From the Aztec capital of Tenochtitlan to Chang’an in ancient China, from the city-states of Renaissance Italy to Alexandria, Baghdad, London and New York, the world’s great urban centers have always been crucibles of change and engines of growth and creativity. But with half the world’s population today living in cities, in numbers that will only increase dramatically in the near future, playing this vital role of fostering continuous intellectual, societal and economic renewal is becoming increasingly difficult.
Indeed, given the darker side of mass urbanization—overcrowding, pollution, overconsumption of scarce resources—can the world’s cities continue to be vibrant places to live, work and innovate?
This topic was the subject of a report published earlier this year by Accenture, “Building and managing an Intelligent City.” It was sponsored by professionals in our Sustainability Services group, the Infrastructure and Transport industry group and the Growth and Strategy service line. This comprehensive study examines practices from leading cities around the world that are working to become both environmentally sustainable and attractive to citizens and businesses.
Cities bear an especially great responsibility for effective stewardship of people and the environment, not only for the urban areas themselves but for the planet as a whole. An article in this issue of Outlook looks at the critical interaction between municipal governments and the businesses and inhabitants that drives much of a city’s economic growth and is at the heart of that stewardship.
In addition to drawing on the extensive research of the original Accenture report, the article brings a direct personal perspective through new interviews with people on the ground—including officials responsible for energy-efficiency innovation and climate change policy at the European Commission and the City of Yokohama.
Nearly 400 years ago, John Milton marveled that “Tower’d cities please us then/And the busy hum of men.” Our fascination with cities has not diminished over the ensuing four centuries; neither has their importance. But to preserve their vitality and ensure that they continue to be the source of new ideas and economic energy, we need to reexamine how we manage our urban resources. This new work from Accenture is an excellent place to start.