The Beyond GDP initiative is about developing indicators that are as clear and appealing as GDP, but more inclusive of environmental and social aspects of progress. Economic indicators such as GDP were never designed to be comprehensive measures of prosperity and well-being. We need adequate indicators to address global challenges of the 21st century such as climate change, poverty, resource depletion, health and quality of life.
In 2007, the European Commission, European Parliament, Club of Rome, OECD and WWF hosted the high-level conference “Beyond GDP”. The objectives were to clarify which indices are most appropriate to measure progress, and how these can best be integrated into the decision-making process and taken up by public debate. A brief conference summary(pdf, 621 kb) is available for download, and more details may be found under 2007 conference.
Spurred on by the success of the 2007 conference, the Beyond GDP partners continue to work on improving our measures of progress, wealth and well-being. In August 2009, the European Commission released its road map, the Communication “GDP and beyond: Measuring progress in a changing world”. The Communication outlines an EU roadmap with five key actions to improve our indicators of progress in ways that meet citizens’ concerns and make the most of new technical and political developments.
In August 2013, the EC publishes the Staff Working Document on "Progress on 'GDP and beyond' actions" (and its Annexes). The GDP and beyond roadmap adopted in 2009 aims to complement GDP with high level indicators reflecting issues such as environmental protection, quality of life and social cohesion. The roadmap also puts emphasis on the timeliness and robustness of these indicators which are necessary to inform policy making.
The report produced by the Commission reviews the actions undertaken. Progress has been made over the last 3 to 5 years in the development of environmental summary indicators. Two summary indices on environmental pressures at EU level and on the global environmental impacts of EU consumption are being developed and tested.
On the quality of life and social side headline indicators and indices as well as a solid basis to provide objective information on quality of life and wellbeing are now available. In particular progress towards poverty eradication is now followed using an aggregate indicator measuring" people at risk of poverty or social exclusion" while the European statistical system has developed its wide ranging EU statistics on income and living conditions.
Progress has also been made by Eurostat and EEA on timeliness, with "early estimates" of key environmental indicators sufficiently accurate to inform policy decisions. The system of national accounts is being extended to environmental and social issues to provide a sound basis for indicator production. A first regulation adopted in 2011 contains three modules: air emissions, environmentally related taxes and material flow account, while a second regulation due for adoption at the end of 2013 would include physical energy flow, environmental goods and services and environmental protection expenditures.
On 8 June 2011, the European Parliament adopted its Resolution on GDP and beyond: Measuring progress in a changing world. By and large, the resolution supports the actions proposed by the Commission and stresses the need to develop clear and measurable indicators for measuring medium- and long-term economic and social progress.