Sydney Harbour

Sustainable Cities Index 2018

Citizen Centric Cities

The 2018 edition of Arcadis' Sustainable Cities Index (SCI) explores city sustainability from the perspective of the citizen. We seek to understand in more depth how different cities enable different citizen groups to meet their particular needs.

Australia Sustainable Cities Index 2018

We continue our exploration of the People, Profit and Planet dimensions of city sustainability, building a greater understanding of the underlying characteristics of cities that enable some to outperform their peers.

Our intention is that by initiating further debate on the nature of long-term success, cities will continue to challenge themselves to meet the needs of their people for both today and tomorrow.

This year, Sydney, Melbourne, Canberra, and Brisbane were included in our exploration of the 100 leading cities around the world.

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Balanced Innovator

Sydney was the top ranked Australian city in this year’s index, coming in at 34. Performing well in the Profit pillar, Sydney’s strong focus on developing integrated transit systems, addressing affordability and embracing sustainability in construction are all positive signs for future improvement across the three pillars.

Sydney, George Street


Post-industrial Opportunist

Melbourne was the lowest ranked Australian city at 56. While Melbourne is in the bottom half of the rankings it isn’t all bad news for the city. The last few years has seen Melbourne shift beyond green sustainability to social sustainability. Both government and private developments are increasingly focusing on how projects can better improve communities, including financial gains and community wellness.

Melbourne CBD laneway


Balanced Innovator

Despite just making the top 50, there are plenty of positive signs for the future of Brisbane. The city’s long-term vision, coupled with current and proposed infrastructure upgrades will help improve the overall sustainability of the city. Brisbane must focus on becoming a better functioning city and leveraging the strong infrastructure investment underway for it to not only perform better against other Australian cities but on the regional and global stage.

Brisbane, aerial view


Balanced Innovator

As the second ranked Australian city in the index, Canberra performed strongly in the 2018 Sustainable Cities Index due to its high levels of green-space, the planned nature of the city, and high public service workforce. The nation’s capital was the highest ranked Australian city for the People pillar, performing well across affordability and digital enablement measures.

Canberra, lake and balloons
Australia bus transport

Explaining patterns of city sustainability

City Clusters

To provide greater insight into the factors that influence city development and performance, we have developed a deeper understanding of how citizens and cities relate. This insight is derived from city archetypes based on urban ethnographic research into how cities are evolving and the experience of the citizens living within them. The results of this research is a set of four city clusters.

Balanced Innovators

The key citizen experiences associated with this profile are convenience and security associated with Automation and Sensing and high quality of life associated with an absence of Disruption as well as the infrastructure necessary for a Connected city.

Post-industrial Opportunists

Citizen experiences supported by a growing role of technology are mostly positive but might potentially be undermined by the impact of automation on legacy employment. Cities that match this profile have a more balanced economy so are less likely to be faced with the economic dislocation that has been seen in some recession-hit cities such as Detroit.

Evolutionary Cities

Core citizen experiences in these cities are focused on aspects of informal entrepreneurialism - articulated possibly as micro-enterprise or alternatively as community self-help.

Fast-growing Megacities

Citizen experiences include high levels of informal economic activity as well as the powerful influence of enterprise – often directed by the state to deliver development and services.

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Stephen Taylor

Australian Cities Director +61 2 8907 9084 Ask me a question

SCI - Request to Contact

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