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  • Writer's pictureTeam Finuprise

Copenhagen Case Study: Sustainable Cities and Communities

Credits to @avaluria on Unsplash

As a resident of Copenhagen one can take for granted how progressive and sustainable the city has become. Clean harbors, bike lanes, efficient transportation, environmental policies, green spaces are all symbols of the Nordic capital. As the HQ of Finuprise, Copenhagen gives us inspiration and allows for collaboration that promotes and encourages our team to engage in sustainable initiatives and impact investing. It shows that investment in sustainable and impactful initiatives can create strong and lasting change.

Today, Copenhagen is a world leader and is often regarded as a ‘blueprint’ for sustainable cities around the world. This was not always the case.

In 1993 Copenhagen was on the verge of bankruptcy, it was put under administration by the Danish central government. In 2008 was nominated by the lifestyle magazine Monocle as the world's most liveable city in the world, which was followed again in 2013 and 2014. What changed?

Long-term development plans [1]:

  • Investment in infrastructure

  • Public investments in culture and architecture

  • Transition of post industrial areas to housing and recreational areas

  • Regeneration of deprived neighborhoods

  • New urban development

  • Strategic planning and high sustainability goals

  • Combining agenda’s

  • Engaged citizens

  • Temporary projects and tangible results

  • Stay off areas

  • Human scale and local community

Copenhagen emerged from its dark days with a bold sustainability vision. Sustainability requires innovation in technology, responsible fiscal policy and most stubbornly government policy. The leadership of cities and metropolitan areas are crucial to implementation and expansion of sustainability and innovation, they have less red tape and legislation to fight through compared to central governments. Copenhagen has embraced and implemented a sustainable agenda through policies, investment and citizens engagement, as seen through its ambition to become the first carbon neutral capital by 2025 [2].

What makes Copenhagen sustainable?


Copenhagen is famous for its bikes and bike lanes. Denmark’s capital enables its citizens to travel via bike through well-maintained bike lanes. As of 2018, 41% of citizens' commutes to work and study were done by bike, with a 50% target set for 2025 [3]. This paired with an efficient public transit system, complimented in 2019 with the opening of the M3 CityRing metro, allows for easy transportation within the city and less reliance on C02 emitting automobiles.

Environmental Innovations

Copenhagen has implemented an ambitious plan to tackle the climate crisis. According to its 2011 Climate Adaptation plan projects seek to anticipate and halt flooding from water and sewage systems, lower C02 emotions and improve air quality. Moreover, the city has heavily invested in efficient energy through distinct heating and cooling. This has added jobs, reduced C02 emissions and lowered heating costs by around 45%, with almost no negative impact on the air quality.

Social Accessibility

Copenhagen prides itself on public spaces for all. The city has invested in and developed numerous publicly accessible spaces; swimming in the harbour, public parks, cultural centers and temporary projects for citizens to use and experience while the city is in transition. Public spaces are used by the majority of Copenhagen citizens especially after long dark Danish winters.

Unforeseen Consequences

The emergence of Copenhagen as a ‘creative city’ or one that relies on knowledge-based economies, such as business services, creative industries and high-tech manufacturing has undoubtedly been a net positive. It has enabled private-public partnerships and has fostered innovation that has helped the city's sustainable transformation. This shift has caused a restructuring of urban landscapes and demographics within the cities, with gentrification and urban regenerations being just two examples. While these transformations have benefited sustainability, green spaces and innovation, it has also created an equity gap of who can enjoy these spaces. Copenhagen has increasingly (like many capital regions) become less and less affordable. While Copenhagen has become a green, sustainable and generally safe city, it is at risk of developing a monogamous demographic of ‘white collar’ workers through skyrocketing real estate prices.

Accessibility and affordability is key when discussing SDG’s in terms of sustainable cities and communities. SDG number 11 emphasizes making cities more inclusive and resilient, something that doesn’t work with lack of diversity and accessibility. While not a unique problem, the same investment and innovation that made Copenhagen into a world leader in sustainability needs to be directed towards housing affordability and accessibility for all.

Global Cities and Impact Investing

Copenhagen did not become the global ‘leader’ in sustainable city management overnight. The municipality along with the central government, invested, innovated and made long-term commitments to small fragmented changes that morphed into strong sustainable outcomes. Like sustainable city management, impact investing will not change the world overnight, but with innovation, investment and investor engagement, investing with impact will have long-term positive outcomes.





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