Companies have an integral role to play in the transition towards sustainable cities.
A city is a complex system containing both social and ecological processes. Given increasing pressures from these dynamics, cities need to be resilient to shocks – and have the ability to bounce back and thrive even in the face of rapid social and ecological change.
Cities are thus highly dependent on an interconnected, global network supplying materials, information, financial capital, and ecosystem services. Actions to reduce urban CO2 emissions, deal with ongoing water stresses and fight social inequalities are critical, yet do not occur in isolation.
Companies are a significant part of a city’s environmental and social footprint, and play a key role in promoting sustainable lifestyles. Companies are key actors because they individually and collectively shape the built environment and control much of the materials flow entering and leaving the city. Companies also affect social dynamics, particularly as they relate to urban consumption and sustainable lifestyle through advertising and the provision of goods and services. In addition, companies actively influence governance and decision-making at the city level through effects on planning, economic activity, and expansion.
Neither the business literature on sustainability, nor the corporate strategy literature, has addressed the issue of corporate strategy within an urban social-ecological systems perspective. Yet anecdotal evidence suggests that key companies are actively engaged in this new, city-based approach to corporate strategy. This research stream will gather empirical evidence on this approach and analyse opportunities and threats.