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Top ten sustainable cities in the world

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    Dr. Mario Picazo
    Meteorologist, PhD

    Monday, June 19, 2017, 13:00 GMT - The world population continues to grow at an alarming rate, with about 7.5 billion people on this planet and a great portion of that number living in urban areas. With this astonishing value in mind, many of us wonder, which main cities around the world are adapting best to this frantic population growth? Which are proving to be the most sustainable while doing so?

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    The sustainability of a large city is based on three fundamental pillars that need to be looked into thoroughly since they conform the global sustainable basis for that specific urban area.

    Vancouver, Canada

    A 2016 exhaustive study conducted by Arcadis and the Centre for Economic and Business Research (Cebr) reveals details of the degree of sustainability of 100 of the world's most important cities. 

    Using 32 different indicators they elaborated a ranking to value the sustainability of each location. Every city receives a score per indicator, which are at the same time grouped into three main sustainability categories or sub-indexes. Finally, an average of the three categories is computed and the higher the value, the more sustainable the urban area is.

    Pillars of Sustainability

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    1. People (Social): This category includes all those aspects related to the quality of life of the city inhabitants. Health care, education, the balance between work and leisure and life expectancy are some of the main indicators. This is basically a measure of social performance in the city. Seoul in South Korea is the top city in this category.

    Seoul, South Korea

    2. Planet (Environmental): Everything related to the green label of a city is in this sub index category. Energy consumption, green urban spaces, renewable energy share, greenhouse gas emissions, air pollution or drinking water are some of the elements used to construct a ranking value for each city in this second pillar.

    Zurich, Switzerland

    3. Profit (Economic): Here the main factors put to test deal with the economic health of the city in question. Business perspective, combining measures of transport infrastructure, ease of doing business, tourism GDP per capita, connectivity in terms of mobile and broadband access and employment rates, are some of the indicators used for assessing the economic health of the city.


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    The Top 10 Sustainable Cities of the World

    Europe is the continent that has the greatest number of sustainable cities in the list of 100, and a significant number of them are in the top 10. On the other hand, Germany is the country that contributes the highest number of sustainable cities based on this study. On the other side of the world, Asia is the second continent with more sustainable cities in the list, while the highest ranked North American city is Vancouver (Canada) #23. Santiago de Chile (Chile) is the top South American City #71 while the in Australia the urban area with a higher value is Canberra (Australia) #28.

    New York City

    In the U.S., New York is the highest ranked city at #26 and does particularly well in the Profit sub-index #8, but a poor #77 in the People ranking. Vancouver and New York are followed in the North America region by Montreal #28 and Toronto #33. Based on this detailed study, the top 10 sustainable cities around the world are:

    1. Zurich (Switzerland) 
    2. Singapore (Singapore) 
    3. Stockholm (Sweden) 
    4. Wien (Austria) 
    5. London (United Kingdom) 
    6. Frankfurt (Germany) 
    7. Seoul (South Korea) 
    8. Hamburg (Germany) 
    9. Prague (Czech Republic) 
    10. Munich (Germany)

    Arcadis list of 100 cities

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    One of the conclusions side, it is worth mentioning that overall many cities around the globe and not effectively balancing these three pillars of sustainability. A good number of European cities do most of their homework with some major urban areas like London or Frankfurt, performing quite well. Singapore and Seoul also stand out in Asia as large urban areas with high scores. 

    There is a large group of fast-growing, emerging cities in Africa, Asia and Latin America at the end of the list which will be facing important challenges in each described category of sustainability during the coming years.

    São Paulo, Brazil

    One important recommendation is that many city leaders around the globe need to put people at the heart of their sustainability plans. If they use the information provided in this and other studies, it will help them compare and learn from other more sustainable cities to improve current conditions in theirs.

    Photo Sources: Creative Commons, Arcadis 

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