Infrastructure holds enormous power to affect economies and societies. It boosts commercial activities, enables vital social services and provides supports to human interaction. In the recent years, however, global decision-makers have increasingly focused to transform the role of the infrastructure from supporting the world to shaping the world.
Parallelly there has been an increase in efforts from both private and national quarters to build a more environmentally, socially and economically sustainable world. Keeping these two interdependent objectives in mind, the World Economic Forum’s Global Future Council on Infrastructure convened in November 2019. After several rounds of a broad range of discussions among global experts, the council published a paper on the 6 Qualities of Sustainable Infrastructure or GFC-6.
The council believes that if infrastructure around the world adopts the following six qualities, creating a more inclusive, sustainable, and prosperous future can be built for the world.
- Access and benefit-sharing
The resources of the world are used to create wealth and hence for the world to truly prosper, no one should be left behind. Measures must be taken so that the pressing issues of inequality and injustice are addressed adequately. Essential services like water and sanitation, transport, energy, etc. must be made more accessible for all. Steps should be taken to take these services to the most underserved areas and communities. The needs of the socially and economically vulnerable people must be considered, and communities should be involved in sustainable service design
- Environmental and climate resilience
Climate change is the next prolific catastrophe staring at the world. Hence infrastructures must take up more environmental responsibility and enhance resilience to climate change. Any new infrastructure must be built with the following common objectives:
- Mitigation of environmental impacts
- Developing “circular” projects
- Reducing greenhouse gas emissions
- Building climate catastrophic resilience
- Social engagement and acceptability
All the stakeholders must be adequately engaged with, in order to respect affordability and local sensitivities. Required steps must be taken to make sure all the affected stakeholders in the near and long term are directly or indirectly engaged with. Integration of special groups must also be undertaken.
- Economic and institutional effectiveness
Economic effectiveness and transparency should be ensured at all levels. Projects that offer cost-benefit or achieve value for money must be delivered on priority. Fiscal sustainability must be protected, and proper regulations must be implemented to ensure process transparency. Efforts must be undertaken for building management capacity.
- Futureproofing over lifecycle
Adequate planning must be done to secure lifecycle maintenance of infrastructures. Plans must be in place for asset ageing and end-of-life management. Technological opportunities and disruption risks must be factored in while formulating infrastructure plans. Business model innovations must also be anticipated in advance, for being sufficiently future-ready.
- Critical mass potential through replicability
The world is changing eternally, and the speed of that change is growing, hence innovative ways to tackle change must be promoted. Transformational impact must be sought through strategic planning. Replicability must be enabled through design and capacity building. Steps must be taken to ensure bankability or eligibility to financial asset class.