SDG 11: Sustainable Cities and Communities

Make cities inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable.

SDG11 targets the development of inclusive, sustainable, and resilient urban environments. This includes access to adequate and affordable housing, transport, and other basic services, improving air quality and waste management, and limiting the impact of natural disasters, particularly on the most vulnerable.

By 2030, 60% of the world’s population is expected to live in cities, while cities already account for 60% of global GDP. They are also hubs of creativity, culture, commerce, knowledge, productivity, social mobility, and more. But urbanisation also brings challenges. Although cities occupy only 3% of the Earth’s land, they use 60%-80% of the world’s energy and are responsible for 70% of the world’s carbon emissions.

Waste disposal is also an ongoing issue, with two billion people lacking access to waste collection services and three billion to controlled waste disposal facilities. Meanwhile, in 2016, 90% of urban dwellers were still exposed to air that did not meet the World Health Organization’s air quality guidelines for particulate matter. In addition, the speed of urban migration in search of employment has led to many being forced to live in inappropriate dwelling: 1 billion people live in slums and this number is rising.

Many cities are also vulnerable to the impacts of climate change and natural disasters. Building resilient cities is therefore key to social and economic development.

How the cement and concrete industry is making a positive difference

The cement and concrete sector lies (literally) at the foundation of modern cities. From the buildings that define the urban skyline, to the everyday services that enable city living, urbanisation would not be possible without concrete. Concrete is therefore at the heart of efforts to improve the sustainability and resilience of the urban environment: concrete can, for example, reduce urban heat island effect (vs other dark materials and coatings) and absorb CO2 (for more, see our list of 20 sustainability values of concrete for buildings and communities). It is also fundamental to the provision of resilient affordable housing for vulnerable urban communities (SDG11.1).

Importantly, concrete is also better able to survive climate-related and natural disasters than other building materials (SDG11.b), providing crucial resilience to critical infrastructure – from water and sanitation to housing and transportation – and the urban communities that rely on it. Strong transportation links are also a key element in achieving SDG11.a, which calls for the development of positive economic, social, and environmental links between urban, peri-urban, and rural areas.

In an increasing number of locations, the cement and concrete sector is supporting the sustainable management of municipal waste through co-processing refuse-derived fuels in the cement kiln (a process that also reduces the carbon intensity of cement and is a key strategy in the production of carbon-neutral concrete). The industry also acknowledges the potential impact of its activities on urban air quality and has long taken action to mitigate this. As part of the GCCA Sustainability Charter, GCCA members are committed to reducing airborne emissions and monitoring and reporting their performance against key performance indicators on an annual basis.

Case studies

Helping to build a new community in Iraq

LafargeHolcim affordable housing

Patrimonio Hoy: Bringing a successful housing solution to scale

Social and inclusive businesses creation