Sustainability : Prosperity beyond profit: Nordic countries lead Sustainable Cities Index

Hand hold green city with ecological icons, Save earth concept
© tonefotografia -

Dutch global design and consultancy organization Arcadis currently released the 5th edition of its Sustainable Cities Index, which evaluates overall prosperity in 100 global cities. Led by the city of Oslo, the top 20 cities tend to be located in Europe and North America.

The Arcadis Sustainable Cities Index 2022 ranks cities on three pillars of sustainability: planet, people, and profit. 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. The research also highlights various strengths and opportunities of specific cities, to simplify the complex factors that contribute to the urban experience.

While the top ten had the highest combined scores, 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.

The global top 20 cities are:

  • Oslo
  • Stockholm
  • Tokyo
  • Copenhagen
  • Berlin
  • London
  • Seattle
  • Paris
  • San Francisco
  • Amsterdam
  • Zurich
  • Rotterdam
  • Glasgow
  • Los Angeles
  • New York
  • Frankfurt
  • Vancouver
  • Edinburgh
  • Munich
  • Washington D.C.

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.

“Rising costs have affected cities around the globe, and it’s important to note that many cities are already at a tipping point,” said Arcadis Global Cities Director, John Batten. “Our research found that many cities are quickly becoming, or already are, unaffordable. A profitable city alone is not sustainable if its citizens are being priced out.”

The report cautions cities against profitability that yields prohibitive cost-of-living increases without considering its larger needs. Exacerbated wealth gaps can increase income inequality, homelessness, and unemployment as seen in cities like San Francisco, Miami, and Sao Paulo. In contrast, those cities that reinvest their profit into social amenities and policies, and environmental actions that improve quality of life for citizens, including Stockholm, Tokyo and Amsterdam may find themselves on a more successful path toward long-term sustainability.