The uniqueness of the association lies in its ability to bring together all professional actors, both public and private, including the State and its public operators, to accelerate the sustainable transformation of territories.
Jean-Baptiste Butlen, Deputy Director for Sustainable Development (French Ministry of Ecological Transition and Territorial Cohesion – DHUP/DGALN), has been Vice-President of the association representing the State since 2020, and Anne-Claire Mialot, General Director of ANRU (National Agency for Urban Renewal), is the new treasurer.
SCbF – Could you tell us about the genesis of the association and the reasons for the State’s involvement in Sustainable City by France?
JB Butlen – The Institute for Sustainable Cities (IVD), which existed before SCbF, was initiated in 2014 in response to the report “Sustainable Cities, a Policy to Build” by Mr. Rolland Peylet, State Councilor, which recommended a partnership approach for sustainable cities, including the creation of a dedicated structure to address the lack of coordination among various initiatives on the subject. The State initially entrusted the implementation of this network to its public operators – ANRU and the Banque des Territoires, which held the Vice-Presidency for the State. On the occasion of the 10th anniversary of the sustainable city plan in February 2020, IVD merged with the Vivapolis network to become Sustainable City by France, an association composed of four sectors (State, Local Authorities, Companies, Experts) and chaired by Patrice Vergriete, Mayor and President of the Urban Community of Dunkirk. I then took on the role of Vice-President to represent MTECT within the State sector.
AC Mialot – ANRU has indeed played a “historic” role for the association. My predecessor, Nicolas Grivel, led the preparatory mission for the Institute for Sustainable Cities, initiated by the then Prime Minister following the submission of the Peylet report. The association, created at the end of 2015, gradually structured itself thanks to the involvement of ANRU teams and other State partners (DHUP, ADEME…) in launching the first working groups. The former General Director of ANRU remained a qualified personality of Sustainable City by France until his departure, and it was only natural that I proposed my candidacy as treasurer when I took office at ANRU to continue our Agency’s commitment to this excellent partnership project.
SCbF – In practical terms, how can SCbF support the State in implementing public policies for sustainable urban development?
JB Butlen – Sustainable City by France, by bringing together public and private professionals in urban development, acts as a trusted intermediary to facilitate dialogue between public policies and the realities on the ground, to avoid duplicating initiatives, and instead promote synergies. Through its operational work and the mobilization of expertise, the association also helps identify priorities for action and directs tools and best practices to accelerate the implementation of effective strategies. The Manifesto for Sustainable Cities and Territories, the demonstrator projects identified as part of the “inhabiting France of tomorrow” initiative, as well as SCbF’s contribution to the urban innovation strategy within the framework of France 2030 or the renewal of the EcoQuartier approach are concrete examples. In this sense, SCbF’s 2023 work programme already provides significant support in implementing the State’s major guidelines for ecological planning, particularly in the field of development, aiming for energy efficiency, land conservation, and overall resource conservation with the support of the Green Fund.
AC Mialot – The round table that Jean-Baptiste Butlen mentioned is unique in France and essential for advancing collectively on fundamental issues for our territories that still need to be equipped and explored. Sustainable City by France, in addition to the expertise it provides, constitutes a space for exchange between both public and private stakeholders, which is necessary for progress in the creation, renewal, and management of cities, which require ambition, excellence, and innovation given the magnitude of the challenges.
The neighborhoods in which we work, and their residents, are characterized by greater vulnerabilities than elsewhere, with an overexposure to multiple crises. Recognizing this shared reality, ANRU launched the “Resilient Neighborhoods” initiative a few months ago with the aim of anticipating, adapting to, and mitigating the effects of these crises. In these reflections, Sustainable City by France supports us with its expertise through interventions, training, and upcoming support for specific targeted areas. They have also allowed us to find sources of inspiration beyond our borders by organizing a study trip to Rotterdam for our teams.
We also strive to share and provide perspective on our public policies and internationally highlight the specificities of our public agency for urban revitalization, such as our recent activities in Poland.
SCbF – How does “inclusion,” a strong pillar of Sustainable City by France’s manifesto, manifest itself in its actions?
AC Mialot – Sustainable City by France acts in coherence with all pillars of its manifesto, promoting the principles of sobriety, resilience, inclusion, and value creation, and supporting their implementation.
Inclusion should be a guiding principle at all levels of intervention. We need to encourage a transformation of neighborhoods that promotes urban renewal, resource efficiency, but above all, a high quality of life, access to essential services, social and functional diversity, and spaces for participation. It is also important to consider reinforced agglomeration dynamics that integrate small and medium-sized cities, as well as neighborhoods facing significant social difficulties and urban dysfunctions, into local urban planning policies, economic policies, and social policies. These territorial dynamics are essential to limit the effects of isolation or segregation.
Moreover, the city is a magnificent field of experimentation for new approaches centered around equality and inclusivity, as well as environmental health. We have a responsibility to better align social cohesion and urban transformation.
JB Butlen – An inclusive territory fights against all forms of social and spatial segregation by protecting the most vulnerable, ensuring access to essential services, and promoting diversity. Sustainable City by France’s involvement in the ANRU’s “Resilient Neighborhoods” programme is an example of this. An inclusive territory is also participatory and democratic, and these principles are reflected in the association’s balanced and partnership-based governance, which enables its agility and independence: each sector has an equal say in the decision-making process.