13 Facts On the Top 25 Sustainable Cities of the World

February 22, 2023 - Reading time: 10 minutes

A report by Arcadis, a design and consultancy firm, and the Centre for Economic and Business Research has examined a number of cities to find out which are the most sustainable, measuring: people, planet and profit.

John Batten, the author of the study said, “As the world continues to become more reliant on its urban centers, it is our hope that city leaders and industry find this a valuable tool in assessing their priorities and pathways to urban sustainability for the good of all.”

Due to overpopulation, climate change and pollution, it is no secret that today there are many challenges facing each city.

Photo Credit: Arcadis

#1 No One City is Balanced

No city was balanced regarding: people, planet and profit. Many cities did well in two areas but very few did well in all three categories showing that cities need to improve in order to regulate all three.


#2 European Cities Did Better

No US city was included in the top 25, with European cities achieving high scores. Emerging cities tended to score lower therefore other categories should be measured to make the study more specific, for example, age.

#3 Cities Still Struggle with Sustainability

A clear vision is needed for each city and what it regards as a sustainable future in order to impact business, finance and the environment.

Photo Credit: zuerich.com
Photo Credit: zuerich.com

#4 Swiss City of Zurich is the Most Sustainable City

Zurich scored the most sustainable city in the world, with high points for planet and profit categories. With the exception of Singapore and Seoul, the top ten ranked cities are mostly from northern and central Europe.

#5 US Ranks High in Profit Compared to People and Planet

In the middle of the index were cities from southern Europe, the US and some cities of the Middle East. New York was 26th whilst Detroit was 69th.

Photo Credit: proaktiva.ch
Zurich trams Photo Credit: proaktiva.ch

#6 Sustainability and Economy

Cities in advanced economies did better in sustainability measures than poorer countries, coming near the bottom of the rankings.

#7 Lifestyles Over Sustainability

All advanced economies are putting profits over emissions of greenhouse gasses, not recycling enough of the finite resources we use and depleting our non-renewable energy sources.

#8 Zurich to Become a 2000-Watt Society by 2050

Zurich has a long-term goal to become a 2000-watt society by 2050 that will see people use 2000 watts of energy per capita (the global amount established as ‘sustainable’ energy use). This includes using renewable energy, sustainable buildings and promoting an environmentally friendly lifestyle for all.

#9 Zurich is a Number One Example of a Sustainable City

Not only did Zurich score number one in the Sustainable Cities Index but also it is a livable, modern society generating the 5th highest profit compared to other cities. Other urban areas can take note of the Zurich’s transport as trams, trains, buses and light rail ensure easy, quick and affordable mobility for citizens.

#10 Zurich Offers a Work-Life Balance

The quality of life in Zurich is high, comparing to other countries. The education, employment and health index are all high. Large and small businesses and industries contribute to a thriving economy where high productivity levels and low non-wage labor costs make production costs lower than competing countries.

Liverpool Street Station, London

#11 London Will Reach 10 Million People by 2030

Housing problems in London will intensify, with an estimated growth of 10 million people by 2030, putting stress on accommodation. 28 percent of the city’s population is living below the poverty level, showing that society is largely unequal.

#12 Shanghai Aims to Become the Most Sustainable Cities in China

With urban regeneration and innovation hubs, Shanghai is marketing itself as a center for knowledge, technology and innovation. 13 of the city’s 25 metro lines are completed and operational.


#13 LA Use ‘Sustainable City Plan’

LA is focused on becoming a sustainable city by improving water quality, pollution and air quality. Although the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power has said that within five to eight years the plumes will become so dense that the groundwater wells will likely shut down unless a solution is found, LA has successfully decreased water usage by 25 percent by early next year.

DW Staff

David Lintott is the Editor-in-Chief, leading our team of talented freelance journalists. He specializes in covering culture, sport, and society. Originally from the decaying seaside town of Eastbourne, he attributes his insightful world-weariness to his roots in this unique setting.