Espoo remains the most sustainable city in Europe

In a study conducted last year, Espoo was found to be the most economically, socioculturally and ecologically sustainable city in Europe. According to a recent follow-up study, Espoo has maintained its position as the top city in Europe in terms of sustainability.

The 2016 study of the Telos research institute operating in conjunction with the Dutch Tilburg University covered more than 140 European cities, whose sustainability was measured by means of sociocultural and ecological metrics for sustainable development. The study was commissioned by the Dutch EU Presidency.

According to a recent follow-up study, Espoo has maintained its position as the leading city in Europe in terms of sustainability. Competence, safety and nature remained Espoo's strengths in the study. The top positions after Espoo were taken by Helsinki, Stockholm, Linköping and Innsbruck. The Telos institute conducted the follow-up study by commission of Espoo and covered 15 cities: the top ten of last year's study and, of the following ten, five growing cities that were most comparable with Espoo.

“Last year's success inspired us to set the bar higher than before. We want to maintain our position as the most sustainable city in Europe in the coming years,” Mayor Jukka Mäkelä says.

“Helsinki’s rise to the penultimate position is indicative of the strength of the Helsinki Metropolitan Area. We have the potential to become the most sustainable urban region, which also provides an excellent foundation for developing Smart & Clean solutions.”

The climate programme steers green development in Espoo

The study classifies Espoo as a green city.

“For a city of its size, Espoo is exceptionally green. The abundance of nature in the city is one of its key features. Other green elements include the Nuuksio wilderness, the Central Park and the seaside location,” Mayor Mäkelä says.

Sustainability in the growing city of Espoo is also supported by the grid-like structure of five urban centres which is woven together by railway lines. Last August, the City Council approved a climate programme for the city, according to which the fastest emission reductions can be achieved in traffic – particularly by improving the service level for public transport and cycling – and through promoting renovation construction in the suburbs and increasing local energy production using renewable sources.

By approving the programme, the City of Espoo committed to the goal of the joint climate programme for the Helsinki Metropolitan Area to become carbon neutral by 2050 and set a 60% emission reduction per citizen between 1990 and 2030 as the intermediate goal.

Sustainable development is important to Espoo

In addition to ecological metrics, the follow-up study also examined sociocultural and economic sustainability. From the sociocultural perspective, the education, income level and health of Espoo residents are among the best in Europe. The population is growing and the residents feel that the city is safe.

However, in the 2017 follow-up study, Espoo's scores dropped slightly with regard to economic and sociocultural sustainability. 

“This is most likely due to the employment situation, in particular. Luckily, the number of long-term unemployed people began to decrease in Espoo last December after an increasing trend that lasted 4.5 years,” Harri Paananen, Manager of Economic and Business Development says. “Naturally, the overall safety situation in Europe has its effects on Espoo, too.”

Sustainable growth is a challenge that Espoo takes very seriously. Among other things, the city has invested in smart and clean solutions and trials, such MaaS, School-as-a-Service and the Iso Omena Service Centre. Plenty of effort has gone into developing business education, the circular economy and participation.

Espoo has developed in all areas of sustainability

During the Council term that is about to end, Espoo has tried out new ways of developing its operations. Cross-administrative development programmes have been employed for politicians and officials to cooperate and find solutions to the most important challenges across sector boundaries. The development programmes were as follows: Vitality for the elderly, Sustainable development, Competitiveness, innovation and entrepreneurship, Youth vitality and A participatory Espoo.

“The results of these development programmes are producing an ecologically, socioculturally and economically more sustainable Espoo,” Mayor Jukka Mäkelä says. Under the projects, innovative and even surprising solutions were tested and new approaches were sought for development efforts. In Mayor Jukka Mäkelä’s opinion, the cooperation and trials have produced plenty of results:

“The successful implementation of the development programmes is essentially rooted in two things: doing things together and crossing boundaries. The goal in Espoo’s story has been engaging the residents and employees of the city. Through the development programmes, we have been successful in doing this.”

The programme efforts will be continued in the coming Council term.