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US Scores 29th for Sustainability, Indicating Growth Potential and Cost Reduction Opps

The US scored 29th in this year’s Global Sustainable Competitiveness Index (GSCI), a report that ranks countries based on 111 quantitative performance indicators derived from sources like the World Bank and various UN databases. The US’s relatively low score indicates not only development potential, but also significant cost reduction opportunities, according to SolAbility, the global consultancy and think-tank that develops and publishes the report. The US scored particularly low in social issues and resource intensity.

Analyzing the bottom-line impacts of the policies proposed by the new Trump administration shows that the US is set to loose ground – particularely against China – if all policies were to be implemented

The top 20 spots in the 6th edition of the report are dominated by Northern European and Eastern European nations, with the top 5 spots taken by the Scandinavian nations and Sweden topping the list. Of the world’s largest economies, Germany is ranked 14th, Japan 20th, the UK 22st, the US 29th, and China 32nd. The Baltic states are also doing notably well.

The only non-European contenders in the top 20 of the GSCI 2017 are New Zealand (13th), South Korea (16th) and Japan (20th).

China is amongst the leading nations when it comes to intellectual capital and investments; however, the combination of limited natural resources, arid areas, and low resource efficiency could possibly jeopardize the future development of the country.

Environmental Responsibility Linked to Wealth?

While there seems to be a certain correlation between the GSCI rankings of this index to current wealth levels as expressed in the GDP, these correlations are superficial. Some of the world’s richest countries, particularly the oil-rich countries of the Middle East, score significantly lower on the index than their GDP output would suggest. Some of the nominally poorest countries, on the other hand (e.g. Bhutan, Bolivia, Laos) are ranked considerably higher than their current GDP would indicate.

The Global Sustainable Competitiveness Index is based on 111 quantitative performance indicators to ensure total subjectivity. All data sets are scored for the latest available data as well as the development over the last 10 years. The 111 indicators are grouped in the 5 areas of the sustainable competitiveness model, including natural capital, resource management, governance efficiency, social capital and intellectual capital.


Key takeaways of the GSCI

  • Countries with high abundance of water, regardless of location and cold/tropical zones, pose the highest levels of natural capital;
  • Resource intensity rankings are led mostly by less developed countries. However, Sweden on rank 5 proves that high wealth levels and low resource intensity are not mutually exclusive;
  • Asian nations (South Korea, Japan, Singapore, and China) and Scandinavia lead the intellectual capital ranking;
  • However, achieving sustained prosperity in China might be compromised by natural capital constraints and current high resource intensity/low resource efficiency;
  • The social cohesion ranking is headed by Northern European (Scandinavian) countries, indicating that social cohesion is the result of economic growth combined with social consensus.

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