In Search of Sustainable Economy Indicators: A Comparative Analysis between the Sustainable Development Goals Index and the Green Growth Index

In Search of Sustainable Economy Indicators: A Comparative Analysis between the Sustainable Development Goals Index and the Green Growth Index

4.2. Comparative Analysis of Sustainability Metrics

To better understand how these metrics capture the features of SE, the work of Al-Thani and Koç identified 15 core features of SE based on the feedback of sustainability experts in Qatar [1]. These features are: (1) sustainability focused, (2) circular, (3) economic activity within ecological limits, (4) fairness and equity, (5) resilient, (6) long-term view, (7) well-being focused, (8) inclusive, (9) knowledge based economy, (10) balanced, (11) social development, (12) internalization of externalities, (13) dynamic, (14) creative and innovative and (15) entrepreneurial. It is possible to score each metric against the SE features (Table 1) and then explore which of the identified promising metrics meets the largest number of SE features and determine its fitness for becoming a potential SEI.
GDP received the lowest score, zero, while EF and EPI mostly focused on environmental sustainability and scored two and three, respectively. In addition, EF was developed in 1996 by Wackernagel and Rees and measures the needed amount of biological area to produce human needs and waste absorption, known as the load [8]. The situation is considered unsustainable if the load exceeds the ecological capacity [3]. It focuses mainly on the environmental dimension but is biased against small countries [8]. It cannot serve as a standalone SE or SD indicator since it mainly focuses on the environmental pillar only; however, it can add value upon integration with other indicators or as a part of a dashboard.
The EPI ranks 180 countries based on 11 categories of 32 performance indicators divided into two performance areas: Ecosystems Vitality and Environmental Health [28]. Even though the EPI focuses on the ecological side, it gives a different result than the EF. It can be a potential index for ecological and environmental evaluation but not for sustainability in general.
The HPI is one of the earliest measures of well-being [32]; it attempts to use data on people’s well-being [41] to measure how efficiently countries are delivering happy and long lives within ecological limits and then ranks them from top to bottom (Happy Planet Index). It also uses life expectancy multiplied by well-being divided by EF per capita. The downside is that it uses EF per capita as a denominator, which is mostly biased against countries with less population.
On the other hand, WHI and HDI primarily focus on social development while ignoring environmental sustainability, scoring three and two, respectively. The HDI was adopted by the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) in 1990 [42]. It is a composite index that includes a combination of three indicators: income, life expectancy at birth, and level of education [18]. It is more of a socioeconomic index. According to [43], the HDI lacks two important aspects: freedom and environment.
On the other hand, WHI is a survey-based method conducted by the Gallup World Poll [8]. It is published each year in the World Happiness Report (WHR) and is based on six factors: levels of GDP, life expectancy, generosity, social support, freedom, and corruption. It also measures happiness based on socioeconomic factors.
The ANS is calculated in percentages of Gross National Income (GNI). It equals net national savings plus education expenditure, less energy depletion, less mineral depletion, less net forest depletion, and less carbon dioxide, excluding particulate emissions damage [44]. A positive ANS percentage indicates that the country is sustainable. In contrast, a negative percentage indicates that depreciation of natural capital is higher than investment in building capital to compensate for natural capital loss. The ANS captures parts of the economic, social, and environmental aspects but in a limited manner and considers a very weak form of sustainability by assigning economic value to natural capital.
The ISEW scores higher than the ANS and shares the weak form of sustainability but captures more aspects of sustainability pillars; however, it has been superseded by the GPI. Thus, this index can be dropped in favor of the GPI since it covers the same factors along with some additional ones. While GPI scores six, the second lowest score in capturing SE features, it should also be dropped since the other metrics score relatively higher. According to [11], the ISEW and GPI are the most commonly used indicators for measuring economic sustainability. It can be calculated at the country level as well as for domestic districts and local provinces [45]. One of the critiques of the ISEW is that it uses commutative accounting for calculating environmental costs; this can exaggerate the values, which might do a disservice to the ISEW [46]. The GPI is an indicator that covers areas not covered by the ISEW. According to research [21], the ISEW and GPI do not adequately reflect the changes in the stock of human capital, such as health and knowledge, due to not considering human capital as a reference point. On the other hand, no metric reflects human and economic welfare and GPI and ISEW are considered part of economic accounting [22], which is not a weakness since neither is intended to measure human well-being.
The GPI considers the difference between economic activities that increase and reduce welfare [11]. On that basis, GPI can be used as SEI [47]. Still, it is criticized for the assumption and component variable estimation and sensitivity to depletion of non-renewable resources, income inequality, and climate change [48]. Moreover, the valuation of natural capital depletion and public services is subject to market prices and financial assumptions, which can cause variation in the GPI estimation. Thus, standardization of methods and data sources can minimize variation [47].
The BLI scores seven, the second highest score. Its website allows people from other countries to provide their responses; however, it mainly focuses on Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) countries and only provides a ranking for them to understand what derives well-being [24]. It is based on eleven elements, eight related to Quality of Life and three to Material Conditions. In addition, it delves deeper into the details of the data, such as gender, age, and education level [39]. However, most countries outside the OECD cannot use this index. With some enhancement, BLI can become a potential index for SE, although it is most useful for OECD and developed countries at this stage.
The SDGI is an index that measures progress towards the overall 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) [49]. The SDGs are developed using a top-down approach at a high level and from a global perspective, with a large number of goals and indicators. However, in several instances, countries need more customized indicators that correspond to their circumstances and development needs [38].
The 2021 Sustainable Development Report ranks 165 countries based on the SDGI score derived from 120 indicators provided by reputable international bodies. The SDGI score is derived through the normalization of scores so that the score ranges from one to one hundred, and each SDG is given equal weight, with all adding up to one hundred as a maximum [49]. This makes it easy to compare historical scores and progress over time for a single or group of countries. Still, due to the evolution of the historical index, comparability might be a challenge.
According to the SDGI in the 2021 Sustainable Development Report, it was mentioned that due to the refinement of the methodology, it might not be helpful to compare the ranking of this report with previous reports. Furthermore, according to [50], the indicator can pose a challenge in terms of historical data comparison since it kept evolving by adding new relevant indicators as they became available (i.e., in 2016, the SDGI consisted of 60 indicators, while in 2018, it expanded to 88 indicators). This can be an issue; however, given that this is a relatively new index, it is expected to have some challenges. Still, such modifications and refinements are expected to diminish as the indicator evolves. Adding new indicators gives a dynamic feature to this index but also puts forward the challenge of carrying out historical time series analysis and making historical comparisons.

