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Assessing the Efficiency of Sustainable Cities Using an Empirical Approach


  • Laura Calzada-Infante

    (Department of Management and Economy, University of León, 24007 León, Spain)

  • Ana María López-Narbona

    (Department of Sociology, University of Malaga, 29013 Malaga, Spain
    These authors contribute equally to this paper.)

  • Alberto Núñez-Elvira

    (Centre for Health Policy, Imperial College London, London W2 1NY, UK
    These authors contribute equally to this paper.)

  • Javier Orozco-Messana

    (ITM, Universitat Politecnica de Valencia, 46022 Valencia, Spain)


Sustainability is a multidisciplinary discipline posing a difficult problem as a result of its integrated assessment. From a broad perspective, it considers the impact of human activities (using different resources) and natural conditions on local environments. Urban development has been identified as one of the most important reasons for environmental and social degradation. To address the complexity of sustainability and its impact, policymakers need to be equipped with the right toolkit to foresee the integrated effect of projects and plans on urban sustainability more effectively in their policy design. In this paper, we propose a tool to assess the sustainable performance of urban areas through a common framework of indicators which provides an integrated measurement based on the relative efficiency of key input variables on desirable and undesirable outputs. Using Data Envelopment Analysis (DEA), we propose a procedure for determining the relative efficiency of relevant urban areas, proposing this method as a candidate for integrated sustainability measurement. The selection of variables is based on dimensions which can be addressed from a political perspective for achieving more desirable outputs, or reducing the undesirable ones, controlling for key resources as much as possible. Our analysis takes a comprehensive scope including an environmental and socioeconomic perspective. This will be useful to identify weaknesses and strengths to improve the integrated performance of cities. Our array of indicators, based on standardized key performance indicators (KPIs) will enable policymakers to gather an insightful impact of their proposals in urban sustainability carrying out a global sustainability impact assessment through DEA. The main goal is to gather the urban experience of transforming cities into smarter cities and putting technological progress at the service of their societies.

Suggested Citation

  • Laura Calzada-Infante & Ana María López-Narbona & Alberto Núñez-Elvira & Javier Orozco-Messana, 2020. "Assessing the Efficiency of Sustainable Cities Using an Empirical Approach," Sustainability, MDPI, vol. 12(7), pages 1-13, March.
  • Handle: RePEc:gam:jsusta:v:12:y:2020:i:7:p:2618-:d:337149

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    References listed on IDEAS

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    3. Jingxin, Gao & Jinbo, Song & Lufang, Wu, 2022. "A new methodology to measure the urban construction land-use efficiency based on the two-stage DEA model," Land Use Policy, Elsevier, vol. 112(C).

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