Ireland ranked 11th of EU-15 countries in Sustainable Progress Index

Ireland is making poor progress when ranked against the other 14 countries in the EU-15.  The new Sustainable Progress Index, published today by Social Justice Ireland, shows the scale of the challenge facing Ireland under the headings of economy, society and environment.” – stated Dr Seán Healy, Director Social Justice Ireland at the launch of the Sustainable Progress Index to mark the UN World Social Justice Day.

Dr Healy went on to state “This new study shows that of the EU-15 countries, Ireland is ranked last on its performance on the environment; 10th on performance on the economy and 9th on its performance on society.  Overall it is ranked 11th of the 15 countries studied. These results show that despite huge austerity, rapidly growing GDP and improving employment statistics, Ireland has a long way to go before it reaches the level of development and fairness to which most Irish people aspire.”

This index has been developed to show how Ireland is currently performing on the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals. These 17 goals were divided into three sub-groups – economy, society and environment. The indicators were compared to the other 14 countries in the EU-15 to see how the situation had changed over the past decade and to see how Ireland is performing currently.  Under all three headings Ireland’s ranking is worse now than it was in 2006.

“On the economy Ireland has slipped from 6th in 2006 to 10th in 2014, the latest year for which data is available, despite an excellent performance in GDP growth.  On the environment, Ireland fell from 14th to 15th over the decade.  Measuring its progress as a society Ireland fell from 7th to 9th position.  These rankings go some way towards understanding why many Irish people don’t believe there has been sufficient real progress in recent years.” – Michelle Murphy, Research and Policy Analyst, Social Justice Ireland.

The researchers who conducted this study, Professor Charles Clark, an economics professor from New York and Dr Catherine Kavanagh from UCC argue that their results strongly suggest that focusing exclusively on GDP as a measure of progress is clearly misleading.

Report’s General Findings
Looking at the economy component of the Index which is based on the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) shows the economic performance of Ireland throughout the period. The SDG score slips from 2006 to 2010, recovering in the period to 2014. The country ranking sees Ireland’s performance fall from 6th to 10th over the period.

Focusing on the environment Ireland performs poorly throughout the full period.  Despite some improvement in absolute values, Ireland is ranked last in 2014; its position is worse than in 2000. Overall, we can see that the Environment SDG Index suggests Ireland is faced with significant challenges in achieving progress on some of the SDGs.

Looking at the society aspect of the SDGs Ireland’s ranking falls from 7th in 2004 to 9th a decade later.

“Despite the recovery of recent years and the dramatic rise in Ireland’s GDP when it comes to measuring real, sustainable progress, Ireland is not performing anywhere close to what is required or is possible.” – Dr Seán Healy