Prosperity beyond profit is key trend among sustainable cities


Top ten most sustainable cities revealed in latest report that measures planet, people and profit.

Oslo and European capitals rank as the world’s most sustainable cities in the Arcadis Sustainable Cities Index 2022, released today, which evaluates overall prosperity in 100 global cities. Oslo led the index, followed by many European cities and Tokyo, Seattle and San Francisco were also recognised among the top ten most sustainable cities.

The Arcadis Sustainable Cities Index 2022 ranks cities on three pillars of sustainability – planet, people, and profit. Comprising 26 separate indicators and 51 different metrics, 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.

“Every city is unique with its own blend of strengths and weaknesses,” said Arcadis global cities director, John Batten. “There is no single solution that can propel a city to be sustainable. Having a chief sustainability officer and an electric vehicle charging network clearly helps, but there are other interconnected challenges, such as housing affordability and income equality, that cities need to address to make lasting progress,” said Batten.

The 2022 edition of the Arcadis Sustainable Cities Index marks Arcadis’s fifth 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 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,” he said.

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.

The cities included were chosen to provide an overview of the world’s urban environment, geographical coverage, levels of economic development, future growth expectations and sustainability challenges. The indicators were evaluated by Arcadis subject matter experts and the metrics were selected based on information available across all cities and source credibility.

Click here to download the Arcadis Sustainable Cities Index 2022.

Global top 20 city ranking in the Arcadis 2022 Sustainable Cities Index.

  1. Oslo
  2. Stockholm
  3. Tokyo
  4. Copenhagen
  5. Berlin
  6. London
  7. Seattle
  8. Paris
  9. San Francisco
  10. Amsterdam
  11. Zurich
  12. Rotterdam
  13. Glasgow
  14. Los Angeles
  15. New York
  16. Frankfurt
  17. Vancouver
  18. Edinburgh
  19. Munich
  20. Washington DC