By Greg Steele, Group Executive for Asia Pacific, Arcadis

As the Asia Pacific region continues to grow in importance on the global stage, it will become ever more critical that the region’s leading cities learn from each other and continue to innovate, develop, and evolve. Key to this is sustainability.

But what makes a city sustainable? Is it a focus on traditional, ‘green’ sustainability, economic strength, or how liveable the city is for people? We believe it is a mix of all three.

Our latest Sustainable Cities Index, which ranked 100 of the world’s leading cities on three pillars of sustainability: People, Planet and Profit, found that there are some significant variances across the Asia Pacific region.

Australian cities all scored middle of the road on the index, with Melbourne not making the top 50. While not a cause for alarm, these rankings reinforce that Australian cities must improve to compete on the global stage. In comparison, Asia’s two leading financial centers Hong Kong and Singapore made it into the top 10, with Singapore ranked #1 globally in the Profit sub-index with ease of doing business being a strong performer and.

While vastly different in terms of culture, economies and politics, a key take-out for me across the region was the importance of integrated, efficient and smart infrastructure.

Hong Kong has long been famous for its world-class infrastructure, but as one of the planet’s most densely populated cities, it faces unique challenges in providing an efficient transportation system to meet the needs of its 7.4 million citizens. Some of these lessons are critical for Sydney and Melbourne, who are in the middle of the largest infrastructure boom in recent memory. Projects such as Sydney Metro and Melbourne Metro will transform movement across these two cities, however they should continue to look at how Hong Kong has used this infrastructure as an opportunity to deal with its citizen connectivity, wealth-gap, and affordability challenges.

Australian cities, particularly in Sydney and Melbourne, have addressed some of this in recent years by shifting their focus from just green sustainability to social sustainability. Both government and private developments are increasingly focusing on how projects can better improve communities, including financial gains and community wellness. This isn’t just putting a park or garden next to a train station but looking holistically at a local community and how it interacts with transit hubs from the perspective of the citizen.

Despite competing with each other for talent, investment and global rankings, there is a lot cities across Asia Pacific can learn from each other. If our region is to become a global economic powerhouse, it must address holistic sustainability.

Read more about the Sustainable Cities Index Asia here:

Read more about the Sustainable Cities Index Australia Pacific here:

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