Global Policy Forum

Snakes and ladders in sustainable development indexing


Are Finland and Norway a model to follow if you want to achieve sustainable development? Or are they an example of bad practices to avoid? It all depends on how one weights the data with which sustainable economy and politics can be measured. A new index on sustainable development questions the supremacy of industrialized countries on conventional sustainability rankings.

December 13, 2019 | Global Policy Watch

Snakes and ladders in sustainable development indexing

In contemporary reports on progress on sustainable develoment, wealthy countries of the global North frequently outscore poorer countries by far. Richer countries are thus viewed as models for sustainable development pathways and achievements. However, what this methodology obscures is that these countries usually have a very poor performance on indicators concerning sustainable production and consumption patterns (SDG 12) and climate (SDG 13). These reports thus promote a model of development that is incompatible with key indicators of sustainable ecological behaviour: low CO2 emissions and reduced material footprint. Taking these issues into account, the briefing presents an alternative approach to measure sustainable development progress developed by Jason Hickel, which significantly shifts the ranking of countries in their sustainability performance. While there is still room for improvement, this alternative index challenges mainstream wisdom and invites us to rethink the parameters of sustainable development.

You can read and download the briefing here.


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