ARCADIS releases first annual worldwide Sustainable Cities Index

According to the inaugural Sustainable Cities Index published by ARCADIS, the largest U.S. cities -- New York, Los Angeles and Chicago -- score best in economic factors but are hindered by poor transportation infrastructure, lack of green spaces and diminishing affordable housing.

HIGHLANDS RANCH, CO, Feb. 19, 2015 -- According to the inaugural Sustainable Cities Index recently published by ARCADIS, a global natural and built asset design and consultancy firm, the largest U.S. cities -- New York, Los Angeles and Chicago -- score best in economic factors but are hindered by poor transportation infrastructure, lack of green spaces and diminishing affordable housing.

This first-of-its-kind sustainability index, which was conducted by the UK-based Centre for Economics and Business Research, explores three key demands -- social (People), environmental (Planet) and economic (Profit) -- to develop a ranking of 50 of the world's leading cities based on 20 key indicators. The Planet sub-index, for example, examines drinking water, as well as recycling rates, greenhouse gas emissions, city energy consumption and renewable energy shares, natural catastrophe risk, sanitation, and air pollution.

Experts agree that a sustainable city should meet present needs without sacrificing the ability of future generations to meet their own needs. The 2015 Index finds that while no utopian city exists, city leaders are managing a complex balancing act of generating strong financial returns and maintaining an attractive place for people to live and work while limiting damage to the environment.

According to the report, sustainable cities provide people with clean and safe water supplies, along with transport systems that enable them to navigate the city quickly and affordably; strong social structures and institutions that work predictably and efficiently; a healthy and well-educated workforce; and an environment conducive to strong economic performance. Considering future needs, cities must protect the surrounding water from contamination, as well as take care of their waste and avoid polluting the atmosphere.

None of the North American cities studied made the Index's top 10, with Toronto ranking the highest overall at 12th place. Boston and Chicago (ranked No. 15 and 19 respectively) are the most sustainable of all U.S. cities included in the ranking. This is compared to Frankfort, London and Copenhagen ranking in the top three, respectively.

Here are the worldwide sustainability rankings of the nine U.S. cities profiled in the Index:

#15 – Boston
#19 – Chicago
#20 – New York
#21 – Houston
#22 – Philadelphia
#25 – Washington, D.C.
#27 – San Francisco
#28 – Los Angeles
#29 – Dallas

Cities in the U.S. and Canada perform significantly better on Profit factors compared with other sub-indices, resulting from strong performance on gross domestic product per capita and the ease of doing business. The cost of conducting business in the U.S. is high, tempering the strong performance delivered in most Profit factors measured. San Francisco ranked the highest in this category at 7th place, while all U.S. cities studied appear in the top half of the Profit sub-index.

The Index notes that New York City, for example, has implemented a comprehensive plan, "PlaNYC," which is designed to help improve the quality of life for future generations. The project involves fortifying waterfronts and waterways, along with cleaning contaminated land, purifying the air and ensuring that all New Yorkers live within a 10-minute walk of a park.

Likewise, the report also indicates that Los Angeles has appointed its first ever chief sustainability officer to lead the effort in creating a greener city through investments in water efficiency, along with transit, renewable energy and energy efficiency. In addition, the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power has set a goal to reach 15-percent energy efficiency by 2020 -- the most ambitious energy-efficiency target put forth by a major U.S. municipal utility.

However, while greater income allows some cities to improve their rankings, higher economic development does not guarantee greater sustainability. Every North American city in the Index sits in the bottom half of the rankings on carbon emissions (Los Angeles ranked last among the U.S. cities). This is the same for cities in the Middle East.

Approximately half of the world's population now lives in cities and urban areas. Yet, across the world, the Index finds that cities are more sustainable for Profit and Planet purposes than they are for People factors. The analysis shows that six cities -- Nairobi, Dubai, Abu Dhabi, Kuala Lumpur, Beijing, and Delhi -- will see urban population growth of more than 60 percent through 2030. This will place tremendous stress on water supplies and sewage and waste collection systems, as well as transport networks and land values.

Many of the world's economic powerhouses are becoming less affordable for their citizens, with the cost of property in New York, London, Paris, Tokyo, and Hong Kong penalizing their rankings. There is also a trade-off globally between strong education and poor work-life balance, as demonstrated in Hong Kong, Seoul and New York.

"To truly understand how sustainable a city is, we must understand how well it balances the triple bottom line of People, Planet and Profit," said John Batten, global cities director at ARCADIS. "Only then can city leaders determine their priorities and develop a roadmap to urban sustainability -- for the good of this generation and the next."

All information was found at the ARCADIS website and can be accessed at the following locations:

See also:

"ARCADIS executive VP elected to WERF, WRRF board of directors"

"ARCADIS water division president honored with ASCE management award"


ARCADIS is a global natural and built asset design & consultancy firm working in partnership with our clients to deliver exceptional and sustainable outcomes through the application of design, consultancy, engineering, project and management services. ARCADIS differentiates through its talented and passionate people and its unique combination of capabilities covering the whole asset life cycle, its deep market sector insights and its ability to integrate health & safety and sustainability into the design and delivery of solutions across the globe. For more information, visit


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