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Cities play a key role in the modern global sustainable development agenda, including in achieving the Sustainable Development Goals. The Organization for economic cooperation and development (OECD) estimates that approximately two-thirds of all SDGs cannot be achieved without proper participation and coordination with local and regional authorities.

Since the adoption of the 2030 Agenda, various international organizations have developed methodological recommendations for the implementation of the SDG and the design of a universal system of indicators for achieving the SDGs at the regional and urban levels. Key initiatives in this area include the UN-Habitat Urban Well-Being Initiative and the OECD project Territorial Approach to SDGs.

Sustainable urban development management needs effective assessment and monitoring tools. Today there are more then 200 ratings for assessing the sustainability of territorial development in the world, most of them were compiled in the last decade. In recent years, systems of international standards in the field of sustainable urban development (ISO 18091, ISO 37120, ISO 37151, ISO 37152) have also been actively developed, which define qualitative and quantitative measurable indicators.

In Russia, currently no more than 5 city ratings are compiled on a regular basis, evaluating different aspects of their development. The number of regional ratings of the Russian regions is about 40. There are two main limitations for forming a rating of cities. This is the limited statistical open data at the local level and mismatch of statistical indicators with international standards.

One of the most popular assessment tool in Russia is the urban environment quality Index, which has been compiled since 2017 by DOM.RF and Strelka Institute on the initiative of the Ministry of construction and housing of the Russian Federation. This index is aimed primarily at assessing the state of urban infrastructure, the level of improvement and accessibility of various services for city residents. In 2020, the first IQ rating of Russian cities was published, compiled by the Ministry of Construction and Housing of the Russian Federation on the basis of the methodology of experts from Moscow State University. This rating is compiled in connection with the implementation of the national «Smart City» project.

Since 2012 the SGM Agency compiled eight Sustainable development ratings of Russian cities (SD City Rating). This is the only one universal tool in Russia for a comprehensive assessment, which aims to evaluate all aspects of urban development (economic development, social infrastructure, innovations, demographical situation, state of the environment).

Sustainable development rating of Russian cities: goals, principles and methodology

SD City Rating is compiled in accordance with the principles of sustainable development of the territory. It is based on the experience of leading international research groups and organizations (McKinsey, Ernst & Young, PWC, Australian Conservation Foundation, ForumfortheFuture, European Green Capital, UN Habitat, OECD and others).

The purpose of the SD City Rating is to identify leaders and outsiders of sustainable development among Russian cities, highlighting the most balanced ones in their development among them to identify promising directions for their growth.

The SD City Rating estimates 185 cities of the Russian Federation with a population of over 100 thousand people, located in 80 subjects of the federation. Their total population is 79 million people or 77.7% of the total population of all 1117 Russian cities.

The main sources of information for compiling the SD City Rating are the state statistics presented on the Internet resources of Federal State Statistic Service, Unified interdepartmental information and statistical system (EMISS) and the websites of local administrations, results of Russian regional and urban rankings

There are four Basic principles of rating construction:

• openness of statistical materials;

• completeness of data for sample cities;

• maximum relevance of indicators;

• discussion of the methodology and results of the SD City Rating with a wide range of stakeholders.


The cities of SD City Rating are ranked by the value of an integral indicator called index of sustainable development (ISD). It is calculated on the basis of 43 statistical indicators characterizing the development of the city in five main blocks: economic development, urban infrastructure, demography, social infrastructure, and ecology. Low number of ecological indicators is due to the lack of relevant open statistical data at the city level in Russia. The methodology for compiling SD City Rating for 2019 has been upgraded for two blocks of indicators "urban infrastructure" and "ecology".

