As disasters wreak havoc across the globe, we are poised at a historic crossroads regarding the very future of our planet. Transformational change has become inevitable as the clock ticks down on one of the greatest challenges of our time.

The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development is a global action plan to transform our world and set it on a promising new trajectory. Unfortunately, as the report highlights, systemic roadblocks continue to impede progress and threaten our prospects for success in meeting the United Nations' goals. 

KPMG firms, in collaboration with the United for Smart Sustainable Cities (U4SSC) initiative, have undertaken a revealing dynamic risk assessment (DRA) to understand the barriers impairing cities on the world’s time-sensitive journey to 2030. The U4SSC programme provides an international platform for information-sharing and partnership-building, bringing the world’s cities together in hopes of meeting the UN goals.

In addition to the findings shared in this joint report, KPMG professionals spoke to several U4SSC experts, city leaders from around the world and other urban experts for their insights on what the future may hold — and how local leaders, businesses and communities everywhere should unite and seek to respond as one without delay.

The methodology for this DRA comprised engagement via interviews and workshops with
subject matter professionals from an array of industries, as well as organisations in the public and private sectors. Their insightful perspectives and compelling findings go beyond North America and Europe to include global voices from Asia, Latin America and Africa on the severe risks that need to be mitigated if there is hope for a new future.


Gearing up for 2030

Today's imposing risks demand transformational change and have major implications for city-centric issues. Potential approaches for a promising new tomorrow include:

To overcome competing local priorities and accelerate progress on the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDG), city leaders can begin by adopting a portfolio-management approach that large organisations rely on to establish and meet clearly defined objectives. 

This includes embedding innovation into public policy and tapping into the power of modern digital technology, ultimately overcoming traditional approaches in which cities fail to adequately invest in their own capacity to innovate for the future.

Cities need to incentivise investors with a balanced risk-reward scorecard that maps out the spectrum of required results for all players, striving to ensure confidence, trust, returns on investment and ultimate success. Initiatives and deals need to be strategically structured in ways that present a risk-managed win-win scenario for both investors and communities. 

Incentives to attract new investment can also go far in addressing the major risk of crippling future financial costs in the wake of inaction on the SDGs. 

Today’s typically risk-averse local leaders need to revisit their priorities, directing their energy and resources to what is best for their communities — versus what’s best for their political future.

Adopting a modern approach that puts progress before politics — and the influence of social media — can drive innovation in a positive atmosphere that has the buy-in of all players, including the public and the communities that innovation is meant to serve.

Businesses and local leaders need to unite in new ways that fully recognise, amid competing agendas, the obligations they have to their communities. Communities supported by good corporate citizenship can help minimise the future financial cost of inaction and the threat of unpredictable fiscal challenges. If investments aren’t made now towards the SDGs, cities risk greater future financial costs for disaster relief, climate crises mitigation and emerging social issues. 

It is crucial that the SDG ecosystem and environmental movement share their messages universally in ways that truly spark new levels of awareness and public activism. Future communications initiatives must share the message more often and more widely, embedding the SDGs across an array of public awareness efforts and campaigns. 

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Where will you and your community be in 2030? City leaders must act decisively — or risk the future of our planet and all who live on it. Reach out to our ESG specialists to accelerate your journey towards a sustainable, lasting future today.

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