The Top 10 cities that are leading the way in sustainability and smart growth!

  • The IESE Cities in Motion index compared 183 cities to determine the world’s smartest and most sustainable cities by 2022.
  • London tops the list thanks to its strong human capital, international profile, urban planning, and leadership.
  • The most intelligent cities in Europe are Paris, Berlin, Amsterdam, Oslo, and Copenhagen, which are the first ten. 

The economic and social consequences of the tragic war in Ukraine are likely to add further stress in the form of unemployment, inflation, segregation, and migration.

In this context, it is more important than ever to diagnose the position of the cities in relation to sustainability and the quality of life of the inhabitants and to start increasing the resilience of the cities to face future challenges.

But where to begin? It’s a daunting task, but all cities should undertake a strategic review process. In addition to assessing their current situation, cities should also consider their future priorities and what they want to be. The IESE Cities in Motion Index provides a platform for a comprehensive initial diagnosis of cities and aims to be a first reference point through comparative analysis.

The IESE Cities in Motion index evaluates 183 cities in 92 countries based on nine criteria to determine the world’s most intelligent and sustainable cities until 2022.

The index compares 183 cities around the world and examines 114 criteria grouped into nine dimensions: human capital, social cohesion, economy, governance, environment, mobility, transport, urban planning, international profile, and technology.

This is an unusual index—cities are spread across 92 countries—and its long-term vision of cities puts people first in their diverse and complex needs. We look at standard metrics like GDP per capita and less traditional items like the number of electric vehicle charging stations, the number of museums and galleries, and how cities rate racial tolerance.

The  ten most sustainable cities

 1) London London’s human capital, international profile, urban planning, and governance put it at the top of this year’s rankings. The city’s disadvantages stem from being Britain’s weaker capital in terms of social cohesion and environment.
2) The economy of New York is its greatest strength, but the city also stands out due to mobility and traffic, urban planning, human capital, and an international profile. Like London, New York is relatively weaker in terms of social cohesion and environment.
3) Paris was good in its international profile, mobility, transport, and human capital but lower in its environment.
4)Tokyo has a strong economy, international profile, management, and technology. The city ranked lower in its urban planning, mobility, and traffic.
5) Berlin is a balanced city that does well in many dimensions, especially governance, urban planning, and human capital. Its weakest point was the economy.
6) Washington, D.C., is strong in human capital, technology, governance, and urban planning but can improve social cohesion and the environment.
7) Singapore’s technology and international profile are distinctive, while the environment and mobility are the city-state’s weaker capabilities.
The last three cities on the list are all northern European cities that perform well on several different dimensions. Amsterdam (8) does particularly well in technology; Oslo (9), in the environment; and Copenhagen (10), in social cohesion and environment

iese cities
IESE Cities in Motion Index Top 10. London tops the list of the world's smartest and most sustainable cities. Image: IESE Business School

Regional comparisons 

From 2020 on, the severity of economic fluctuations caused by pandemics will be critical for cities. In previous editions—this is the eighth—cities developed and fell for various reasons. In this edition, the importance of economics became crucial.

Dublin, one of the few cities expecting economic growth, jumped to 18th place. Buenos Aires (103), which competes with Santiago (75) in our rankings for regional dominance, has pulled away from its regional rival, which is particularly frowned upon by the economy.

Regional comparisons are also revealing. In general, Europe has the smartest cities. While the pandemic has affected many, the strengths and quality of life of European cities have kept them in good shape.

Cities in developing countries continue to struggle on most indicators, and recent economic and health crises have exacerbated these struggles. All the African cities included in the index are at the bottom of the overall ranking. 

Although the pandemic has not affected the region as negatively as initially thought, the health crisis has had serious economic, political, and social consequences. Latin American countries are also near the bottom, which is of particular concern because it is one of the most urbanized regions on the planet.

Asian cities that are doing well tend to grow economically and technologically. Technology is also where a handful of Middle Eastern cities—Dubai and Abu Dhabi—do best, although overall the region still has a long way to go to create a smart and sustainable city.

The economy is also a determining factor for American cities: six of the top 10 cities in terms of economic dimension are American; none of the top ten cities for social cohesion or environment are American.

dimensions of cities
Criteria used by IESE Cities in Motion Index to determine the most sustainable cities in the world. Image: IESE Business School

Growing urban resilience

In the past, urban resilience focused on preparing for natural disasters. We need to expand our understanding of sustainability beyond infrastructure to include sustainable ecosystems, innovative activities, citizen equity, and interconnected areas.

Mayors must be able to set an example, guided by the principles of justice and cooperation and a vision of the future that includes all citizens. The concept of intelligent governance, which includes accurate diagnosis, clear vision, and a multi-dimensional approach to managing challenges, is crucial.

And it is not only the responsibility of the public sector. Building urban resilience—the ability of cities to survive despite adverse conditions—can only be achieved if all stakeholders are involved.

The public sector, private companies, NGOs, and academic institutions must work together and take a holistic approach to what makes a city not only livable, but livable, fair, and sustainable.

Source: IESE,WEF


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