Sitting on the bench under the tree you can watch the world go by. The hustle and bustle of city life and the thousands of untold stories of the everyday. The city is the hub of commerce and culture, but it is also home, playground and space for recreation. It is an arena of contrast and of extremes. Capturing the contrast, celebrating the diversity we can work away from the extremes. Working with the density of the city to create eco-efficiency we can develop a community of contrast, united in individuality, living lightly, affordably but richly.

Of course, the challenges are huge. Cities are the main global consumers of energy, food, materials and the main generators of waste. Cities are also the main generators of ideas, creativity and new opportunities to turn these systems on their heads. Harnessing the diversity and creativity of the city, by bringing together a wider group of stakeholders, it is possible to think outside of the box and find completely new solutions, new business models and new opportunities to increase quality of life, address social challenges and improve environmental performance at the same time.

Malmö’s journey from post industrial decline to a leader in sustainability is by now well known, but it is a journey that is far from complete. The city’s environmental impact is still too high and the benefits of the economic development of the last 15 years have not been sufficient to halt an increasing socio-economic divide. There is an increasingly pressing perogative to use the profile of the city to take the leadership in the development of the new economy based on building natural and social capital.

The off-shore wind farm generates about 40% of the city’s domestic electricity and it is easy to envisage how the 100% renewable city is in reach. Most of the rooftops on the new buildings in the city, from houses and offices to the shopping mall are covered in green roofs. The cutting edge stormwater systems of the harbour and Augustenborg are influencing climate adaptation measures elsewhere. Inspired by the work in Augustenborg, other low-income communities are now the basis of sustainable regeneration initiatives with cutting edge examples in Rosengård and most recently Lindängen where the City of Malmö and property company Trianon are experimenting with new ways of sharing costs in order to generate social and environmental benefits of public value, whilst creating a viable business development initiative at the same time.

urbanisland – economies that build social and natural capital