minister Jan Peter Balkenende to CEO’s like Frans van Houten (Philips) and Feike Sijbesma (Royal DSM).

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The Human Cities Coalition workshop was entitled ‘Inclusive Business Cases for Water Challenges in Jakarta and Manila’. As the introductory presentation emphasized, many people across the globe move to cities with a dream, but in reality, this often doesn’t match with the conditions they encounter. The mismatch between expectation and reality is even wider in rapidly developing megacities the world over. While many groups and partnerships do great work in the sphere of rural development, we aim to tackle issues in some of the slums in the world’s largest cities. Furthermore, in order to improve the lives of the urban poor while at the same time stimulating growth and increased access to basic services, we use a multi-stakeholder approach that transforms the current system.

In line with Sustainable Development Goal 11 and the recently adopted new urban agenda Habitat III, Human Cities Coalition is a leading international public private consortium committed to making (Delta) cities more sustainable and resilient. We represent 140+ public, private, NGO, and academic stakeholders and work with 20 core partners to promote cities and human settlements that are environmentally sustainable, resilient, socially inclusive, safe, and economically productive. During our inception phase, we will learn what works in practice in order to speed-up and scale-up inclusive business practices in two Asian Delta Cities: Jakarta and Manila. Focus is given to Delta Cities because climate change affects these cities, and the people living in slum conditions, the most. Additionally, this works as a practical means of leveraging our coalition’s expertise in water management.

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Having recently returned from a site scoping mission to Jakarta and Manila , Directors Ronald Lenz and Fleur Henderson introduced the crowd to Human Cities Coalition and facilitated a conversation between public, private, and civil society partners about coalition building and Public Private Partnerships (PPPs) that address the needs of the urban poor. Panellists included Nico Keijzer – Head of Slum Dwellers International (SDI) in The Netherlands – Maurice van Beers (Urban Sustainable Development Expert, MinBuza – Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs), and André Veneman (Corporate Director of Sustainability, AkzoNobel).

Main panel discussion takeaways

  • Base your decision on data, namely: listen to the people with which you seek to help.
  • The importance of local government.
  • Reframe the thinking about ‘return on investment’ – this is a long-term commitment.
  • Partnerships are key and it is important to get everyone around the table together.
  • By working together – through Public Private Partnerships – we can achieve more.
  • What is good for society can also be good for business – they are not mutually exclusive; shared value creation is achievable.
  • In many ways, the Dutch are pioneering in Europe for their commitment to viable Public Private Partnerships (e.g., in Belgium, France, and Germany this way of working is seldom heard of).
  • What this means for businesses is that environmental and social pillars aren’t ‘add-ons’, they should be at the core of better business practices.

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The Sustainable Development Goals are an excellent framework for sustainable development. In particular, SDG 11 (resilient, healthy, safe, sustainable cities) and SDG 17 (new partnerships between the private and public sector) highlight huge opportunities for the development of human, resilient, live-able and love-able cities – where people find education, jobs and a sense of belonging. Failure to develop a new urban agenda will not result from insufficient financial capital, but would result from a failure to develop new forms of cooperation between the private sector, local citizens and their local governments.

– André Veneman, Akzo Nobel Corporate Director, Sustainability

By the end of the workshop both panellists and participants seemed to reach a consensus that the urban poor present an opportunity (not a problem), and that their livelihoods can be improved through economic development. Furthermore, developing sustainable solutions to address water challenges for slum dwellers must combine interests from all stakeholders: the community is a vital partner in the decision-making process, civil society is critical for linking with target groups, and the private sector can act as a strong catalyst for impact.

>> Learn more about Human Cities Coalition

Author: Lisa Rebert.
Photo credits: Anne Marie Hazenberg.