The private sector has different definitions according to the socio-ideological context of each country or group of countries such as the European Union. In general we can consider the private sector as the collection of all private entrepreneurs, from one person companies to large corporate organisations.
While globalisation and demand-supply chains are an undeniable and unstoppable factor of territorial production, the ‘added value’ of carbon- and calories-unfriendly corporate coffee chains can be questioned in places where local coffee shops are living up to the consumer expectation. The same goes for many other products that can be provided locally. In other words, the local business community need some level of public sector protection and/or support to compete against socially and/or environmentally questionable global corporations.
Although typically poor, also street vendors can be considered as part of the private sector, since their motive is also profit-oriented. The entire retail sector is obviously of great importance as territorial capital.
Financial businesses including banks are on the other side of the spectrum, with a less visible but more if not most defining impact on territorial quality and cohesion, depending on the kind and extent of control by the public sector. Innovative public-private financing mechanisms are needed to implement both the SDs and NUA.
More visible than ‘finance’ is the construction and real-estate business, as well the private utility service providers. Territorial contracts or pacts will have to include these sectors and envisage better alignments with the common SDGs and principles of the NUA/IG-UTP. Entrepreneurial governments are most needed where construction and real-estate powers are highly concentrated and not (sufficiently) delivering on social and/or environmental territorial policies. Publicly controlled territorial (urban or rural) development and real-estate companies have proven to be an essential tool and mechanism to deliver on these goals, including well located, well connected and socially mixed affordable housing.
Businesses create their own communities and institutions such as Chambers of Commerce or specialized industrial sector interest groups such as the automobile lobby – typically strong players in territorial planning and development. The public sector need to establish rules of engagement and create a level playing field to ensure the right power-balance around the territorial decision making tables.
A particular and more hybrid subgroup of the private sector are the private urban and territorial planning consultants and consultancies. While individual planning consultants can also be considered as part of the planning professional community – see next section – profit driven consultancy companies should be treated as private sector agents.
Overall, the huge diversity of the private sector therefore requires a more sub-group specific and tailored approach. Non-powerful sub-groups such as street vendors or start-up an risk-taking entrepreneurs usually require encouragement and support to engage in territorial planning and development, while the stakes of large corporations typically need to be made more transparent and less dominant.
While it’s obvious (at least for TCi) that democratically elected governments and civil society co-operate for territorial sustainability – with ‘mother earth’ as invisible arbitrator – engaging the private sector is less straightforward, given the profit-driven and vested interests of entrepreneurs and business corporations. Public-private partnerships and entrepreneurial governments and civil society are interesting crossovers blurring the boundaries of each of those players but preventing professional lobbyists from big corporations to distort the power balance and level playing field is a matter of ethical conduct and territorial justice.