Thursday, 29 November 2012

Check the level of well-being and sustainability for your country!

News update - the Sustainable Society Index, SSI-2012

The new 2012 update of the Sustainable Society Index, SSI, was released on 29 November,  again showing at a glance the level of wellbeing and sustainability for 151 countries. You are invited to have a look yourself on our website. See how your country is doing, make your own correlations and comparisons with other countries. And use the information to help change your country’s policy towards sustainability.


The world’s overall score with respect to sustainability is now 4.74 on a scale of 1 to 10. Over the past 6 years this score has won 0.13, about 0.02 per year. Thus we are moving in the right direction. However, if we don’t speed up, it will take over 200 years to achieve a sustainable society with a score of 10. But that is just theory. Either we will accelerate the progress, or we’ll have to face disasters, which may prevent us from ever achieving the required sustainability.

More important than to look at the overall index, is to see how the three wellbeing dimensions that define the SSI are performing. Of these three, Human Wellbeing scores best, 6.2, and shows the  largest progress. Environmental Wellbeing is lagging way behind with a score of 4.5 and is even slightly in decline. This is due to poor performance of the categories Climate & Energy and Natural Resources. Economic Wellbeing, considered to be the precondition for achieving Human and Environmental Wellbeing, has the lowest score, 3.8, with a slight increase over the 6 years since SSI-2006.

Good news is that all three indicators for the category Basic Needs, i.e. Sufficient Food, Sufficient to Drink and Safe Sanitation, are in progress. Certainly not enough, since over eight hundred million people are undernourished and/or have no access to safe drinking water; more than 1.8 billion people have no access to Safe Sanitation. But there is progress, in absolute figures as well as percentage wise. Indicators which are performing worst are Renewable Energy – in spite of the need felt world-wide for a rapid change to renewables – and Organic Farming. And contrary to all good intentions, the quantities of Greenhouse Gase Emissions have increased, resulting in lower scores.

GDP is the fastest growing indicator. Apparently, the huge increase in income has hardly been used for progress towards sustainability.

The regional differences are still large. There is, not surprisingly, a correlation with income. The high income countries in Europe, North America and Oceania are performing well on Human Wellbeing and show a poor performance on Environmental Wellbeing. For low income countries, the picture is quite opposite.

For more details visit

In 2012 the Joint Research Centre of the European Commission, JRC, has audited the SSI and concluded ‘that the revised SSI framework is conceptually coherent and meets the statistical requirements set by JRC. The SSI is well suited to assess nation’s development towards sustainability in its broad sense: Human, Environmental and Economic Wellbeing.

Geurt van de Kerk
Sustainable Society Foundation

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