Take a look at the most sustainable cities around the world, including a brief look at how local businesses contribute to this outcome.
Sustainability is a key focus of many families, organizations, and even governments across the world. Each region worldwide has its own sustainability story—and some areas are more successful at this point in time than others. Today, we’re going to take a look at five of the most sustainable cities around the world, including a brief look at what makes each city sustainable and how local businesses contribute to this outcome. First on the list: Copenhagen.
Copenhagen has earned a spot on the list for a number of reasons. Its aim is to become the first carbon-neutral capital city in the world by 2025. Here are a few of the ways this Danish city is already on track to accomplish its lofty goal.
Bike Infrastructure and Outreach
Copenhagen is one of the most bike-friendly cities in the world. Over 90% of citizens own a bike, and for those that don’t, there’s a bike-sharing system that’s well-known and well-utilized for transportation throughout the city.
Each year, a Canadian research firm called Corporate Knights releases a report of the 100 most sustainable corporations worldwide. In the latest edition from 2020, three of the top ten corporations on the list were based in Denmark: energy provider Ørsted, bioscience company Chr. Hansen, and biotech company Novozymes.
Since corporations are often the worst offenders when it comes to climate and sustainability goals, having major Danish corporations leading the charge is a huge boost to Copenhagen’s clean reputation and a motivator for residents.
Next on the list is Zurich, Switzerland, which earned the title “Most Sustainable City in the World” back in 2016. Other Swiss cities also excel at sustainability, including Bern and Lausanne. Here are a few of the reasons why.
Like Copenhagen, Zurich stands out in its ability to make bikes accessible to locals and visitors alike. The city has several different types of bikes stationed throughout the city for transportation—all free of charge. Beyond just making bikes available, making them free to use really doubles down on the accessibility of green transport to the general public.
Sustainable Energy Use
Zurich is one of the top cities in the world when it comes to sustainable energy use. Over 82% of the city’s electricity comes from renewable energies, and the city is aiming to become a 2000-watt society. This figure was selected because it’s considered to be the global average for a sustainable energy use for a city, and Zurich hopes to lead the charge in hitting that milestone.
Successful Waste Management
Lastly, waste management across the country of Switzerland is incredibly well done. Zurich separates out organic waste, recyclable waste, and other waste that can’t be reused. Even that waste, however, is converted to energy for the city to use. In total, 43% of waste in the city is recycled.
Stockholm, Sweden is the next city on our list. As a “lighthouse city,” Stockholm’s sustainability successes may be used as the model for other European towns and cities. Here’s how the city is working towards eco-friendly policies and projects.
Early Sustainability Champion
Stockholm is interesting because its attitude towards environmental and climate work isn’t new; the city actually adopted its first environment program back in 1976, and it has been updating and improving on that program ever since. Partly because of these efforts, Stockholm earned the designation of the first European Green Capital in 2010.
Urban Redevelopment Project
On Stockholm’s south island, the city has transformed Hammarby Sjöstad—which used to be a polluted industrial area—into a sustainability haven. Today, it’s home to 25,000 people who enjoy a number of eco-friendly benefits. The area was designed to be fully walkable, so there are schools, restaurants, park spaces, and more within a five-minute walk of anywhere in the neighborhood. The project uses sustainable alternatives for managing water, energy, and waste to focus on renewable sourcing and processes.
City and Business Involvement
Lastly, the city of Stockholm understands that to meet its aggressive sustainability goals, it will need to set a standard with the companies it engages with for goods, services, and contracts. The city itself can influence the supplier market by pushing for sustainable practices, encouraging companies that are lagging behind to change their ways.
Moving out of Europe, Singapore has earned its spot on this list to represent Southeast Asia. Known as the Garden City, Singapore is leaning into many ways to increase green spaces and improve sustainable practices.
Mandatory Green Construction
When new construction is built in Singapore, the city requires all projects to incorporate methods to replace the greenery that’s being displaced on the ground with new greenery. In Marina Bay, for example, all new developments comply with a full replacement policy, meaning that the impact on greenery is neutral or net positive after any construction project.
First Rank in Profit Pillar
In 2019, Singapore earned a spot on the Arcadis Sustainability Index. Part of the evaluation process includes an acknowledgement of each city’s economic standing, indicating that cities with high employment rates and high output are more likely to have the economic stability to direct focus to environmental goals. Singapore ranked first in this Profit Pillar due to the success of its local and international businesses.
This makes an important point about how businesses and engage in sustainability in an unconventional way. Assuming a company’s practices and processes are mindful of sustainability, making a consistent profit is one way to allow the city to focus elsewhere on environmental projects.
Last on our list is London. As one of the largest cities in the world, many people assume London would be lagging behind on sustainability goals. Thankfully, that’s not the case.
London is one of the greenest cities in the world in terms of preserving natural spaces, with over 3,000 parks and green spaces throughout the urban area. Natural spaces go a long way towards sustainability goals and preserving residents’ access to community areas.
Mass Transportation Network
London has one of the most comprehensive mass transit systems in Europe, making it easier for residents to opt out of having cars. In addition to the world-famous Tube system, the city has over 8,000 buses that run 24 hours a day. These buses are diesel-electric hybrid buses that have created a 40% CO2 reduction for the city, and other types of alternative fuel are being tested.
Hopefully, you’ve taken inspiration from these five sustainable cities to apply to your own life or business. Check out our business takeaways below for specific ways to put these learnings into practice.
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