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Beyond GDP

Measuring progress, true wealth, and well-being

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What is the 'Beyond GDP' initiative

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.

This website updates on recent developments and ongoing work.


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2018 Ocean Health Index Scores

The Ocean Health Index (OHI) is a joint initiative developed by more than 65 scientists through partnerships between organizations including the National Centre for Ecological Analysis and Synthesis, Sea Around Us, Conservation International, National geographic, and the New England Aquarium. The 7th edition of the index assesses global ocean health in 220 coastal nations and territories, including Antarctica. It measures progress towards 10 goals: food provision, artisanal fishing opportunities, sense of place, clean waters, tourism & recreation, coastal protection, livelihoods & economies, carbon storage, biodiversity, natural products. Each goal is assessed across four dimensions (present status, trend, pressure and resilience) to account for change over time. Results show increased ocean health in 109 countries, compared to 27 in 2017; average score is 70/100, similar to the past two years. Additionally, the OHI Independent Assessment Framework (OHI+) provides a tool for national authorities to carry out independent assessments of the state of their marine areas.

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Environmental Indicator Report 2018

The European Environment Agency (EEA) has published the Environmental Indicator Report 2018, which serves to support the monitoring of the European Union Seventh Environment Action Programme 2014-2020 (7th EAP). The report, now in its third and last edition, focuses on assessing progress on the three thematic priority objectives of the 7th EAP: protecting natural capital, increasing resource efficiency, and reducing environmental risks that impact health and well-being. The EEA utilises 29 indicators to assess the EU’s performance against these three priority areas; these include indicators on ammonia emissions, land take, conservation status of species and habitats of European interest, greenhouse gas emissions from transports, urban air quality, and exposure to environmental noise. Overall, data shows mixed trends in progress, and suggests in particular that the EU is unlikely to meet Natural Capital Protection objectives by 2020.

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SDG Cities Index for Italy

SDSN Italy and FEEM (Fondazione Eni Enrico Mattei) published the SDG Cities Index for Italy. The report aims at translating the Agenda 2030 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) into the Italian context, in which 75% of population lives in urban areas. The report explores the level of SDGs implementation at the municipal level, by assessing 101 cities in terms of 39 indicators covering 16 SDGs. The overall index provides an informative tool measuring progress at the sub-national level in view of strengthening the alignment of municipal policy making decisions with Agenda 2030. The index and specific SDG indices, can help communities in overcoming current challenges. Results show that Italian cities have reached 53% of SDGs implementation and that none of the cities has reached more than 80%.

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Beyond GDP: Measuring what counts for economic and social performance

The High-Level Expert Group on the Measurement of Economic Performance and Social progress (HLEG) published “Beyond GDP: Measuring what counts for economic and social performance”. The book illustrates the progress made since the 2009 Stigliz-Sen-Fitoussi Commission report and identifies 12 recommendations to provide additional direction for future work on “beyond GDP”, including the integration of economic inequalities in the System of National Accounts, the development of better metrics to account for well-being, and new dashboards of indicators to guide policies. Despite the progress made, most of the recommendations listed in the 2009 report remain valid, suggesting that we are still far from “accomplishing the mission”. The book stresses the importance of measuring “real” growth, that is equitable and sustainable and therefore not solely rely on GDP as an indicator of progress. The book argues that what governments measure can strongly influence what they do. This calls for a broader dashboard of indicators which covers all dimensions of sustainability and well-being but small enough to be comprehensible. A companion report, “For Good Measure: Advancing Research on Well-being Metrics Beyond GDP”, provides a series of authored chapters, prepared by some HLEG members, on those topics that have been the focus of the HLEG work.

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Inclusive Wealth report 2018

UN Environment published the 2018 Inclusive Wealth Report, a biennial effort that evaluates countries’ performance in measuring the sustainability of their economy and the well-being of their people. The report measures inclusive wealth for 140 countries over the period 1990-2014. By measuring inclusive wealth - comprising of manufactured, human and natural capital - countries are assessed in terms of their well-being and whether they are developing in a way that allows future generations to meet their own needs. The results show that rising wealth has come at the expense of the environment. 44 countries have experienced a decline in inclusive wealth per capita since 1992 even though GDP per capita has increased in almost all of them, indicating that a country’s GDP can be increasing even if well-being is declining. The Inclusive Wealth index provides a tool for policy makers to check whether their policies are sustainable. It can help tracking progress towards achieving the Sustainable Development Goals and whether they are achieved in a sustainable way.