Sustainable cities around the world

  • sustainable city
Published on 2018-12-03 at 12:25 by Veedushi
Choosing your new city is a crucial step if you're looking to move abroad, whether alone or with your family. Regardless of your motivation – for work, studies or setting up your business – the society, environment and economic opportunities will have an impact on your stay. The Sustainable Cities Index 2018 by Arcadis assesses cities around the world according to the quality of life, job and business opportunities and the environment they provide to their inhabitants. Let's have a look at these sustainable cities.


social life in Edinburgh
matthi /

Edinburgh, London, Paris, Taipei, Stockholm, Prague, Seoul, Amsterdam, San Francisco and Madrid are the top ten cities regarding social wellbeing. The social dimension pillar takes into account different factors such as health and well-being, education level and quality, income equality, etc. The top ten cities are in fact some of the most popular expat destinations due to the availability of a wide range of social, economic and professional opportunities. Edinburgh, for example, boasts an excellent higher education system with prestigious universities, some of which rank among the best in the world. Entrepreneurs who are looking to expand their businesses abroad can rely on a healthy, highly qualified and skilled workforce. Also, Edinburgh is a safe city where the wage gap is rather insignificant – which contributes to maintaining a high standard of living. San Francisco, for its part, boasts a state-of-the-art technological environment that attracts foreign professionals and entrepreneurs in large numbers. For example, wi-fi is very widespread, including in public transportation. Madrid and Amsterdam also have a strong coffee culture – which makes them ideal destinations for digital nomads seeking a relaxed environment with fast Internet. Since most of these cosmopolitan cities are culturally and historically rich, a thrilling expat experience is guaranteed.


green space in Stockholm
Tupungato /

In recent years, environment protection and sustainable development became a priority for the Swedish government – which is why Stockholm is the best-ranked city for sustainable environment. Stockholm has received massive investments in sustainable infrastructure promoting low greenhouse gas emission and thus improving air quality. The Swedish capital city is also one of the world's and Europe's greenest cities. Besides large green spaces, you will also find many cycling tracks which not only contribute to reducing pollution but also help the inhabitants in keeping fit and healthy. The environment pillar also takes into account energy and wastewater management, water distribution, as well as pollution, among others. Frankfurt, Zurich, Vienna, Copenhagen, Oslo, Hamburg, Berlin, Munich and Montreal also stand out in this category. However, it's worth noting that cities like Munich are vulnerable to natural disasters such as floods in spite of having an efficient warning system.

Economic opportunities

economic activities in Singapore
joyfull /

Singapore, London, Hong Kong, New York, Munich, Edinburgh, San Francisco, Boston, Zurich and Seoul top the list regarding economic opportunities. The economy pillar assesses cities according to their business climate and economic performance including infrastructure, growth, innovation and regulatory framework. Singapore, London and Hong Kong naturally stand out as economically prosperous cities with a booming entrepreneurial ecosystem. These also enjoy excellent connectivity which helps companies in their activities as well as residents in their everyday life, so if you're planning to move there, getting around won't be a significant issue. Like Singapore, London and Hong Kong, American cities such as New York, San Francisco and Boston also have a high-end digital network that inspire many countries around the world. New York, San Francisco and Boston are renowned technology hubs with specialised universities, not to mention the emphasis laid on development and innovation. While activities remain quite centralised in London, other European cities like Munich, Edinburgh and Zurich have chosen to reinvent themselves continuously to meet the needs of their residents while staying active in international markets.

Evolution clusters

local activities in Athens
Milan Gonda /

It's worth noting that many other cities made significant progress in recent years even though they are far behind in the rankings. Athens, Bangkok, Buenos Aires, Cape Town, Hanoi, Istanbul, Jakarta, Johannesburg and Kuala Lumpur, for example, are termed evolution clusters since they meet the needs of their inhabitants. Besides quality living, these cities also provide a sound business climate and a developed infrastructure which have been attracting investors from around the world. After integrating emerging markets with their developing economies, these unplanned cities lay a lot of emphasis on local entrepreneurship. Unlike in larger cities, their residents can freely define their structures and services. The strong sense of community also makes it easier for expats to adapt, regardless of their origins. On the other hand, in megacities like Mumbai, Shanghai and Shenzhen where economic and professional opportunities are abundant, development and services remain a State affair.

Article translated from Tour du monde des villes durables