Metropolitan Solutions Interviews: Morten Højer

Morten Højer is Chief Advisor on Climate and Economy in the Technical and Environmental Department, City of Copenhagen

Question: In your experience of seeing cities and businesses work together – when it goes well, why does it go well?

150521_mortenMorten Højer: If you look at successful examples, and if you look at any kind of traits that would seem to go through all those examples – do they have anything in common? And my guess would be that, yes, they do have something in common, and I think there are a few basic things. If you want to engage businesses, they’re there to make money. And you need to understand that. So if they are large companies, they usually have the money and the time and capacity to engage in, you could say, more “off the business” kinds of conversations – invest their time as well as their resources in developing it. So they have a different kind of approach – their appetite for doing this is sometimes different.

If you engage with different, smaller companies, they usually don’t have either money or time. But sometimes they can be the most innovative ones and have great ideas, because they are driven more by people who believe in what they are doing. So that’s my experience. So if you want to engage with the latter, you need to be very clear why they should be here, because if you’re not, they wouldn’t.

Question: Do you think you always need to present the opportunity for profit?

Morten Højer: No, I don’t think so. I think, increasingly, companies are aware that they’re part of a society that has challenges and opportunities, and they have a role to play in that.

Question: And that they’re affected by the same things as everyone else in society.

Morten Højer: Yes. So you could say that the boundaries between what a private company can do and what it is responsible for is constantly shifting, I think. And it becomes, you could say, a kind of expectation on behalf of citizens towards them, but it also becomes a new agenda and a new scene into which they can enter and from which they can profit.

Question: What do you think is the best forum for cities and businesses to engage each other?

Morten Højer: My take would be that context matters, so it depends on the purpose. I’m kind of a practical guy – I try to focus on: what is the problem we need to address? And then design whatever you do in your meetings from day to day to large-scale events – what it is that’s required. Last year Copenhagen was the European Green Capital, and we had a lot of events that, from my perspective, sometimes tended to be a bit like – decision-makers and politicians like to go to these, and I’m sure it has its purpose. One of them being, for example, that you create a lot of awareness. And there’s been a tremendous raising of awareness of these issues. But sometimes I also ask myself: does it really move on the agenda? Does it solve any kind of problem? And sometimes you can doubt whether that’s the case. But I guess it’s a very long process, and sometimes just mutual understanding and learning is necessary to be able to make the next step.