New York City can, and should, be a role model for creating sustainable cities, and city parks are central to that vision—offering not only essential green space, but also programs and initiatives that support people, communities—and the planet.
By Gerald Walker, Chief Executive Officer, Americas at ING.
As the recipient of the City Parks Foundation's "People and Parks Award" this year, I wanted to share my thoughts on the importance of green spaces, community, and the role they share in creating a more sustainable future.
Growing up in the Highlands of Scotland, I was surrounded by breathtaking landscapes which were there for everyone to enjoy. Although my childhood home in Scotland lies thousands of miles across the ocean and I’ve traded the mountains for skyscrapers, I believe that we all share the same need to be active and to escape into nature.
During my time here in New York, I have come to appreciate even more the value and importance of green spaces. New York parks provide its residents with countless health and well-being benefits, as well as programs and education to help support the communities in which they exist. Similar to the foresight of the original city fathers to set aside the land to create parks, today’s city planners have an opportunity to make New York the blueprint for a pollution free future.
As we work towards a sustainable world, we believe that New York can create a model that other communities can emulate. One where, alongside mass transit, electric cars and e-bikes replace traditional vehicles. One where bike lanes flourish and pedestrian friendly thoroughfares are the norm rather than an exception. One Big Green Apple.
The city’s green spaces are central to that vision. Parks serve as vibrant community centers. Through the robust programming offered by city parks, New Yorkers have learned to swim in city pools, are encouraged to stay fit through fitness programs and learn to run courtesy of running clubs. These are just a few examples of the many programs that provide outreach through sports, arts, community building and environmental stewardship and education.
Our work here at ING with the City Parks Foundation and Partnerships for Parks is a robust part of our ongoing mission to show that the financial sector can help make incredible things happen locally, nationally and globally to foster a sustainable future. Programs such as Seed to Trees, Green Girls, and Learning Gardens shape the conversation and show participants that by choosing to care for nature, they can make a significant impact.
Our commitment to climate action and sustainability doesn’t simply end in the parks, or even in New York City, for that matter. Company-wide, we have affirmed our commitment to ensure our own internal and external practices follow a sustainable approach. One goal we have set is to be part of the movement to keep global warming below two degrees. This has meant purchasing renewable power and offsetting emission from our own operations.
Beyond our internal operations, we are proud to have an impact as a lender, as an investor and through the services we offer our customers. To that end, we have focused on a number of sustainability initiatives, such as becoming a global leader in sustainable finance, partnering to accelerate the growth of the circular economy, and assisting our clients in future-proofing their businesses and their own lives.
The summer of 2019 tied for the hottest on record in the Northern Hemisphere, according to the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has called for carbon pollution to be cut by 45% by 2029. It is critical that we all, collaboratively and individually, actively pursue a range of strategies to help reach that goal and move towards a more sustainable future.
I am honored to be the recipient of this year’s City Parks Foundation “People and Parks Award,” and the recognition it signifies for our efforts at ING to support a society that conserves and prizes nature and the environment—and to help ensure that it carries on to the next generation right here in my new-found home.
By Gerald Walker, Chief Executive Officer, Americas at ING