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.

UK and Ireland 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

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.

UK and Ireland City Spotlight


Balanced Innovators

With a status as one of the world’s foremost economic powerhouses and strong quality of life, London ranks as the most sustainable city in the world. It is one of the most balanced cities in the Index, with similar scores across all three pillars. Ease of doing business, top tourist attractions and multi-culturalism have all contributed to its success, yet challenges around affordability and congestion will need to be addressed if London is to maintain its ranking.

Sustainable Cities Index 2018 London


Balanced Innovators

Edinburgh ranks as the most liveable city in the world, with an enviable position as a centre for tourism, low crime rate and status as an attractive place to live and work all contributing to its success. The presence of a vibrant financial services sector, the largest in the UK outside of London, has also helped to maintain its top ten status economically.

Sustainable Cities Index 2018 Edinburgh


Balanced Innovators

In 20th position, Dublin ranks within the top quartile globally. As a balanced innovator, it is a city where the needs of businesses and employees are closely aligned and, in terms of how cities are using technology to improve quality of life for citizens, scores particularly well for connectivity. This takes into account digital services associated with transport as well as measures including the affordability of broadband and the availability
of Wi-Fi.

Sustainable Cities Index 2018 Dublin


Post-Industrial Opportunist

In 29th position overall, Manchester performs particularly well in the ‘People’ sub-index. It boasts a young, highly mobile workforce thanks to world class higher-education institutions, a significant international student cohort and high graduate retention rate. Although held back by a lower score in the ‘Profit’ rankings, Manchester’s position at the heart of the Northern Powerhouse and the economic vision for the wider region should help to propel the city further up the rankings in future.

Sustainable Cities Index 2018 Manchester


Post-Industrial Opportunist

In 32nd place, Glasgow ranks within the top third of the world’s most sustainable cities. Falling into the category of a Post-Industrial Opportunist, Glasgow is recognised both for its resiliency and accessibility. Ranking in the top 20 for both ‘People’ and ‘Planet’, the city delivers a good quality of life but simultaneously has room for improvement, particularly when it comes to economic performance. For example, it will need to compete by driving change, notably in transport infrastructure.

Sustainable Cities Index 2018 Glasgow


Post-Industrial Opportunist

Birmingham ranks firmly within the top half of the global Index, in 38th position. The city places particularly highly on the ‘Planet’ metric thanks to a relatively high proportion of green spaces, bicycle infrastructure and electric vehicle incentives. Despite this, a lower score in the ‘Profit’ sub-index has held it back in the rankings. One solution would be improved mobility, and initiatives like HS2 will link Birmingham to both London and the north of England, thereby increasing access to talent, trade and investment, and consequentially prosperity.

Sustainable Cities Index 2018 Birmingham


Post-Industrial Opportunist

In 50th place, Leeds sits at the midpoint in the global rankings. Of the three sub-indices, Leeds performs most strongly across the ‘Planet’ metric of environmental sustainability, thanks to low air pollution and greenhouse gas emissions. However, a low score in the ‘Profit’ index suggests Leeds may need to do more to attract investment and push its own regional agenda, building on the relative ease of doing business in the city if it is to improve its long-term prospects.

Sustainable Cities Index 2018 Leeds

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