People make places: Embedding equity in sustainable local development

Just transition, inclusive and equitable perspectives, people-centered approaches: over the past decade, these concepts have become increasingly more prevalent in the vocabulary of the international sustainability community. Yet despite all the talk, effective action and measurable results on the large scale remain to be seen. To make sure these are not just empty words, we must effectively embed these concepts into the heart of our low emission, nature-based, circular, resilience, and sustainability work.

How do we ensure we are leaving no one behind?

Equity must be at the core of each and every sustainability policy and action. The Malmö Commitment aims to do exactly that: it empowers local and regional governments to put all people and social equity at the core of all their sustainability actions. 

The pioneers of the Malmö Commitment have been working to identify key sustainability challenges in their communities which they will be addressing in the following years. These challenges touch upon many different sustainability issues: affordable housing, sustainable transport, just transition, sustainable food, biodiversity conservation, waste management, sustainable buildings, sustainable land use, climate change, sustainable and inclusive economy, climate finance, equitable access to public services, community participation and socio-state networks, social integration, revitalization of buildings and public spaces, and sustainable and renewable energy systems.

How can social equity be then placed at the core of their sustainability actions?

ICLEI is working with the pioneers, focusing on their particular identified challenges, to develop social equity indicators to measure the impact and progress in overcoming each of the challenges while ensuring no residents or communities are marginalized in the process. 

The first step is gathering a comprehensive knowledge of their own communities. Identifying socially vulnerable groups will be key to select the relevant social equity indicators in each city, town, or region. There is a huge data bias in actual data collection processes which prevent us from knowing what are the real impacts of our sustainability policies on the different community groups that compose our societies. The Malmö Commitment also aims to help overcome this problem and encourages local communities, research institutions and other key stakeholders to systematically incorporate data disaggregation methods to build meaningful knowledge that will allow us to better design and implement policies and programmes, ensuring leaving no one behind.  

Our pioneers are taking the lead integrating equitable approaches into sustainability action:


Municipality of Santa Fe, Argentina

With the aim of overcoming a situation of social and urban fragmentation, the Municipality of Santa Fe (Argentina) is implementing coordinated actions from different departments around three main components: environmental-territorial, associative, and care and social integration.

We are convinced it is necessary to move from mere representative democracy to democracy of proximity.

Co-creating with citizens is key to building an equitable society. Mayor Emilio Jatón, Municipality of Santa Fe, expressed his conviction of the necessity of “moving from mere representative democracy to democracy of proximity” during his intervention at Daring Cities 2022. The Municipality has set up a series of Dialogue Roundtables to solve diverse social and urban issues together with citizens. They discuss the best solutions to mobility, infrastructure, public spaces, and basic services provision and access. Focusing on three challenges: access to public services, community participation and socio-state networks, and social integration of families; the Municipality of Santa Fe will design social equity indicators and continue its efforts of leaving no one behind in their journey towards sustainable development.


Glasgow City Council, United Kingdom

The city of Glasgow (UK) has embraced the same local assets which gave it a leading position in the industrial age to forge a new path towards a cleaner, greener and inclusive economy. With the belief that “people make places”, the Glasgow City Council created the Place Commission in 2021 which brought together expert practitioners in architecture, design, economics, engineering, and public health – engaging with a range of key stakeholders in the community and showing how projects succeed when people are at their heart. 

People make places

A Just Transition Working Group was also established in 2021. The Glasgow City Council will focus now on three sustainability challenges: just transition, climate finance, and sustainable transport; creating social equity indicators to measure the social dimensions related to each of them and ensuring equity is not forgotten when developing their sustainability actions. 


Meet all our pioneers and discover their work here.


Stay tuned for future events, Daring Cities 2023 is just around the corner! This year edition is being organized around the theme: A just and equitable climate emergency response. Click here to find out more, and see you there!