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As environmental, social and government (ESG) issues and initiatives climb higher on corporate agendas amid growing public awareness and expectations, it has become clear that local authorities also have a critical role to play in driving progress on the ESG front.

In many ways, local government has been at the forefront of social and governance developments and driving change with innovative initiatives — due in part to the reality that as leading organizations, the parameters and requirements of their social and governance roles are typically grounded in law.

But amid evolving public values and soaring awareness — and activism — on environmental issues, local authorities should respond with a broader spectrum of green initiatives. Customers want their local authorities to take a lead on ESG and local authorities are ideally positioned to do so.

Simply put, in addition to continuing the drive for progress on social and governance initiatives and outcomes that cater to specific or unique local needs via a ‘place-based’ approach, giving equal weight to the ‘E’ in ESG is now an important order of the day. Forward- looking governments will likely realize that action, results and progress on the environment should be considered part of the customer experience for all of their stakeholders. Business leaders participating in KPMG’s 2021 CEO Outlook Pulse Survey, for example, cited environmental and climate change risks as a leading threat to business growth over the next three years.

Local government organizations have, of course, been actively pursuing sustainability targets and working to meet regulations handed down by their various regional central or federal governments — including, for example, the need for more responsible energy use, efficient waste management, modern traffic infrastructure, ‘clean’ business practices and more.

The time has come, however, for local government organizations to expand their view and help drive significant gains in all areas that are indispensable to sustainability, including net zero of course. They should also pay attention to managing population growth impact, driving urban planning for a new era, supporting ecological diversity, and managing the impact of climate change — floods, fires, rising sea levels, natural catastrophes, and their growing threat to local government’s customers and assets. A key is to align government capabilities, resources, services and stakeholders enterprise-wide via a fully connected, end-to-end ecosystem that precisely tracks customer needs, responses, performance and outcomes.

As part of Saudi Arabia’s efforts to increase environmental protection and improve general liveability in its cities, the capital city launched the Green Riyadh project. This mega project, with a total investment of US$11 billion over the next 10 years, targets to plant 7.5 million trees and develop more than 3,300 new parks and gardens to improve air quality and reduce the average ambient temperature, while increasing the city’s per capita green space. Green Riyadh further promotes the preservation of natural areas and biodiversity within the city while also spreading awareness among its constituents about sustainability.

The excerpt was taken from the KPMG Thought Leadership publication entitled The future of local government.