LSBM Lighthouse - Towards a Common Future: Sustainability

19 Feb 2018

LSBM was visited last week by Clive Harridge (centre), Past-President of the Royal Town Planning Institute, Director and Head of Planning, Transport and Design at Wood plc, and since 2010, Secretary-General of the Commonwealth Association of Planners (CAP). He, therefore, brings a wealth of experience in the areas of planning and the potential for sustainable development in building and rebuilding living environments, particularly cities, across the Commonwealth.

Clive was joined on the panel by Arif Zaman (left), Deputy Director, Centre for Research and Enterprise at LSBM and Olufunke Alagbala (right), who is a student and Leader of the LSBM Accounting Society.


Sustainability progress - Commonwealth and United Nations

Our latest series of LSBM Lighthouse events have been prompted by the upcoming Commonwealth Heads of Government meeting that will take place in London (and Windsor) in April 2018.

The last such meeting took place in Malta in November 2015 and was significant for both the election of new Commonwealth Secretary-General, Baroness Patricia Scotland, who took office on 1 April 2016; and also for its focus on climate change and global sustainability in the run-up to the United Nations Climate Change Conference in Paris, from 30 November to 12 December 2015.

Clive spoke about how the United Nations (UN) meeting had actually had some demonstrable real-world effects in the intervening years on sustainable development goals. Specifically mentioning:

New Urban Agenda - One year on from the conference there was a practical implementation strategy in place.
Practical Guidelines - From the territorial urban agenda that provided practical outlines as to how to approach urban development
UN-Habitat initiatives - With the intent of designing habitats for a better urban future.
Urban Labs in Belfast - A practical approach to how the city can address planning challenges. You can read the report from this, 'The City Centre for Everyone' here

The Urban Agenda is significant (if you are looking at sustainability goals, as we were at this Lighthouse event), because it demonstrates the kinds of commitments that global leaders have already signed up too, and may give some pointers as to what to expect from the Commonwealth meeting in April 2018 with regards to sustainability. The commitments from the UN meeting in Dec 2015 were:

  • Provide basic services for all citizens
    These services include: access to housing, safe drinking water and sanitation, nutritious food, healthcare and family planning, education, culture and access to communication technologies.
  • Ensure that all citizens have access to equal opportunities and face no discrimination
    Everyone has the right to benefit from what their cities offer. The New Urban Agenda calls on city authorities to take into account the needs of women, youth and children, people with disabilities, marginalized groups, older persons, indigenous people, among other groups.
  • Promote measures that support cleaner cities
    Tackling air pollution in cities is good both for people”s health and for the planet. In the Agenda, leaders have committed to increase their use of renewable energy, provide better and greener public transport, and sustainably manage their natural resources.
  • Strengthen resilience in cities to reduce the risk and the impact of disasters
    Many cities have felt the impact of natural disasters and leaders have now committed to implement mitigation and adaptation measures to minimize these impacts. Some of these measures include: better urban planning, quality infrastructure and improving local responses.
  • Take action to address climate change by reducing their greenhouse gas emissions
    Leaders have committed to involve not just the local government but all actors of society to take climate action taking into account the Paris Agreement on climate change which seeks to limit the increase in global temperature to well below 2 degrees Celsius. Sustainable cities that reduce emissions from energy and build resilience can play a lead role.
  • Fully respect the rights of refugees, migrants and internally displaced persons regardless of their migration status
    Leaders have recognized that migration poses challenges but it also brings significant contributions to urban life. Because of this, they have committed to establish measures that help migrants, refugees and IDPs make positive contributions to societies.
  • Improve connectivity and support innovative and green initiatives
    This includes establishing partnerships with businesses and civil society to find sustainable solutions to urban challenges
  • Promote safe, accessible and green public spaces
    Human interaction should be facilitated by urban planning, which is why the Agenda calls for an increase in public spaces such as sidewalks, cycling lanes, gardens, squares and parks. Sustainable urban design plays a key role in ensuring the liveability and prosperity of a city.


