Utrecht and Ecofys shortlisted for EUROCITIES Awards

21 July 2015 Consultancy.uk

EUROCITIES, a pan-European network of major European cities, has unveiled the shortlisted cities for the 2015-edition of its annual Awards competition. Among the nine potential winners is a project conducted by the city of Utrecht, facilitated by Ecofys, aimed at developing a sustainable energy strategy with the help of citizens.

Founded in 1986 by the mayors of six large cities*, EUROCITIES nowadays brings together over 130 of Europe's largest cities and 40 partner cities, that between them govern 130 million citizens across 35 countries. The network’s key objective is to reinforce the important role that local governments should play in politics and economy, a goal that EUROCITIES realises through for instance research, projects, activities and knowledge sharing events.

Eurocities

Every year EUROCITIES organises an internal competition for local governments of European cities. The so-called EUROCITIES Awards recognise outstanding achievement by members in the delivery of local activities or practices which improve the quality of life for citizens. This year the awards relate to 'living cities - sustainable urban growth and quality of life', and entries were invited in three categories: cooperation, innovation and participation**.

Out of dozens of entries the independent jury, made up of representatives from the host cities, EU institutions, academia, an NGO, and the media, selected three entries in each category for the shortlist. With three nominations each, Scotland and the Netherlands lead the pack, an overview:

Cooperation:
- Edinburgh – The Edinburgh Guarantee
- Gothenburg: Entrepreneurial Västra Hisingen
- Rotterdam – The Rotterdam Business Case

Cooperation | Innovation | Participation

Innovation
- Amsterdam – Optimising charging infrastructure
- Milan – Fewer cards, more shared spaces, better quality of life for all
- Oslo –The traffic agent

Participation
- Edinburgh – Edinburgh in bloom
- Glasgow – OPEN Glasgow – city data hub
- Utrecht – City talks on sustainable energy: the silent majority speaks

The silent majority speaks
The project in Utrecht, aimed at creating an energy action plan towards a sustainable future by 2030, was supported by Ecofys, a global consulting firm specialised in sustainability and climate change matters. Instead of pushing for a self-created strategy, the city wanted to involve its own citizens throughout the visioning process. Utrecht initially invited 10,000 citizens, chosen at random, to help draw up the city’s journey to carbon neutrality by 2030, and subsequently selected 166 to help set out the transition, together with experts and stakeholders.

Utrecht and Ecofys shortlisted for EUROCITIES Awards

Ewald Slingerland and David de Jager, consultants at Ecofys and involved with the energy plan, describe the project as a success. “The collaboration between the team of the municipality and Ecofys was perfect. Given the fact that everyone was well aware of the unique character – and the political risks – of the process the commitment was high. The project team consisted of nearly 20 professionals and 15 Ecofys advisors have contributed to the rounds of discussions and policy setting meetings. There was room for discussion, learning and experimenting.”

The project’s success has not remained unnoticed – the case now stands as one of the three potential winners of the Participation award. The winners per category will be announced at a ceremony on 4 November during EUROCITIES 2015.

* Barcelona, Birmingham, Frankfurt, Lyon, Milan and Rotterdam.

** Cooperation - projects and activities demonstrating collaboration between citizens, businesses, NGOs and local authorities to produce original solutions for more and better jobs, in particular sustainable, quality jobs. Innovation – projects and activities demonstrating innovative ways of achieving modal shift in urban transport, and/or improving the quality of air in urban areas, in particular projects initiated and driven by citizens. Participation – projects and activities involving local authorities, businesses and civil society in developing partnership models to increase quality investments into cities, in particular projects that show effective, long term partnerships.

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Private equity firms ramp up sustainability focus

19 April 2019 Consultancy.uk

In line with business leaders across the industrial gamut, private equity firms are increasingly on board with sustainability projects. According to a new study, the investment arms for major funds are implementing a number of strategies aimed at supporting sustainable economic development in line with global goals.

While the business world has finally begun to acknowledge the danger of climate change, effective action plans remain difficult to achieve. The Paris Agreement has stipulated a clear target for the decades leading up to 2100, although massively reducing emissions while not crashing the economy could be a tall order.

Businesses that are able to acquire capital can use it to boost productivity and output, thereby creating a virtuous cycle of development. However, some businesses are better able to utilise resources than others, both in terms of their relative productivity, as well as the value of the respective outcomes relative to costs (including environmental harms). Financing can therefore provide an avenue to select businesses that are aligned with various global sustainability goals, while shunning those that drive little or unsustainable social value creation.

Top moves made by investment arms towards responsible investment

Profit has for the longest time been the central criterion for investment decisions. Yet profit at any cost is increasingly seen as creating considerable social harms, while often delivering only marginal value. As a result, the private equity sector, which was initially sluggish to change its ways with regards to sustainability, has started to see the topic as an opportunity as much as a challenge.

A new study from PwC has explored how far sustainability goals have become part of the wider investment strategy for private equity (PE) firms. The report is based on analysis of a survey of 162 firms and includes responses from 145 general partners and 38 limited partners.

Maturing sustainability

Top-line results show that responsible investment has become an issue for 91% of respondents. For 81% of respondents, ESG (environmental, social, and corporate governance) was a board matter at least once a year, while 60% said that they already have implemented measures to address human rights issues. Two-thirds have identified and prioritised Sustainable Development goals that are relevant to their investment segments.

Change in concern and action on climate-related topics over time

While there is increasing concern around key issues, from human rights protections to environmental and biodiversity protection, the study finds there are mismatches between concern and action. For instance, concern among investment vehicles around climate change has increased since 2016.

In terms of risks to the PE firm itself, concern has increased from 46% of respondents in 2016 to 58% in the latest survey. However, the number who have taken action remains far below those concerned, at 9% in 2016 and 20% in 2019. Given the relatively broader scope of investment opportunities, portfolio companies face higher risks – and more concern – from PE professionals, at 83% in the latest survey. However, action is less than half of those concerned, at 31%.

Changing climate

In terms of the climate footprint of the portfolio companies, 77% of respondents state concern in the latest survey. 28% of respondents are taking action through the implementation of measures to mitigate their concerns.

Concern and action taken on ESG issues

In terms of the more pressing issues for emerging responsible investment or ESG issues, governance concern of portfolio companies comes in at number one (92% of respondents), while 60% have taken action on it. Firms have focused on improving awareness – setting up policies and a range of training modules for their professionals around responsible investment decision making. Cybersecurity takes the number two spot, with 89% concerned and 41% implementing strategies to mitigate risks.

Climate risks take the number three spot in terms of concern for portfolio companies (83%), but falls behind in terms of action (31%). Health and safety track records are a key concern at 80% of businesses, with 49% implementing action. Gender imbalance within PE firms themselves ranks at 78%, which is being dealt with by 31%. A recent survey from Oliver Wyman showed that there is gender balance at 13% of GP teams in developed countries.

Biodiversity is also an increasingly pertinent topic, with risks from pollution and chemical use increasingly driving wider systematic risks around environmental outcomes. It featured at number eight on the ranking of most likely global risks for the coming decade, with its impact at number six. As it stands, biodiversity is noted as an issue at 57% of firms, with 15% implementing action.