How do cities promote urban sustainability and smartness? An evaluation of the city strategies of six largest Finnish cities

Hannele Ahvenniemi (Corresponding Author), Aapo Huovila

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review

    19 Citations (Scopus)


    Cities have an increasingly important role in fighting against climate change, and to tackle this challenge, ambitious sustainability goals have been declared by a number of city councils. This has motivated the emergence of various sustainability-related city concepts, such as ‘sustainable city’, ‘eco city’, ‘carbon-neutral city’, however, without clarity on definition and relations between various concepts. On the other hand, digital advances and participatory trends have led to the popularity of the concept of smart city that is seen as a major driver for sustainable transformation. Digital solutions can improve efficiency in cities’ service provision as they need to serve increasing population with limited resources due to quick urbanisation. This study provides a new angle to the debate on different city concepts by examining how smartness and sustainability are presented in the city strategies of six largest Finnish cities. We used content analysis to explore the extent to which smartness and sustainability aspects are addressed in the city strategies and how smartness and sustainability goals overlap with each other. The results suggest that the majority of goals presented in the city strategies are related to social and economic sustainability, whereas environmental sustainability is less addressed. Less than one-third of the goals are related to a smartness aspect. An important observation is that most smartness aspects overlap with either social or economic sustainability, whereas overlapping with environmental sustainability is more rare. These findings provide information for the on-going academic discussion regarding the concepts of smart and sustainable cities and recommends adopting the concept of smart sustainable cities, in order to comprehensively cover the needs of contemporary cities.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)4174-4200
    JournalEnvironment, Development and Sustainability
    Issue number3
    Publication statusPublished - Mar 2021
    MoE publication typeA1 Journal article-refereed


    • city strategy
    • citizen participation
    • smart sustainable cities
    • smart city


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