The World's Top Cities for People and the Planet
Today’s cities are finding it hard to be both livable and economically strong. Not one has truly balanced people, profit, and the planet, according to a new report on an index that ranks cities by sustainability. The index, from global design firm Arcadis and the Centre for Economics and Business Research, ranks cities’ success based on social, environmental, and economic factors.
Arcadis used 32 indicators and a cross section of the world’s urban areas, so not all capitals or large cities are necessarily represented. A city is scored on each of the three sustainability factors; its overall score is the average of those.
Zurich was rated as the top city, cited for its livability, environmental policy, climate initiative, public transit, and strength as a financial center. Despite its overall winning score, though, Zurich wasn’t necessarily the top place for people—its citizens are challenged by work-life balance and cost of living. Other European cities were lauded, making up most of the top 20 positions. Two innovative Asian cities—Seoul and Singapore—round out the top ten.
Rapidly urbanizing places, such as Dubai, in the United Arab Emirates, tend to prioritize fiscal growth over environmental or health matters—at least at first, says Arcadis’s global director of cities, John Batten. For example, only after it had built a robust economy did Dubai begin investing in mass transit projects that would cut pollution and improve pedestrian safety.
Increasingly, city leaders are seeing the value of raising the quality of life. Seoul, South Korea—ranked first for “people” in the index—is using the fruits of a decades-long boom to enhance its environment. Among the projects: reclaiming once polluted land to create recreational spaces and improve flood control. Read the full report.