The Commonwealth Heads of Government meeting in April 2018

This will have a thematic banner of 'Towards a Common Future', and will be focusing in particular on four areas (of which 'Sustainability' is a key component). These four are:

  • Prosperity: boosting intra-Commonwealth trade and investment
  • Sustainability: building the resilience of small and vulnerable states to deal with the effects of climate change and other global crises
  • Security: increasing cooperation across security challenges including global terrorism, organised crime and cyber attacks
  • Fairness: promoting democracy, fundamental freedoms and good governance across the Commonwealth

The Commonwealth have set up a special website for this event here:

They define 'a more sustainable future' in the following terms:

"Without urgent action to reduce vulnerability and increase resilience, the impacts of climate change could push an additional 100 million people across the world into poverty by 2030. This is particularly relevant for the Commonwealth as 39 of our 53 members are small or other vulnerable states. Each year across the Commonwealth, natural disasters affect 28 million people and cause economic losses of almost $8bn.

The Commonwealth is well placed to take action, underlining our on-going commitment to tackling climate change, protecting the environment and increasing the resilience of our members."

In March 2017, Baroness Scotland spoke about her hopes for the upcoming meeting in April 2018.

“The wonderful thing about the Commonwealth is that we are a family of 52 nations* spreading across six regions,” she said. “What motivates us as a family, and what has guided us, are the shared aims of good governance, sustainable growth, and inclusive social and economic development, aided by our common language, common laws, common parliamentary and other institutions, as well as our cultural ties.

We are singularly well-placed and have connections and mechanisms which can help us devise shared approaches to the opportunities and challenges we face together.

I’ve found that there’s always a spirit of goodwill, which makes it possible to work collaboratively and get straight to the nub of a matter when it is considered within a Commonwealth setting and by Commonwealth partners. This is what the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting, held in the UK, will reinforce, a true global partnership to tackle the issues facing us today and come up with solutions."

*The Gambia rejoined the Commonwealth on 8 February 2018, so the number is now 53.


Sustainable Development Goal 11

Clive spoke about some of his hopes for the upcoming gathering and made reference to the UN as a benchmark for the progress that could be made through such meetings. Including mentioning, 'Sustainable Development Goal 11' which had the goal to:

Make cities and human settlements inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable

It is noticeable from the UN experience that they have chosen to highlight the on-going progress that is being made on a yearly basis and to make this information easily accessible online, at the same time as setting down clear guidelines for targets and indicators that would make clear the goals that were trying to be achieved.

This accountability is valuable because it helps to build a trajectory of action. It both encourages those who are making the changes to keep on persisting (because the results are being publically acknowledged) and also helps to widen participation and provide signposting for those who are new to the goals to persist in becoming actively involved in their practical achievement.

For example, for the above goal, here are the:

Targets and Indicators (the 'Goals!')  
Progress on Goal 11 in 2016 
Progress on Goal 11 in 2017 

This transparency could act as a good signpost as to how to approach the accountability attribute of any decisions reached at the Heads of Government meeting in April 2018.

Social Storm

LSBM students have already been actively doing their part to work on this area of sustainability through our Social Storm Hackathon 24 hour event in November 2017, where students in multinational teams collaborated for 24 hours to design, research and pitch solutions to two Sustainable Development Goals; combating climate change and building sustainable cities.

Learn more about the event we hosted at these two links:

Social Storm 2017 Starts! 
Social Storm 2017 - The Winners!  

At the time, Cal Courtney, Director, Centre for Student Engagement, Wellbeing and Success (SEWS) at LSBM had this to say about the event:

"I think it's fantastic. There were over 40 participating at LSBM and hundreds of students participating worldwide. It was incredibly inspiring to be with this vibrant group of young people who were committed to finding business solutions to some of the biggest problems facing the planet at the moment."

So, sustainability goals are already an area that LSBM students have been actively involved in exploring.


The Challenges

With his background in town planning, Clive acknowledged that one of the biggest challenges that the Commonwealth faces is the population growth of cities, which is happening at a dramatic rate. 

The Commonwealth is home to over 2.35 billion people (you can see a list of the populations of the different Commonwealth countries here), and just four of those countries account for over 75% of the population of the Commonwealth. 

India - 1.29 billion (1,299,499,000)
Pakistan - 191 million (191,785,000)
Nigeria - 184 million (184,264,000)
Bangladesh - 158 million (158,762,000)

The real numbers are probably much higher, as India for example, is growing at a rate of over 20 million people a year, with the above statistics (for India) being from the 2011 census, so the real numbers are probably over 100 million greater for India alone, even without counting the growth of other countries, where the top ten (with a combined population of over 2 billion people) are growing at an average rate of over 2% a year (or 40 million people).

