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IUCN’S Environmental Economics Occasional Paper Series on GDP as an Insufficient Tool for Measuring Progress Towards a Green Economy


IUCN joins those who recognize GDP as a misused, inaccurate and insufficient indicator of human wellbeing, and expresses its willingness to support governments, and others, in the development of alternative measures of economic prosperity, building notably on efforts to go ‘beyond GDP’. The objective of this report is to provide an overview of alternative macroeconomic indicators of economic progress and sustainable development, focusing in particular on efforts to incorporate environmental and natural resource measurements that are not typically included in traditional measures. The report first provides an introduction and overview of traditional measures of economic well-being, in particular, Gross Domestic Product (GDP) and the issues that arise when it is extending beyond its intended use as a measure of economic performance to use as a measure of overall societal well-being. The report then summarizes and describes several broad sources of environmental value and natural capital currently of interest for inclusion in national welfare indicators. Section III identifies and describes several of the most widely used indicators of environmental progress and identifies the key features of each indicator, focusing especially on the measurement of environmental services identified in previous section. The report then provides a comparison of selected nations’ rankings across five indicators for which consistent data could be obtained and analyzes a small subset of countries’ performance over recent decades. The final section concludes with a brief summary of the continuing barriers to using these alternative measures of economic development, as well as an overview of recommendations from policy experts currently developing, refining, and applying various indicators.


This published version is made available on Dickinson Scholar with the permission of the publisher. For more information on the published version, visit IUCN's (The International Union for Conservation of Nature) Website.