Berlin, London, Stockholm, Seoul, Hong Kong, New York, and San Francisco are all considered future-focused cities in 2020 based on factors such as sustainability initiatives, use of disruptive technology, economic growth, and physical and financial health of the average resident.
Striking a balance within the macro-environment continues to be an unrelenting challenge for cities worldwide. For many, it’s incredibly difficult to prioritize one force without forgoing another. Some cities do well in prioritizing climate and environmental growth, but fall behind in economic growth, while other cities prioritize economic and financial health far above physical health or social initiatives.
Our team was curious to find out which cities strike this balance best. We’ve ranked 50 progressive cities around the world on their forward-thinking and preparedness levels for the future in terms of social, environmental, and economic criteria.
To determine the most future-focused cities around the world, we’ve analyzed nine factors for each city related to physical and financial health, technology, environmentalism, and sustainability. We assigned weights to each factor based on their level of contribution towards innovation and forward-thinking. Lastly, we calculated the sum of the nine weighted factors, which gave us an overall city score for each city. The highest possible city score was 50.
The city listing itself was selected from The National Geographic’s article: “The World’s Top Cities for People & Planet.”
The factors are listed below with their respective weights and source data:
1. Purchasing Power Index
Source: UBS Group
2. Healthcare Index
3. Number of Fortune Global 500 Companies Using Blockchain
4. Share of Registered Electric Vehicles
Source: International Council on Clean Transportation (ICCT)
5. Number of B Corporations
Source: Certified B Corporation
6. Recycling Rates by Country
Source:Organization for Economic Cooperation & Development (OECD)
7. Percentage of Renewable Energy Sources Used
Source: CDP Global
8. Carbon Footprint per Capita (t CO2)
9. Pollution Index
The Most Future-Focused Cities Around the World
With glowing renewable energy usage, large amounts of purchasing power, and high-quality healthcare, Zurich tops our list as the number one most future-focused city. Zurich scored relatively high across all nine factors listed above.
Toronto landed our number two spot, primarily because of its prioritization of environmental and social initiatives. For instance, 91% of Toronto’s energy comes from non-fossil fuel sources and it is the home of 68 certified B corporations, an international league of businesses that meet the highest standards of balancing profit, people, and purpose.
San Francisco ranks number three on our list, with a purchasing power index higher than any other city worldwide (128). 23 companies within the Fortune Global 500 using blockchain technology are headquartered in the San Francisco Bay area and the city remains one of the world’s capitals for electric vehicle registrations.
Paris and Stockholm both round out our top ten list with notably low carbon footprints per capita, 7.7 and 8.1 total carbon dioxide levels (t CO2) respectively. Additionally, electric vehicle registration stands at 12% in Stockholm, the highest of any city within our ranking.
Cities like New York and London were leaders in factors such as purchasing power, use of blockchain technology, and the number of B corporations, but lagged behind on environmental factors with higher pollution indices and lower usage of renewable energy sources.
Beijing proved to be a hub for blockchain, where 27 companies within the Fortune Global 500 using blockchain technology are headquartered. The Chinese city also scored high for electric vehicle registrations, but scored low for pollution levels, with a pollution index of 86, the highest of any city within our ranking.
Munich ranks number eleven on our list with high healthcare and purchasing power indices. The German recycling rate (65%) is also higher than any other country on our list.
The healthcare index we analyzed estimates the overall quality of the healthcare system and its healthcare professionals in a given city as well as factors such as equipment, staff, and cost. The cities with the highest healthcare indices were Taipei, Brisbane, Seoul, Edinburgh, and Tokyo.
The percentage of renewable energy usage (from natural sources such as wind, solar, hydro, biomass, and geothermal) was highest within Sao Paulo, Zurich, Montreal, Seattle, Paris, Geneva, and Copenhagen.
Interested in diving deeper into the numbers? We’ve compiled our full data study for the 50 most future-focused cities around the world into the interactive data table below. Just click on the heading of each column to sort by those specific categories.
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