Comparison of measurement systems for sustainable development at the national level

N. Schoenaker, J.P.H. Smits, Rutger Hoekstra

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

37 Citations (Scopus)


Economic indicators, such as GDP, do not measure all dimensions of society's progress. Hundreds of alternative measurement systems have been proposed to measure sustainable development. This paper argues for harmonization of these methods, and facilitates this discussion by providing a detailed comparison of country-level measures. The analysis includes 55 systems (12 composite indicators and 43 sustainable development indicator (SDI) sets). The analysis shows that SDI sets are more common than composite indicators. This paper also shows that composite indicators generally focus on environmental themes, while SDI sets are broader in scope through inclusion of more social themes. Overall, we find a great degree of agreement on the most popular indicators and themes in SDI sets. However, we do find that certain indicators are more prevalent in higher and lower income countries. The article emphasizes the need for harmonization of measurement systems, but also shows the importance of flexibility at the country level. Copyright © 2015 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd and ERP Environment
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)285-300
JournalSustainable Development
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - 2015
Externally publishedYes


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