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Goal 11 - Sustainable Cities & Communities

Make cities and human settlements inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable - At their best, cities enable social and economic advancement. However, challenges exist in creating jobs and prosperity without increasing congestion, straining basic services and infrastructure, and overwhelming the supply of adequate housing. Such challenges can be overcome, allowing cities to thrive and grow, while improving resource use and reducing pollution and poverty.

What is Goal 11?

Goal 11 aims to make human settlements inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable. The UN states that by 2050, 6.5 billion people will live in urban areas, up to two thirds of the world population, up from half currently. Sustainable development within this frame of urbanisation is vital to ensure these new mega-cities remain liveable, tackling the most problematic issues such as waste, transport, construction and pollution. The world's cities occupy just 3 per cent of the Earth's land, but account for 60-80 per cent of energy consumption and 75 per cent of carbon emissions.

Poverty can be found in both urban and rural areas, but extreme poverty is often concentrated in areas with rapid urban population growth, often affecting the most vulnerable in society. Goal 11 sets out the pathway towards making cities safer and healthier, ensuring access to safe and affordable housing and transport, and upgrading slum settlements.

The goal also covers:

  • investment in public transport infrastructure
  • creating green public spaces
  • improving urban planning and management in a way that is both participatory and inclusive
  • protecting cultural and natural heritage
  • decrease mortality rates and economic losses from natural disasters and ensure countries have effective disaster risk reduction strategies
  • encourage sustainable and resilient construction

Why is Goal 11 important?

Making cities and communities sustainable will have a huge positive impact on people's lives, in ways which are tangible and visible. This goal, as with all the other SDGs, is inextricably linked to achieving the other goals, especially in regard to climate change (Goal 13), poverty (Goal 2), good health and wellbeing (Goal 3) and reduced inequalities (Goal 10). Other less immediately obvious goals, such as gender equality (Goal 5) also come into play, considering that women are more likely to use public transport, or walk in cities, and that women are often the victims of harassment and abuse in these spaces.

The economic case for sustainable cities and communities is also clear, having flourishing urban areas with easy transport options reduces inefficiencies in transporting goods and workers and improves productivity.

How can companies contribute to the goal?

The most obvious contribution from companies comes from the transport sector, including any companies involved in the public transport sector such as National Express, Stagecoach or FirstGroup in the UK. Train, tram and bus operators are vital in the implementation of target 11.2, especially where this includes initiatives towards the expansion of access for vulnerable groups.

Another interesting sector, with significant value creation opportunities, is the development of EV, charging and battery technology. The shift towards electric vehicles, especially for public transport but also private vehicles should also be considered when looking at companies in this sector, as the move away from IC engines will dramatically affect air quality in cities (target 11.6). Two companies which are contributing in this area include Aptiv and Delta Electronics. Bicycle manufacturers should also be clear winners as government policy shifts towards supporting active transportation, meaning Giant Manufacturing should feature as a positive, however the company would need to start reporting on its environmental and social impact in order to achieve an adequate ESG rating first. This would also fulfil goal 12.6: 'encourage companies, especially large and transnational companies, to adopt sustainable practices and to integrate sustainability information into their reporting cycle'.

The construction sector can also contribute towards Goal 11, targets 11.1,11.3 and 11.7, however there must be evidence that affordable housing is a meaningful percentage of developments, the delivery of green spaces within developments is a priority, and that there are inclusive planning and sustainable operating practices in place. Housebuilders in the UK who fully or partly fulfil these targets include St Modwen, Barratt, Berkeley Group, Countryside Properties, Bovis Homes and Taylor Wimpey.

Interestingly, companies in the sectors mentioned above have been slow to set out positive actions towards the SDGs, perhaps because traditionally the transport and construction sectors have focused corporate responsibility efforts on the 'environment, health and safety' tick box approach. The SDGs represent a huge opportunity for these businesses to align policies and practices towards sustainable development.


Achievement of goal 11 will largely be dependent on national level action taken by governments to encourage, and where necessary, legislate towards ensuring the creation of sustainable cities and communities. There are therefore significant opportunities for future-focused businesses and their investors to ensure corporations not only help achieve goal 11, but have business models which will thrive in a post-2030 world.