Building Sustainable Cities in Asia: Presenting Opportunities for U.S. Companies

March 28, 2012

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This story is part of an ongoing series highlighting the information available to participants in the 2012 Asia Pacific Business Outlook (APBO)

Daniel Tien Simon is a sustainability program manager for Asia Society Northern California

Asia’s urban population is growing at an unprecedented rate. Between 1950 and 2010, the percentage of Asians living in urban areas nearly tripled from 15 percent to more than 40 percent. Over the coming decades, Asia’s urbanization will continue and by 2050, two out of every three Asians are expected to reside in urban centers. Within 40 years, the region will be home to more than half of the world’s entire population at a staggering 5.2 billion people – with the vast majority of them living in cities.

Solar panels installed in India

Solar power and renewable energy in India

The increasing proportion of populations living in Asian cities presents unique and exceptional challenges to sustainable development and urban growth. As cities become the center of economic, social, and cultural life in Asia, they will also continue to consume the lion’s share of scarce natural resources, such as water, food, and energy.

To address these challenges, the Pacific Cities Sustainability Initiative (PCSI) was launched in 2009 as a partnership among the Asia Society, the Center for International Business Education and Research at the University of Southern California’s Marshall School of Business and the University of California Los Angeles’ Anderson School of Management, and the Association of Pacific Rim Universities World Initiative. Since that time, PSCI has also developed a major global partnership with the Urban Land Institute.

PCSI aims to address urban sustainability challenges arising from the rapid urbanization of cities in Asia by bringing together business leaders, policy makers, and academics from across the Pacific to share common challenges, attempted solutions, and areas for assistance.

PCSI attracts businesses interested in seeking sustainable services or exporting them. Through seminars in California and in Asia on sustainable business opportunities, PCSI can build businesses through networking opportunities with companies and individuals in Asia or working in Asia. PCSI brings together businesses, not only with other businesses, but also with governments and academics from different metropolises throughout the U.S. and Asia, who can shed light on what products, services, and expertise are needed in their city.

A number of markets in the Asia Pacific region present vast business opportunities in the sustainability sector:

  • China’s remarkable economic growth has had severe negative environmental consequences. As a result, China has prioritized energy efficiency and green technology. China’s rapid urbanization will also require tremendous new building construction, and the country intends to enforce green building standards moving forward. These new policies in both sectors can open up opportunities for U.S. companies.
  • Vietnam is similarly suffering from the environmental degradation arising from rapid economic growth. American companies and products enjoy a positive reputation for quality, reliability, and safety in Vietnam, which can translate into multi-million dollar opportunities.
  • India is in dire need of assistance in all areas of sustainability from infrastructure development to energy efficiency, and numerous opportunities abound for U.S. suppliers and advisors.
  • Japan has always been a leader in sustainability policy and technology. Japan offers opportunities in leading-edge, cost-effective environmental technologies and services, particularly in light of the tragic disasters of March 2011.

PCSI founders, Bruce Pickering, Executive Director, Asia Society Northern California and Richard Drobnick, Director, Center for International Business Education and Research (CIBER), USC Marshall School of Business spoke over the weekend about on PCSI at the Asia/Pacific Business Outlook Conference.

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