Table 1. List of SD City Rating indicators for 2019

Social indicators


Natural growth rate, ‰

Migration growth rate, ‰

Demographic load, %

Mortality from socially significant diseases per 100,000 population *

Health care

Number of doctors per 10,000 population

Number of secondary medical personnel per 10,000 population

Number of hospital beds per 10,000 population

Capacity of outpatient clinics per 10,000 population


The number of people who need to attend preschool institutions in relation to the number of places in them, %

Number of college students per 10,000 population

Number of University students per 10,000 population

The number of winners of the National school Olympiad per 10,000 of the population below working age, ‰

Number of computers in schools per 1000 students*

Number of schools in the city in the top 500 best schools in Russia

Number of universities in international academic rankings


Number of registered crimes per 1000 population

Number of murders per 1000 population*

Economic indicators

Housing and communal infrastructure

Commissioning of housing per capita, m2 / person

Housing renewal rate, %

Housing facilities with heating, water supply, and Sewerage systems, %

Average annual output of a heat supply source, gigacalories

Transport and Telecommunication infrastructure

Value of the urban environment quality Index for the "street and road network" block

Number of injured in road accidents per 10,000 population

Number of Internet users per 1000 people *

Number of connected mobile devices per 1000 population *

The value of the urban digitalization index «IQ of cities»

Production and investment

Industrial production per 1 employed person

Investments per 1 representative of the economically active population

Share of unprofitable organizations, %

Labour market

Registered unemployment rate, %

Diversity of the labour market (Herfindahl-Hirschman index)


Share of own revenues in the city budget revenues, %

Income and expenses of population

Proportion of average salary to the subsistence minimum, %

Retail trade turnover per 10,000 population

Turnover of public catering per 10,000 population


Volume of innovative goods, works, and services, %*

Share of organizations that implement technological innovations, %*

Ecological indicators

Production ecology

Water consumption per unit of industrial production,

Environmental condition

Specific emissions of pollutants from stationary sources per 1 km ²

Specific emissions of pollutants from vehicles per 1 km ²

Рopulation density (people per 1 km ²)

Rank of the region in the rating of investment attractiveness of regions in the block

«environmental risk»* (RAEX)

Value of the urban environment quality Index for the "green spaces" block

* data on these indicators is collected for Regions. Subjects of Russian Federation

Results of the Sustainable development rating of Russian cities for 2019

The city leaders (TOP 30) of the Sustainable development rating of Russian cities

The leaders of the SD City Rating for 2019 are Moscow, Tyumen and Krasnodar. Moscow is the capital of Russia. Last two cities are dynamically developing regional centers that have demonstrated high population growth rates in recent years. These three cities, as well as Kazan, Kaliningrad and Surgut, have been consistently ranked in the TOP -10 cities in the SD City Rating over the past five years.

Picture 1 The city leaders (TOP 30) of the SD City Rating

An analysis of the results of the SD City Rating over five years showed that the position of the city depends primarily on the balance of various areas of urban development (economy, social sphere, ecology), and not on the population size. Thus, some relatively small cities hold higher positions in the SD City Rating than millionaire cities and large regional and industrial centers. For example, 4 of the 10 largest population cities of Russian millionaire cities (Novosibirsk, Samara, Chelyabinsk, Omsk) did not even make it into the TOP-50 cities of the SD City Rating.

Thirty top cities of SD City Rating can be divided into four groups that have their own growth drivers:

• capitals and cities with more than a million of inhabitants;

• dynamically developing regional centers;

• cities of the Moscow region;

• centers of the oil and gas industry.

The composition of the leading cities of the SD City Rating (TOP-30) has remained virtually unchanged over several years. Let's analyze the main factors that determine the high positions of cities in each group of cities, which are leaders of the SD City Rating.

Four groups of cities that are the leaders (TOP-30) of SD City Rating

Сapitals and cities with more than a million of inhabitants

In the top 30 cities of the SD City Rating over the past three years, 9 of 16 Russian cities with more than a million of inhabitants have consistently been included: Moscow, St. Petersburg, Yekaterinburg, Voronezh, Krasnodar, Rostov-on-Don. Kazan, Ufa and Perm.

These cities are characterized by the key factors that determine their high positions in the SD City Rating such as relatively stable economic situation and diversified labor market; sufficient financial resources to maintain and modernize the urban and social infrastructure; high potential for inter-regional migration; high rates of housing construction and housing renewal; оpportunities for high-quality secondary and higher education.

Leadership positions of the two capitals in the SD City Rating are quite logical and can be explained both by their special status (these are not only cities, but also subjects of the federation), as well as economic resources and invest attraction.

