Sustainable Cities Index


I came across this document at the end of last year, and thought it might be of use to geography teachers.

It is a report from a design consultancy called Arcadis that ranks 100 global cities on three dimensions of sustainability – people, planet, and profit – or social, environmental and economic to us geographers.


32 different indicators have been used to develop the indicative ranking in sustainability for each city in each of the three dimensions – and there are one or two surprises in the final listing.

Zurich leads the rankings, and well-established European cities dominate the top of the table, making up 13 of the top 15 places. London comes in at a respectable 5th place. Fast-growing, emerging cities in Asia, Latin America, Africa and the Middle East make up much of the fourth quartile of the Index, with many facing significant challenges across each area of sustainability.


The report clearly shows that cities around the world are not effectively balancing the three pillars of sustainability – in fact some cities are real split personalities, leading in some areas, but lagging far behind in others. For example, the Asian cities of Singapore and Hong Kong rank highly in profit performance, but this seems to be straining social sustainability. Factors such as the high cost of living mean these cities, sitting first and second in the profit rankings, place 48th and 81st respectively for people.

The report includes a summary of each individual city – which could be useful in the classroom:


The full report can be downloaded as a PDF here: 06687980-3179-47ad-89fd-f6afa76ebb73sustainable-cities-index-2016-global-web

Or from the web link:


About devongeography

Head of Geography and Assistant Vice Principal at South Molton Community College, North Devon. Exeter Chiefs supporter!
This entry was posted in Curriculum, Human World and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Sustainable Cities Index

  1. Ron Miksha says:

    This study is interesting and important, but it is misleading. It ranks ‘100 cities’ but there seems to be no indication of how the selected 100 were chosen.

    In Canada, where I live, I noticed only Vancouver, Montreal, and Toronto. Calgary – a city with 1.2 million people – is larger than many of the world’s cities that were listed, but was not ranked. That’s disappointing as Calgary often leads the entire world (according to the Mercer Group) in the metrics discussed in this report. It’s the cleanest city in Canada and with its socialist government at the provincial level and having the world’s first big city Moslem mayor (Nenshi was elected years ago and still serves) it is a diverse and equitable community.

    Indianapolis, a US city with half Calgary’s population, is listed, so the city selection process seems flawed. Although a sustainability report may be a useful tool, this one can’t be taken too seriously. Although the study includes a list of data sources within its ‘Methodology’ section, it does not indicate how the inputs (eg, World Bank – Literacy Rate; QS – University rankings; various – Tertiary proportion) and weighted to provide each metric (eg, Education).

    • Thanks Ron for those helpful observations. I always encourage students to question reliability of sources they might use – and your words serve as a good example of this practice. The document certainly makes a good start point for debate, even though there appears to be some issues with its content. Thanks again!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s