In addition to population growth, there is also big movement from rural communities to the cities among the existing populations, and so there is a double-impact. It is therefore easy to understand that when Clive talks about cities growing by 65,000 A DAY in the Commonwealth, that there is a very real challenge to make sure that this growth and expansion is planned and carried out in a sustainable way.

In fact though, Clive said that half of that city growth is happening in slum settlements, where there is no planning, and only limited infrastructure, and that this raises very real concerns about health, sanitation, water and food requirements, governance and environmental concerns.

Clive was quick to point out that growth is a two-way street. It does provide opportunities, as well as challenges. But while the top ten biggest countries in the Commonwealth make up over 2 billion of the total population of the Commonwealth, the smallest ten have a combined population of less than a million people.

This highlights the stark differences between the 53 different countries that comprise the Commonwealth, and shines a light on some of the sustainability challenges. Sustainability isn't only a challenge for countries with big populations. Small island states, such as those who are prevalent among Commonwealth nations, are particularly prone to the realities of climate change in the form of flooding, tsunami's, hurricanes and other natural disasters, which have been occurred frequently over the last few years.

So, there is also a spotlight on how we can help to ensure that natural disasters don't devastate communities as a result of climactic events that seem to be happening more often than in the past.

The Commonwealth website itself says that the combined gross domestic product of Commonwealth countries is estimated at US$10.4 trillion in 2017 and predicted to reach US$13 trillion in 2020. While suggesting that bilateral costs for trading partners in Commonwealth countries are on average 19 percent less than between those in non-member countries (note - the latter claim is based on this research).

If we take those figures at face value then it is clear that the Commonwealth constitutes a sizable trading block, and that any measures that are agreed by Heads of State at the meeting in April 2018, could potentially have a big impact on the global sustainability agenda (if they are implemented).

Sustainability Suggestions

Some of the ways that Clive suggested this implementation could be assisted would be through:

  • Increasing partnerships - (on a local, national and international level)
  • Engaging with the local community - through Civil Society meetings and events (such as LSBM Lighthouse!)
  • Enhancing the amount of cross-disciplinary communications - so that any proposals are based on as wide a base of knowledge as possible

One area that Clive felt was particularly important (and which Arif later emphasised when summing up), was that the Commonwealth is one of the few times that Heads of State can freely talk to each other in a group setting. This includes the 'Leader's Retreat', which is a day where the Head's of State can engage in frank dialogue and set the course for future Commonwealth co-operation without the media being present. This will take place in April 2018 at Windsor Castle, where the Queen will also host a dinner, and which will allow for free discussions to take place. This allows for the development of relationships and social capital between leaders that may not otherwise be possible outside of this more private context, and which if history is anything to go by (think Ronald Reagan and President Gorbachev for example), can have a significant impact on the change agenda.

Clive spoke about some of the ten areas that he was keen for the leaders to explore, with regards to issues around sustainability, at the Heads of State meeting in April 2018. These were:

  1. Reducing emissions
  2. Developing more sustainable and resistant trading strategies
  3. Supporting the blue economy - For example coastlines and fishing
  4. Addressing issues around the spread of urbanisation and its wider impacts
  5. Accelerating progress to universal health coverage - (he gave the example of there being a global shortfall of healthcare workers - the WHO put this figure at 7.2 million in 2013, projected to be 12.9 million by 2035
  6. Combatting diseases - Such as HIV and Polio.
  7. Increasing public/private co-operation
  8. Increasing partnerships and knowledge sharing
  9. Promoting the development of education skills through increasing planning, digital skills etc.
  10. Leadership and governance - Having the right structures in place to support sustainable development

Olufunke contributed her thoughts to the discussion around four main areas. Commenting that she would like to see the following issues highlighted at the Heads of State meeting in April 2018: 

  • Education - In all its areas to focus on its importance and how much it can change people's lives.
  • Governance - Putting structures in place to reduce fraud.
  • Integrity - Maintaining integrity in financial and accounting processes.
  • Best practices - Making sure that best practices are followed in all areas.

There then followed a more general discussion. One area that the audience were interested in was how progress could be measured. Clive acknowledged that this was a big challenge, as checking on progress across 53 countries would naturally mean data and information collection on a massive scale. One way that he felt that this could be facilitated was by countries working together to support reporting. He noted that many of the countries in the Commonwealth often had shared concerns and synergies that may make this naturally beneficial. For example, Caribbean countries and Pacific island states face many similar challenges with regards to climate change and natural disasters.

