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.

Europe 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.

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Explaining patterns of city sustainability

City Clusters

Sixteen European cities are in the upper quartile. Many of these, Amsterdam and Vienna, for example, are balanced cities where our measures suggest that the needs of citizens, business and the environment are all served well. Cities in Southern Europe such as Spain, Italy, and Greece, score less well in the Profit Pillar, while cities more to the east such as Prague, Warsaw face greater challenges associated with their sustainability agenda.

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.

City Spotlight

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 Innovator

Amsterdam is a balanced city where needs of citizens, business and the environment are all served well. The city’s thriving business ecosystem, world-class museums, quirky festivals, famous canals and laid-back atmosphere attract corporates and tourists from around the globe. On the other side, the city struggles with affordability, tourist crowds and income inequality. Sustainability is on the agenda. The city is involved in the Zero Emissions City program, investing in public transport infrastructure (Noord-Zuid Lijn) and experimenting with Mobility as a Service in its business district Zuidas.

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Balanced Innovator

Paris is famous for its quality of life. The city attracts a lot of people and tourists from across the globe and offers opportunities for white collars workers. At the same time it’s not so easy to find affordable housing for those who want to live in Paris with their family. Paris needs to take firm and concrete actions on air quality, carbon emission, the protection of nature and biodiversity and has to find solutions to futureproof its accessibility. Grand Paris Express boosts urban mobility and urban development. To improve air quality Paris invests in vegetated buildings like Mille Arbres and the Aurore project.

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Post-industrial opportunists

Rotterdam is well connected and provides a good quality of life for its inhabitants. The city drives global best practices on resiliency, for example by creating innovative water storages under new, iconic buildings. Bottom-up initiatives driven by citizens make the city more appealing and sustainable. One of these, 7SquareEndeavour, enhances Rotterdam’s theatre district and acts as an experimental area for new innovative technologies, circular processes and business models. The city is eager to set next steps in sustainability: it wants to become the most sustainable port in the world and is encouraging clean energy and digital transformation.

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Balanced Innovator

Berlin has long since abandoned its reputation as the impoverished concrete desert of the post-war period. From Kreuzberg to Charlottenburg, the city on the Spree has a lot to offer. In addition to the German government, the headquarters of numerous well-known companies have made Berlin their home. Above all, it’s the scene of young, start-up entrepreneurs currently flourishing in Berlin. No other city attracts such creative thinkers as the metropolis on the Spree. Young and old are making their way to Berlin: 60.000 new Berliners are flocking to the capital each year.

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Carolien Gehrels

European Cities Director +31 (0)6 1261 2990 Ask me a question

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