SINGAPORE (Sept 13): Design and consultancy firm Arcadis says Singapore is the most sustainable city in Asia and ranks second after Zurich on a global scale, as reflected in its Sustainable Cities Index 2016.

The Sustainable Cities Index is compiled for Arcadis by the UK’s Centre for Economic and Business Research (CEBR).

Three pillars of sustainability – social (‘People’), environmental (‘Planet’) and economic (‘Profit’) – are explored throughout the study to develop an indicative ranking of 100 of the world’s leading cities. The overall index analyses 32 different indicators and is broken down into three sub-indices across each pillar.

“Every sector in Singapore is looking for ways to be more sustainable. For instance, the industrial sector is looking at smart logistics planning and ‘investable’ master planning,” says Arcadis’ city executive director, Eugene Seah, in a Monday statement.

He also notes a shift in the country’s construction industry towards “smart and green buildings”, as well as a push for productivity enhancement.

John Keung, CEO of the Building and Construction Authority of Singapore (BCA), agrees that the country’s green building movement and green building masterplans have played a “pivotal role” in Singapore’s recent achievement as Asia’s most sustainable city.  

While the Republic tops two out of three sub-indices, namely Profit and Planet, it places significantly lower at 48th in the world for the People sub-index. This is due to long working hours and high cost of living which has hampered their social sustainability performance, says Graham Kean, Asia-Pacific head of client solutions at Arcadis.

Over 70% of Asian cities included in the index rank below average, which Kean says “clearly demonstrates” the huge gap between the advanced cities and the developing cities in Asia.

“Across Asia there are extremes between both the countries and within the sub-index rankings, suggesting many of these cities are living at their limits,” he observes, citing Singapore and Hong Kong as examples of those who have achieved top places profit-wise, but performed poorly in terms of social sustainability.

Hong Kong ranks 16th globally in the index, coming in second place after Singapore on the Profit sub-index but ranking 81st for People.

“When it comes to improving the sustainability of a city in Asia, there is no ‘one size fits all’ solution,” continues Kean. “Therefore, city authorities need to truly understand their own challenges and issues before they can come up with the effective strategy to improve the sustainability of the cities.”