SDGs FutureCity Yokohama
Yokohama, with a population of 3.74 million, has been faced with various sustainability challenges, such as declining environmental conditions and an ageing society. Since its selection by the Japanese government as an “FutureCity” in 2011, the city has engaged itself in efforts to improve the quality of life of its residents. Following a national designation of “SDGs FutureCity” in 2018, the city is on a path to coordinate various environmental, economic, and social efforts and connect a wide range of actors involved to enhance synergistic effects towards the realisation of the SDGs. The vision is to develop an environmentally friendly city with prosperous economy, cultures, and arts.
A crucial actor of this initiative is the Yokohama SDGs Design Center, a platform established in 2019 to connect various stakeholders and turn innovative ideas to solutions. Half of the centre’s budget is covered by national subsidies thanks to the national recognition, the other half by the city and its business partners. The centre is developing a financial support system to base its operation fully on private resources in the future.
The centre’s work can be summarised in four areas: marketing, coordination, innovation, and promotion. Firstly, it gathers information from the residents about the challenges and analyses them. Together with companies and academic institutions, it then plans and drafts solutions and coordinates the necessary resources. After that, innovative solutions that address environmental, economic, and social aspects at the same time are promoted and implemented. Finally, the centre shares its experience with cities confronted with similar challenges both within and outside Japan.
To date, the centre has implemented 16 pilot projects. One is the introduction of shared on-demand buses in a suburban residential area to facilitate travelling for people with mobility challenges, particularly due to old age. The bus is one click away and operated according to the users’ travel needs, without a designated timetable. Another example is the production of wooden straws as a degradable alternative to plastic straws, which has been achieved through a partnership between the city, a company that came up with the proposal, and local workplaces for people with disabilities.
The initiative targets all SDGs with a focus on Goal 11 (sustainable cities and communities) and Goal 13 (climate action).