On 23rd September 2019, we hosted Wellbeing in Sustainable Cities to explore the numerous ways in which wellbeing and sustainability objectives are intertwined, and the implications for business purpose and practice in shaping life in cities and supporting a healthy and sustainable future.

The event commenced with four thought-provoking talks from Henry Pelly, Senior Sustainability Consultant, Max Fordham LLP; Michaela Wright, Head of Sustainability, HSBC UK; Lina Liakou, Managing Director for Europe and the Middle East, 100 Resilient Cities and Nicky Philpott, Director, UK Health Alliance on Climate Change.

Integrating psychology into wellbeing objectives

Henry Pelly, Senior Sustainability Consultant, Max Fordham LLP, laid out six environmental psychology-based targets businesses should integrate into their sustainable building policies to improve user wellbeing. Amongst privacy, space, views, access to nature and interior experience, Henry identified comfort and control as the most measurable and significant factors in improving occupant satisfaction. He concluded that to transform sustainable projects effectively, individuals who are empowered to interrogate proposals against wellbeing objectives and identify areas for improvement should lead the processes from start to finish.

Working towards zero-carbon cities

Michaela Wright, Head of Sustainability, HSBC UK spoke about the challenges of creating zero-carbon cities in a world where over 50% live in highly polluted urban areas. However, steps can be taken to help tackle this and improve wellbeing in cities through a just transition, which connects climate action with an inclusive economy. Michaela pointed out the need for public and private sector cooperation in cities, promoting significant investment in transportation, data and technology, and green spaces. She emphasised that everyone has a stake in contributing to a sustainable future that supports the wellbeing of all life.

Helping cities on a pathway to prosperity and resilience

Lina Liakou, Managing Director for Europe and the Middle East, 100 Resilient Cities, opened her talk by imagining a carbon-neutral and climate-resilient city, noting its high level of prosperity and resilience. For a city to realise its potential, Lina highlighted the importance of putting urban mitigation hand in hand with urban adaptation. Alongside technological innovations and changes, governments need to put equity and inclusion at the top of their agenda, while the private sector must develop fossil fuel transition plans and support community-led initiatives to help build public support. Overall, Lina remarked that the battle for the planet is won or lost in cities, and with a loss of faith in institutions and a global economy not meeting the needs of the many, we must act now to improve quality of life.

Transforming cities through health initiatives

Nicky Philpott, Director, UK Health Alliance on Climate Change outlined her vision to minimise the threats to planetary health and maximise public health benefits. She posited that the effects of climate change undermine the foundations of our health and the rise in air pollution can be seen to be immoral as we have little choice of which air we breathe. As this is the case, Nicky called for the health sector to play a vital, leading role in catalysing change on an individual, community and national level. It is necessary for places to be transformed into areas that promote social prescribing frameworks, provide easy access to green spaces and deter individuals from carbon guzzling technologies and towards extra walking and cycling.