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The quality-of-life leaderboard

5 November, 2021

What if we ranked countries not by their economic performance, but by the things that really matter to people? Questions like do I have enough to eat? Are my children getting a good education? Am I living in a society free from discrimination? Enter the 2021 Social Progress Index, which has recently released its results.  

The Index is a comprehensive measure of 53 social and environmental indicators for the real quality of life in 168 countries. Our neighbours in the Nordics take the top seats, with Norway bagging the number 1 spot, closely followed by Finland, Denmark and Iceland (all with female leaders, which is not something that the Index explicitly draws attention to, but one we can’t help but note).   

The findings are also insightful when looking at how to balance social progress with sustainability. For example, the average Australian emits five times more CO2 than the average Swede to achieve the same level of social progress. The analysis shows that if every country achieved the emissions targets of  the most sustainable country at the same level of social progress as they are currently at, the world could s still hit its current level of social progress from CO2 emissions within the sustainable limits. It’s clear we can have both inclusive growth and sustainable societies. We’ve spoken before about the value of companies measuring and reporting on progress in order to assess performance and set priorities for improvement. This year’s Social Progress Index demonstrates this at a bigger scale, revealing where countries need investment and policies that can make the most positive impact. 

By Alice Railton

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