Amsterdam and Rotterdam among world’s most sustainable cities

Amsterdam and Rotterdam among world’s most sustainable cities

Amsterdam and Rotterdam have placed fourth and fifth, respectively, on the 2015 Arcadis Sustainable Cities Index, supporting the Netherlands’ reputation as a world leader in environmental and population management.

Sustainablity and city policy

The report, which ranks 50 cities worldwide, is the first ever by Arcadis, a global asset design and consultancy firm specialising in sustainable solutions. It is intended to help city leaders balance policy considerations.

In treating the concept of sustainability, the report breaks it down into three areas of policy demand: Planet, Profit and People. It notes that environmental programs tend to focus on the first two while excluding the latter.

Though these initiatives often lead to positive results concerning economic growth and environmental protection, Arcadis warns that an approach lacking sufficient consideration for people’s lived experiences may become problematic in an era of massive projected population increase.

The Arcadis index is based on the idea that cities should strive to become comfortable, pleasant places for people to live, while also protecting the environment and encouraging economic development.

The Netherlands’ performance

Of the top 10 cities on the list, seven are European and three are East-Asian. Rotterdam and Amsterdam are the only two Dutch cities ranked on the list.


Amsterdam placed fourth overall in the index and managed to crack the top 10 in all three sub-categories. Its best performance was in the Profit category.

"Profit" examines the business climate of a city, looking at such factors as ease of doing business, importance to larger economic networks, commuting conditions, energy efficiency and GDP per capita.

The inclusion of this last factor means Rotterdam fares relatively poorly on the Profit index, coming in at 19th place.


Both Rotterdam and Amsterdam score highly (fifth and sixth) on the Planet index, which measures a city’s level of renewable energy use, waste management efficiency and access to sanitation and drinking water.

Also contributing to both cities' strong performance is the rarity of major natural disasters in the Netherlands. 


This index looks at the interaction between people and their city environment.

Rotterdam tops the list due partly to the Rotterdam Sustainability Program, through which the government has invested 31 million euros towards creating a healthy city atmosphere.

Though this is very much a "planet" initiative, it places great value in improving people’s lived experiences. Policy initiatives include noise reduction and improving air quality.

Affordable housing (60 per cent less expensive than the top 10 city average) and relatively low working hours mean citizens of Rotterdam enjoy a high quality of life with significant leisure time.

Overall sustainability: the top 10

1 Frankfurt
2 London
3 Copenhagen
4 Amsterdam
5 Rotterdam
6 Berlin
7 Seoul
8 Hong Kong
9 Madrid
10 Singapore

To learn more about this report, visit the Arcadis website.

Emily McCallum


Emily McCallum

Emily grew up in a small coastal town in western Canada and moved to Utrecht in 2014, after completing her studies in Vancouver and Germany. So far, she has been...

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