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Scandinavian cities are strong when it comes to offering sustainable living

Nordic cities dominate Sustainable Cities Index

Nordic cities dominate Sustainable Cities Index

The 5th edition of the Arcadis ranking shows that European cities are well positioned to create prosperity for their residents

Dutch global design and consultancy organization Arcadis released yesterday the 5th edition of its Sustainable Cities Index, which ranks 100 global cities on their environmental sustainability. The top 20 cities tend to be located in Europe and North America, with Nordic ones scoring particularly high.

Scandinavia is well-represented in the ranking, with Oslo, Norway, at number one, Stockholm, in Sweden, at number two and Copenhagen, Denmark, at number four. The northern European capitals were only separated by Tokyo, the capital of Japan, which placed third.

The Sustainable Cities Index looks at what makes a city good and livable from a multi-faceted perspective. In that sense, the experts are using three indicators: planet, people and profit in order to present a more complex understanding of what sustainability means.

Planet, people and profits: The 3 P’s of Sustainability

The 2022 edition of the Arcadis Sustainable Cities Index marks Arcadis’s 5th report since 2015 and takes a holistic view of sustainability to highlight the evolving challenges facing cities, in light of the climate emergency, rapid inflation and the cost-of-living crisis. Key data points when considering the cities’ overall ranking include environmental exposure to natural disasters, housing affordability and work-life balance.

Here is a look at the top 10 cities in the Overall category:

  1. Oslo (Norway)
  2. Stockholm (Sweden)
  3. Tokyo (Japan)
  4. Copenhagen (Denmark)
  5. Berlin (Germany)
  6. London (UK)
  7. Seattle (USA)
  8. Paris (France)
  9. San Francisco (USA)
  10. Amsterdam (Netherlands)

Each of the three indicators, however, or as the Arcadis consultants call them ‘pillars’, counts with its own separate ranking, which gives us a better idea of where particular cities' strengths lie. Comprising 51 different metrics across 26 separate indicators, together the three pillars signal overall prosperity and reflect the many intertwined services and outcomes cities need to consider in pursuing their sustainability goals.

For example, in the Planet category, which puts the lens on a city’s environmental policies and threats, Oslo and Copenhagen retain the same positions, with Stockholm being third and Paris – second. The top 10 in that field is exclusively composed of European cities, again with the notable exception of Tokyo.

Looking at the People indicator, however, shows us a different picture. Perhaps, somewhat unexpectedly Oslo and Stockholm fall out of the leading ten when it comes to social performance in terms of human-centred quality of life. Copenhagen is placed third there and is also the best EU city in that respect, overtaken only by Glasgow (UK) and Zurich (Switzerland).

The Profit indicator refers to the quality and vibrancy of the economic landscape in cities. Unsurprisingly, the top ten here are dominated exclusively by US cities, with no European cities making the cut.

An interesting conclusion from the ranking was that no city ranked in the top ten across all three pillars of the report. This indicates that excellence in one category alone is not enough for long-term prosperity. As cities race to meet Paris Agreement commitments by 2030, placing equal value on all three pillars will yield the greatest results.

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