Gerben van Straaten

Founder of the World of Walas.
Author of Earth Charter Cities Manifesto and active member of Earth Charter.
Renowned keynote speaker.
Signatory partner for the UN Sustainable Development Goals 2015, Dutch National program.
Owner of Dudoc Vancouver, Centre for Sustainable Urban Design and Development, partnering with the Dutch national government, ministry of Economic affairs and foreign affairs.
Founding partner of Parallel 52, Canadian Dutch Network for Sustainable Building and Planning

HG van Straaten studied general law and economics at Rijksuniversiteit Groningen (National University of Groningen). He was very influenced by the thinking of renowned economist professor Jan Pen. He also considers the works of Jan Tinbergen, Jeffrey Sachs, and Umberto Eco as teachings and guides in his life. He did not pursue an academic career, but was drawn to the business environment and sustainable urban development. A few years into his career, he evolved from project manager to business developer and entrepreneur and worked in Canada and Europe. He was fortunate to meet with Jane Jacobs and considers her work a guiding light in the single minded jungle of (unsustainable) real estate development.

Growing into the field of project development, real estate and sustainable urban development, van Straaten formed partnerships and alliances in Europe and abroad. When the financial and real estate crisis in The Netherlands changed the business landscape considerably, he decided to establish an independent market position in Europe. He founded a new group of companies, World of Walas, to conceptualize new sustainable business for cities, as well as purchase, (re)develop and manage real estate.

Van Straaten believes that with collective and collaborative efforts around community developments in cities, we can solve many of the Earth’s problems including climate change, CO2 levels, poverty and social injustice. His involvement with the Earth Charter, UN Habitat3 and the New Urban Agenda, Unesco and other organizations provide a platform to push for change. He has ‘radical hope’ for the future, and believes that it all starts with an ethical reset. This is why the Earth Charter is at the core of the Earth Charter Cities Manifesto and Walas program.

Since 2012, Walas has continued to establish itself in the market, with partners in Europe, Canada, China, and the USA. Van Straaten leads international platforms for change in North America, Europe, China and Latin America. He continues to build a strong and effective network of innovation partners with a complete selection of technical solutions for the built environment and the nexus of materials, waste, water and energy. One initial project, Carbon6 in Heerlen, south of The Netherlands, started in 2012 and is already proving itself with surprisingly good results. Another project in Canada, Dudoc Vancouver, continues to grow into a centre of excellence for urban design, sustainability and innovation and will have international spin offs in Asia and Europe. Van Straaten and Walas ensure smart and comprehensive combinations of available innovations, sculpting them in to holistic and integrative solutions for sustainable development. At the same time, local Walas teams feel strongly committed to community driven projects in their areas. Based on Walas concepts like EcoGrowth.