These are the most sustainable cities in the world

Urbanization is the shift of populations from rural to urban areas. And in the last two centuries, this phenomenon has resulted in the rapid creation, growth, and development of new cities across the entire world, establishing them as centers of economic growth and popular culture. As of 2018, more than half the world’s population was living in urban areas, and in 2050, it’s projected that this number will increase to two thirds of the world’s population (7 billion people). 

Urbanization, rapid population growth and climate change are just a few reasons why sustainable cities are so important for our collective future. Let’s explore the world’s most sustainable cities and why they’re considered as such.

Table of Contents

What is a sustainable city?

To begin, a sustainable city is one that considers its social, environmental, and economic impact through careful urban planning and management. Sustainable cities are designed to reduce their harmful impact on the environment and advocate a circular economy.  

In short, sustainable cities promote sustainable living through a multidisciplinary approach that considers people, planet, and profit – often referred to as the “3Ps” of sustainability.

What is the difference between sustainable vs smart cities?

A smart city is defined as a city in which information and communication technologies (smart systems) are used to improve citizens’ quality of life and boost the effective use of resources. At the heart of a smart city is the prioritization of new technologies.  

On the other hand, while sustainable cities and societies may make use of smart systems and integrate them into their design and operations, they are more focused on sustainability from an environmental, social, and economic perspective.

A woman riding a bicycle in a sustainable city

The 7 most sustainable cities

The 3Ps of sustainability consider a wide range of factors like a city’s infrastructure, agriculture, social services, industry, transportation, forestry, and waste, etc. According to Arcadis’ Sustainable Cities Index, these are 7 of the most sustainable cities in the world:  


Oslo tops the list of the world’s most sustainable cities because of its efforts to preserve its green spaces – a whopping 47% of Oslo is green. Additionally, the city’s use of mainly renewable energy means it’s on track to achieve almost zero emissions in 2030. Moreover, it places a concerted effort on sustainable plant-based and seasonal foods as well as social and ethical procurement.  


Stockholm’s efforts to become more sustainable actually began in the 80s when it started to experience environmental issues like water and air pollution. Today, Stockholm is considered the 2nd most sustainable city because of its expansive public transportation system, community of cyclists, energy efficient buildings, comprehensive waste management system, numerous green spaces, and last but not least, its target to become fossil fuel free by 2024.

Image of Stockholm, the world's second most sustainable city


Ranking 3rd overall, Tokyo is considered the most sustainable city in the APAC region. In fact, it’s the only Asian city in the top 25. This is largely in part because of Tokyo’s commitment to the planet and people sustainability pillars. By 2050, the city seeks to achieve its net-zero carbon goal, and it ranks highly in terms of crime, connectivity, transportation, health, and work-life balance.  


Some of the reasons why Copenhagen tops the list is because of the city’s many sustainability initiatives like achieving carbon neutrality by 2025, transitioning buses from diesel to electric, and devoting more roads to cycling. Moreover, a quarter of Copenhagen’s total food sale is organic and most of its electricity comes from wind and solar energy thanks to the world’s largest cleanest waste-to-energy power plant. 


Berlin’s many parks, gardens, and trees located throughout the city make it one of the greenest cities in the EU. It aims to become climate neutral by 2045, which seems feasible considering it’s already but its CO2 emissions by a third since 1990.  


In 2018, London was actually considered the world’s #1 most sustainable city according to the same Arcadis index, revealing that since Brexit, the city has declined in terms of the 3Ps. However, the city ranks 6th on the 2022 list because of its sustainability initiatives such as the city’s bike schemes, accessible public transportation network, and improvements to air quality. 


As the first most sustainable city in the US, Seattle is setting an example of through action. 80% of the city’s power is generated from clean, carbon-free hydroelectricity and it recently implemented the Clean Car Law which requires all vehicles sold to be zero-emission. However, efforts aren’t just planet focused. Interweave is Seattle’s community-led sustainability accelerator which helps to create an equitable & sustainable economic region as well.

Seattle's skyline, a city based on sustainability

The Dubai sustainable city project

The construction industry in the Middle East is experiencing a boom in infrastructure thanks to modernization and urbanization in recent years. 

One notable project in this region is The Sustainable City project in Dubai, United Arab Emirates constructed by Diamond Developers, a private sector sustainable real estate company. The project is a model of the first operational net-zero energy city showcasing high quality sustainable living through a three-tiered strategy centered around social, environmental, and economic sustainability.  

The 45,700 square meters area houses 500 residential units and 2,700 residents. In fact, The Sustainable City was recognized as the “happiest community” in the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC): Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudia Arabia, and United Arab Emirates.  

The city’s social sustainability stems from its community-based design, which includes a school, hospital, clinic, autism rehabilitation center, and numerous other recreational centers. Its design also promotes “soft mobility” and cycling, which are uncommon, if not unheard of, in Dubai’s year-round hot climate. Regarding its environmental impact, solar panels adorn almost every building and usable surface to generate almost enough energy to meet the community’s needs.  

Moreover, 60% of the city is green with 2 lakes made with recycled grey water. Electric transportation is a priority in Dubai’s smart city project, with electric buggies and EV charging stations available for all residents. Finally, The Sustainable City helps promote economic sustainability and prosperity by providing employment opportunities. What’s more, as opposed to multinational franchises, local businesses were selected to occupy the city’s central marketplace and endorse local products.   

Dubai’s smart city project can serve as an example to the greater construction industry. Sustainable initiatives don’t have to start with consumers or be enforced by government regulations, it’s also our responsibility in the private sector to put sustainability at the heart of all our projects and to take part in building sustainable cities. 

How Cemex Ventures improves sustainability in cities

Let’s build smarter to start constructing the cities we need to sustain both current and future generations!  

We want to achieve Goal 11 of the United Nation’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) by 2030 by investing in technologies that make construction more sustainable.   

We’re looking for Green Construction technologies that help us achieve our ESG policy that pertain to: 

  • Decarbonization 
  • Circular economy 
  • Alternative fuels & new energy sources,  
  • Sustainable materials,  
  • Product libraries & LCA,  
  • Water conservation, and 
  • Environmental damage mitigation. 

Does your startup want to earn capital, network, and pilot commercially? If so, we want to meet you.  

Contact us and let’s see how we can work together.

Let’s keep in touch!


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