Investing in the green transition can revitalise our cities

Business and civic leaders across the UK’s cities are committed to working together to deliver new sustainable cities.

Business and civic leaders across the UK’s cities are committed to working together

Business and civic leaders across the UK’s cities are committed to working together to deliver new sustainable cities as part of their low carbon transition plans, according to a new KPMG Private Enterprise report, Voices of Place: The Green City.

Building environmentally friendly and fairer communities must be an outcome of green investment and needs to be a part of an integrated planning process, more than 40 senior figures agreed, in a series of roundtable discussions KPMG held in UK cities.

The report also highlighted that transitioning cities to net zero should help:

  • Drive sustainable economic growth
  • Create skilled jobs in low carbon industries
  • Boost the appeal of cities as places to live and work
  • Attract enterprise and talent
  • Upgrade housing stock and
  • Improve the health of citizens.

Chris Hearld, KPMG’s Head of Regions, says:

“As we invest in the green transition, cities are perfectly placed to benefit, creating fairer and sustainable communities for all. They are at a critical point in their evolution and are ambitious, with many having set more challenging targets for lowering emissions than our national ones, with some citywide net zero goals as soon as 2028. They are home to more than half of our population and will remain the places that drive our productivity and prosperity across the country. But their role as the home of business and leisure is changing since the pandemic, while the issues behind the levelling up agenda puts the spotlight on wellbeing and social mobility. Addressing these challenges will drive their transformation.”

The report also highlights that regional decision making is vital and the Levelling Up White Paper will help support this. Feedback from those people involved in city investment also included the need for an integrated and collaborative approach; the right metrics to measure our progress is essential; and business needs to be at the heart of this sustainable transition.

Chris Hearld added:

“Improving inequality in our communities while meeting stretching net zero goals is an exciting vision and a smart way to maximise the opportunities of building back greener and levelling up. It will need complex transformation plans, bringing together a host of different work and teams, and evaluating progress in new ways that include spanning environmental, economic and social indicators.”

The report was informed by discussions with civic and business leaders from organisations including Aberdeen & Grampian Chamber of Commerce, Gatwick Airport, Greater Manchester Combined Authority, Transport for London, University of Southampton and many more.



For media enquiries contact:

Alison Anderson, Media Relations Manager

T: +44 (0)113 254 2980 / 07733 453 065


KPMG UK Media Relations Team:

T: +44 (0) 207 694 8773



KPMG LLP, a UK limited liability partnership, operates from 22 offices across the UK with approximately 15,300 partners and staff.  The UK firm recorded a revenue of £2.43 billion in the year ended 30 September 2021.

KPMG is a global organization of independent professional services firms providing Audit, Legal, Tax and Advisory services. It operates in 145 countries and territories with more than 236,000 partners and employees working in member firms around the world. Each KPMG firm is a legally distinct and separate entity and describes itself as such. KPMG International Limited is a private English company limited by guarantee. KPMG International Limited and its related entities do not provide services to clients.

Notes to Editors:

Four key themes emerged from the report:

Devolution and leadership

Regional autonomy and strong local leadership will be important. Leadership will mean securing business funding and support; influencing government policy; getting people behind the local sustainability vision and overcoming blockers. It won’t be easy, so communication will also be key.

Systems thinking

KPMG’s report stresses the importance of systems thinking, which recognises that no plan can be created in isolation and complex interactions need to be mapped and understood given the extent to which actions in one area will impact efforts elsewhere.


Systems thinking can also help unleash and communicate the breadth of the positive impacts sought, over and above decarbonisation. Metrics will have to make the right connections between cause and effect. They might include job and business creation, skill levels, fuel poverty, air quality, public health standards and life expectancy. Capturing this level of complexity will demand large, sophisticated datasets – many of which don’t yet exist.


Involving business is essential. Business leaders are keen to have an impact, but many feel they’re lacking direction. They want to see plans that set out practical measures they can implement now, clarifying what they should stop, start and carry on doing. They can identify opportunities and their investment decisions will be key to driving action as well as fulfilling essential public-private partnerships.

The report outlined seven key next steps to deliver:

  1. Plan for a different future : Scenario planning by organisations should take account of factors they may not have previously planned for, such as increasing pressure to make material and rapid carbon reductions and the growing probability and severity of extreme weather events.
  2. Rethink demand management : Attempting to meet ever-growing demand is not sustainable. Interventions will be needed to manage demand.
  3. Give people permission to act : Delivering change at scale and pace means upskilling employees and the local community and giving them the autonomy to come up with green solutions.
  4. Embrace new decision-making criteria : We need to start developing the necessary datasets and change our priorities to focus on more than cost and time when making decisions.
  5. Set a benchmark : Transition plans can be informed in part by what peers, competitors and suppliers in the same industry are doing. Benchmarking may help provide a clearer view of what needs to be done and what’s missing from the existing plan.
  6. Priortise inclusion : A just transition will require all voices to be heard, and social inequalities to be closed, not widened.
  7. Convey the vision : Embarking on a journey into the unknown won’t be easy so it needs to be clear that continuing on the current path is not an option. Citizens will need to share a vision of how radical change can transform the future for themselves and generations to come. 

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