Dominica was mentioned as an example of a Commonwealth country that had suffered greatly recently as a result of Hurricane Maria in Sept 2017. The title of an article in The Guardian on 1 Nov 2017 puts into stark relief the result for the island state.

'It feels like Dominica is finished': life amid the ruins left by Hurricane Maria

The question was raised as to how the Commonwealth had acted to support Dominica. Clive spoke about how the Commonwealth and Investment Council is developing an initiative to support linking the private sector and government to address those concerns, as well as grants being provided from the Commonwealth to support planning policy in the Caribbean.

(It is worth noting in addition that the United Nations did launch an appeal to raise $31.1 million to support Dominica following Hurricane Maria.)

One interesting resource to check on progress is the Foreign Office travel advice website, because it is regularly updated, and shows the latest information about basic hygiene, water supplies etc, so also stands as a good shifting update of how basic infrastructure needs are being met. You can find the latest Dominica report here. There is also an interesting PDF country profile about Dominica on ReliefWeb here that explores many of the hazards and environmental concerns it faces, as well as general factual updates.

Other questions were raised around the areas of democratic accountability, the tension between growth, trade, and emissions, as well as how entrepreneurs could be better supported.  Much of the debate then centered around the differentiation between the local and the national scale and how frameworks needed to be adjusted to better support real-world actions at each level. Some particular areas of concern were identified, such as large potential polluting elements (such as shipping) that could also be linked to a growth in trade, as well as potential limiting factors, such as the availability of air transportation to quickly transport higher-value goods.

The International Air Transport Association (IATA) have an interesting report on the Value of Air Cargo which estimates that 35% of the value of global trade is carried by air. (It is, however, worth pointing out the word 'value' is significant, as, by trade 'volume', around 90% of world trade is actually carried by sea.) This points to some of the challenges of sustainability, in that some factors, such as transportation, require much more significant and planned responses. In addition, planning in some cases is not enough. What is required is not less transportation infrastructure (in fact you may need more), but more efficient and better infrastructure, quieter, cheaper, and with fewer emissions, and for that you need significant spending on research and development and innovative ideas. 

Additional concerns were also raised about how sustainability could be tied to the goal of eradicating hunger and thirst. It was pointed out that even in relatively affluent areas it was not unheard of for there to be practical challenges. One such area that was mentioned was Cape Town, where there have been severe water shortages. Wikipedia reported: 

"Despite water saving measures, dam levels are predicted to decline to critically low levels, and the city has made plans for "Day Zero" on 4 June 2018, when municipal water supply will largely be shut off. If this happens, Cape Town will be the first major city to run out of water." (Source)

Clive spoke about how it was necessary to put measures in place to protect food producing areas from development, and to create additional measures that made full use of viable food producing land. In addition, he made mention of protecting the blue economy by ensuring the continued health of the marine environment.

Much of the legal infrastructure of the Commonwealth is based around the laws that were in place when the countries in the Commonwealth became independent. So, from a planning perspective, many of them are based on very outdated legal structures that use the original 1947 Town and Planning Act as their basis. While the countries are of course independent, and hence free to change their own laws to whatever they wish, these outdated planning laws are one area that Chris felt posed a considerable challenge to creating new sustainable planning structures that are fit for the future.



In summing up, Olufunke spoke about how encouraged she had been at all the work that Clive had spoken about happening in the background of the Commonwealth. While Clive spoke about the importance of the UK being the Chair of the Commonwealth for the next two years, as it made it possible to hold the government to account for any sustainability measures that will be agreed at the forthcoming Leader's meeting and moving forward.

Thanks to Clive, Olufunke, Arif, and everyone who came along. We would like to encourage everyone to come to future events.

You can also read the write-ups from the other events in this series here:

Details of next event:

Wed 14 Mar 2018 - 1pm - 2pm: Towards a Common Future: Security

Note - In order to attend you will need to register on Eventbrite (available through the event links above) so that we know room capacities, facilities etc that may be needed.

You can also find links to past and present Lighthouse events on our Lighthouse page.

Stuart Brown
Media and Content Manager

Partners and Accreditations

Get In Touch

  • London School of Business and Management
  • 1 Malet Street, London, WC1E 7JN.