Navigating the Innovation Gap: Cities That Are #Winning

September 7, 2017 Sara Audisho

To complete this series within a series (#inception) about urban innovation, we’re commending cities around the world that are the most sustainable.

Over the last month, we’ve explored cross-industry efforts to prepare cities for the future. To flourish and provide for their residents, urban centers have to adopt sustainable policy.

Wait a second, what does this have to do with marketing?

Marketers can learn a lot from case studies outside of the industry. This is where innovation can sprout from. A keynote speaker refining her craft shouldn't rely exclusively on keynoters for advice. She can turn to performers, magicians, musicians. You get the idea (and if you don't, innovation expert Stephen Shapiro talks a lot about this).

So in this case, we're showing marketers how to reframe their view of everybody's favourite buzzword - innovation - by looking at whole cities that have lived by it. 

Of course, some municipalities are ahead of others for very long-winded, complicated reasons. Nonetheless, with the resources that they have and the cards they’ve been dealt, these cities come out on top for being the most sustainable.

And how does the concern for sustainability fit into the discussion of innovation? For the long version, the last 5 segments of our Innovation Gap series will provide a pretty good idea.

Here’s the short version: innovation solves problems.

And we don’t mean #FirstWorldProblems. You can figure those out yourself.

We mean societal challenges. The scary conversations that we like to stow away when we’re having company over for dinner (or for some of us, the conversations we save for the pubs and the wine bars).

You can Google articles about sustainability and spend the rest of your life becoming an ‘expert’ in it. For our purposes, let’s say that all the problems we face together lead back to sustainability. How can we make everyone happy and healthy in the long-term?

Sustainability requires the desire to look ahead. The “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it,” attitude is not going to cut it for cities that want assurance for their tomorrows.

The cities below have made it atop the 2016 Sustainable Cities Index, a report published by global consultancy firm Arcadis. The index measures each city’s current balance between three sustainability factors: People, Planet and Profit. In less frank terms – quality of life, green factors and economic health.

“Cities around the world are struggling to achieve a balance in the three pillars of sustainability,” the report claims. Some cities excel in one pillar, while suffering in others.

The key to striking balance? The consultancy firm says “cities must put people at the heart of sustainability.” Without a good quality of life, the other two factors are unachievable.

As for the rankings, Arcadis claims they are based on each city’s current and long-term “social, environmental and economic sustainability."

So without further ado, here are the cities that are looking the best in the long-run:

Read the full report here.

1. Zurich

No surprise here. Zurich is a modern city known for its historically strong financial institutions, innovative industries and environmentalism. Working towards the ‘2000-watt society’, the city is pushing for its citizens to use 2000 watts of energy per capita by 2050. Its people enjoy a good quality of life and are surrounded by attractive educational and employment opportunities. They also have access to efficient and affordable public transit, not to mention a renowned healthcare system.

2. Singapore

Singapore scores highly on the index for its astounding economic success. It tops every other country in the world for ease of doing business. A remarkably clean city and a major tourist destination, the metropolis is home to cutting-edge innovation.

However, Singapore’s full potential lies ahead as it improves its current living conditions. Aside from planning for an aging population, residents work long hours and face income inequality.

There is a need to invest in social infrastructure and make life more affordable – measures the city has already made plans for. The government is preparing for a population growth spurt over the next decade by investing in mobility and connectivity within the city. These efforts will accompany the government’s goal to make 80% of all buildings green, and create a “high-quality living environment that is resilient and supports the broader climate change agenda.”

3. Stockholm and 4. Vienna

Both of these cities actually achieve the best balance on the index. They appear in the top 15 across each of the pillars. For most of the same reasons, Stockholm and Vienna can boast about giving its residents the best quality of life. The two cities take home the trophy for work-life balance, job security, healthcare and childcare.

Where they differ is between specific index numbers: Vienna has a higher People score, but Stockholm has higher Planet and Profit scores, edging it just above Vienna overall.

5. London

A city of true cosmopolitans, London is heralded as one of the world’s foremost economic powerhouses. With commitments to make public transit and infrastructure greener, England’s crown jewel will soon be a leader in environmental performance as well (the city currently sits in the 9th spot).

With that said, London faces a very real concern for its inhabitants’ quality of life. Its population density is a concern and continues to intensify. A high cost of living and increasing income inequality have contributed to 28% of the city living below the poverty line.

Where Canadian cities landed on the Index:

23. Vancouver

28. Montreal

33. Toronto come on, t.dot!

The future is green (and happy and healthy). So far, we know that openness to innovation and genuine collaboration gets us closer to that future. 


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