Dynamically developing regional centers

 According to the results of the SD City Rating the number of leading cities included 7 Russian regional centers with a population from 250 to 800 thousand people: Tyumen, Kaliningrad, Yuzhno-Sakhalinsk, Belgorod, Stavropol, Cheboksary, Lipetsk, Tambov. These cities are included in the list of promising centers of economic growth, as defined in the Spatial Development Strategy of Russia. Most of them occupy high places in other ratings of Russian cities.

We outline the key factors that determine the high positions of these regional centers in the SD City Rating. Among these factors are location in economically successful regions; a diversified labor market and a fairly high level of income; high rates of industrial production and investment per capita; stable dynamics of population growth, including due to interregional migration; the availability of opportunities for quality higher education; relatively favorable environmental situation, the absence of large polluting enterprises.

Cities of the Moscow region

The most homogeneous group of leading cities of the SD City Rating are a number of cities in the Moscow region neighboring with Moscow.

This group of cities is characterized by similar development trends that determine their high positions in the SD City Rating by such factors as migration attractiveness for residents of other regions and “young” population structure, significant pace of housing construction, high share of housing facilities with basic utilities; presence of large trade and logistics facilities and airports, opportunities for high-quality secondary education, lack of large enterprises that pollute environment.

Oil and gas industry centers

The stable high quality of life in the cities-centers of the oil and gas industry is due to the important role of hydrocarbon exports in the Russian economy. This group includes Surgut, Nizhnevartovsk, Novy Urengoy, Nefteyugansk, Tobolsk, which are located in West Siberia.

Cities of this group are characterized by high natural growth and a “young” population structure, as well as a stably high level of economic development. Thanks to the cooperation of local and regional authorities with oil and gas companies operating in these cities, it is possible to implement infrastructure modernization projects and maintain a high quality of life in these cities.

Cities at the bottom of the SD City Rating

In general, the composition of the group of 25 cities that are the outsiders of the SD City Rating remains relatively stable for several years. These are single-industry towns and old industrial centers as well as a number of Crimean cities.

Picture 2. 20 Cities at the bottom of the SD City Rating

The main factors that determine their low positions in SD City Rating are generally the same for most outsider cities. Among them difficult economic situation, limited employment opportunities, natural decline, mass outflow, aging of the population, low rates of housing stock renewal, poor state of urban infrastructure, low quality of secondary education, limited ability to obtain higher education, poor environmental conditions (with the exception of the cities of Crimea), due to the presence of "dirty" industries or the use of non-environmentally friendly fuels in public utilities.

Analysis of the dynamics of the SD City Rating indicators in 2013-2019

The results of the SD City Rating show that over five years the positions of the vast majority of cities (85% of the sample) have changed insignificantly. Only one in seven out of 185 cities moved in the SD City Rating by more than 30 positions.

All indicators which determine the position of cities in SD City Rating can be divided into two groups: those capable of demonstrating significant changes over the year and showing noticeable dynamics over a longer period of time. For example, indicators characterizing the state of housing stock, healthcare, access to education degree of diversification of the labor market and environmental indicators for the bulk of cities in one year do not change significantly. The achievement of higher values ​​of these indicators, as a rule, is due to the implementation of a consistent targeted policy on the part of local and regional authorities and large capital investments.

In turn, the indicators characterizing economic development, the rate of commissioning of housing, and the indicators of natural and migratory population growth can vary significantly from year to year. This partly explains the fact that the sharp increase in the positions of an individual city over the year, in some cases, may be accompanied by their equally sharp decline next year.


An analysis of the results of the SD City Rating of Russian cities over the last five years shows that balance of various areas of urban development (economy, social sphere, ecology) determine city's place in the rating. The population of the city and its territorial affiliation do not directly affect the position in the ranking.

Russia is a very large country in terms of its territorial extent. Analysis of the rating results shows that cities in the top of the SD City Rating are irregularly distributed throughout the country. In the Center of the European part of Russia, in the Volga region and in the Urals, there are noticeably more of them than in the south of the country, in Siberia, Far East and southern regions. Most of the cities, which are leaders of SD City Rating are located in regions with a high level of socio-economic development. The position of the regional center, as a rule, is noticeably higher than that one of other cities in the region.

The positions of the overwhelming majority of cities (85% of the sample), including cities in the TOP of the Rating have not changed significantly over five years. Only 15% of 185 cities moved in the SD City Rating by more than 30 positions.

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