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Quantifying Sustainability: A New Approach and World Ranking


  • Carlo Carraro

    (Ca’ Foscari University of Venice, FEEM and CMCC)

  • Lorenza Campagnolo

    (Ca’ Foscari University of Venice, FEEM and CMCC)

  • Fabio Eboli

    (FEEM and CMCC)

  • Elisa Lanzi

    (FEEM and CMCC)

  • Ramiro Parrado

    (FEEM and CMCC)

  • Elisa Portale

    (World Bank)


This paper proposes a new tool to assess sustainability and make the concept of sustainable development operational. It considers its multi-dimensional structure combining the information deriving from a selection of relevant sustainability indicators belonging to economic, social and environmental pillars. It reproduces the dynamics of these indicators over time and countries. Then, it aggregates these indicators using a new approach based on Choquet’s integrals. The main novelties of this approach are indeed: (i) the modelling framework, a recursive-dynamic computable general equilibrium used to calculate the evolution of all indicators over time throughout the world, and (ii) the aggregation methodology to reconcile them in one aggregate index to measure overall sustainability. The former allows capturing the sector and regional interactions and higher-order effects driven by background assumptions on relevant variables to depict future scenarios. The latter makes it possible to compare sustainability performances, under alternative scenarios, across countries and over time. Main results show that the current sustainability at world level differs from what the traditional measure of well-being, the GDP, depicts, highlighting the trade-offs among different components of sustainability. Moreover, in the next decade a slight decrease in world sustainability may occur, in spite of an expected increase in world domestic product. Finally, dedicated policies increase overall sustainability, showing that social and environmental benefits may be greater than the correlated economic costs.

Suggested Citation

  • Carlo Carraro & Lorenza Campagnolo & Fabio Eboli & Elisa Lanzi & Ramiro Parrado & Elisa Portale, 2012. "Quantifying Sustainability: A New Approach and World Ranking," Working Papers 2012.94, Fondazione Eni Enrico Mattei.
  • Handle: RePEc:fem:femwpa:2012.94

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Dominique Guellec & Bruno Van Pottelsberghe de la Potterie, 2004. "From R&D to Productivity Growth: Do the Institutional Settings and the Source of Funds of R&D Matter?," Oxford Bulletin of Economics and Statistics, Department of Economics, University of Oxford, vol. 66(3), pages 353-378, July.
    2. Giuseppe Munda, 2003. "Social Multi-Criteria Evaluation (SMCE)," UHE Working papers 2003_04, Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona, Departament d'Economia i Història Econòmica, Unitat d'Història Econòmica.
    3. Eboli, Fabio & Parrado, Ramiro & Roson, Roberto, 2010. "Climate-change feedback on economic growth: explorations with a dynamic general equilibrium model," Environment and Development Economics, Cambridge University Press, vol. 15(05), pages 515-533, October.
    4. Ness, Barry & Urbel-Piirsalu, Evelin & Anderberg, Stefan & Olsson, Lennart, 2007. "Categorising tools for sustainability assessment," Ecological Economics, Elsevier, vol. 60(3), pages 498-508, January.
    5. Pearce, David W. & Atkinson, Giles D., 1993. "Capital theory and the measurement of sustainable development: an indicator of "weak" sustainability," Ecological Economics, Elsevier, vol. 8(2), pages 103-108, October.
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    Cited by:

    1. Elettra Agliardi & Mehmet Pinar & Thanasis Stengos, 2015. "An environmental degradation index based on stochastic dominance," Empirical Economics, Springer, vol. 48(1), pages 439-459, February.
    2. Caterina Cruciani & Silvio Giove & Mehmet Pinar & Matteo Sostero, 2012. "Constructing the FEEM Sustainability Index: A Choquet-Integral Application," Working Papers 2012.50, Fondazione Eni Enrico Mattei.

    More about this item


    Sustainable Development; Sustainable Indicators; Computable General Equilibrium; Millennium Development Goals; Climate Change;

    JEL classification:

    • Q54 - Agricultural and Natural Resource Economics; Environmental and Ecological Economics - - Environmental Economics - - - Climate; Natural Disasters and their Management; Global Warming
    • Q56 - Agricultural and Natural Resource Economics; Environmental and Ecological Economics - - Environmental Economics - - - Environment and Development; Environment and Trade; Sustainability; Environmental Accounts and Accounting; Environmental Equity; Population Growth
    • C68 - Mathematical and Quantitative Methods - - Mathematical Methods; Programming Models; Mathematical and Simulation Modeling - - - Computable General Equilibrium Models

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