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SDG Library - Grand challenge: Reinforcing the social and environmental resilience of cities

Content produced by Audencia Business School

Over 55% of our global population lives in cities and by 2050 the urban population is expected to reach 6.5 billion. More than ever, urban communities must lead the way to develop more responsible and respectful ways of living. Cities are complex systems that epitomize the very microcosms of our human presence on Earth. They should thus become more sustainable and solidary, reducing their undesirable impacts and providing their inhabitants with what is required for a dignified and healthy life, which includes access to proper and affordable housing, green public spaces, economic and self-development opportunities, and safe food and clean water and air. Cities also require better waste management, urban planning, and infrastructure to reduce adverse social and environmental impacts. All this should be done in participatory and inclusive ways, protecting the most vulnerable ones; otherwise, the growth of urban populations will lead to processes of social and spatial segregation.

As part of the required effort to improve the ways we create and manage urban spaces, we should make better use of the resources that are available in cities to make them less harmful to the planet and less dependent on other geographic areas. Cities should become more capable of producing what they need (food, water, energy...) and less vulnerable to crises and other exogenous events. Otherwise said, they should become more resilient in social and environmental terms. In this module on sustainable cities and communities we present and analyze two social enterprises based in Nantes, France: Les Jardins de Cocagne (Cocagne Gardens) and La Tricyclerie. Our goal is to help our audience understand how the better use of often-overlooked urban resources can reinforce the social and environmental resilience of urban communities, making them better equipped to face various functional challenges. Although our cases address multiple issues, we focus our attention on four specific and interrelated challenges: 1) social inclusion, 2) production of food, 3) waste management, and 4) recycling.

For each of these challenges we first provide a brief description, highlight their importance and links with SDGs and their targets.

Second, the case studies feature specific issues related to social inclusion and waste management at a local level. As such, the case on social inclusion is focused on the Jardins de Cocagne, which is an association that hosts, supports and employs men and women experiencing social and professional difficulties (unemployment, integration of disadvantaged people, migrants). In exchange for work in organic market gardening (a social integration contract from six months up to twenty-four months), the association helps individuals to rebuild their professional projects. The case study on waste management presents La Tricyclerie, a company that collects, composts and resells organic waste in Nantes, France. Through its innovative business model, La Tricyclerie is addressing several key sustainability challenges, including food waste and its ecological valorization, better soil protection, sustainable living in urban areas, agile mobility and eco-friendly logistics.

Third, video materials, readings, MCQ tests and discussion questions help students to understand the challenges of sustainable cities and communities and also to explore the existing innovative solutions.

This grand challenge relates to SDG#1 No poverty, SDG#2 Zero hunger, SDG#4 Quality education, SDG#8 Decent work and economic growth, SDG#9 Industry, innovation and infrastructure, SDG#10 Reduced inequalities, SDG#11 Sustainable cities and communities, SDG#12 Responsible production and consumption, SDG#15 Life on land

Module 1: Social inclusion and resilient cities

Urbanization has transformed the planet with the urban population increasing from 30 percent in 1950 to more than 56 percent in 2020. Nowadays, urban settings with an increasing human density can lead to higher inequalities regarding socio-economic and health conditions. Resilience has become an important goal for the cities.

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Module 2: Organic waste management

While world hunger is on the rise and one in nine people going to bed hungry every night, an estimated one-third of all food produced globally is lost or wasted. This waste amounts to about 1.3 billion tons per year, contributing 8% of total global greenhouse gas emissions.

To the module material