Nonetheless, the indicator still provides rich and valuable information that can be helpful for policy and decision making and the academic community. Experts have been engaged with member countries (civil societies, governments, and the private sector) to identify indicators. Formal comments and communication were considered and integrated.

Another challenge is that sourcing data from reputed international organizations can cause a two- to three-year lag due to reporting and data validation. The calculation is processed to eliminate extreme values from the distribution by rescaling and normalizing each indicator and then aggregating with equal weighting [50].
The SDGs are developed using a top-down approach at a high level and from a global perspective, with a large number of goals and indicators. Still, in several instances, countries need more customized indicators that correspond to their circumstances and development needs [38]. Even though the SDGI encompasses all SDGs, this does not imply that SDGs are sufficient to meet SE features and individual country priorities, given that several factors relevant to sustainability are unknown. Nevertheless, SDGI is one of the best indices for SE since it encompasses most SE features and scores thirteen, sharing the highest score with GGI. Therefore, it is a good candidate for measuring SE.
The GGI measures a country’s progress towards sustainability targets, including the SDGs, the Paris Climate Agreement, and Aichi Biodiversity Targets for green growth such as efficient and sustainable use of resources, protection of natural capital, green economic opportunities, and social inclusion (Figure 3).
This includes all economic, social, and environmental sustainability aspects. It was first launched in 2019 by the Global Green Growth Institute (GGGI) [51]. This index captures SE features and scores thirteen in our comparative metric (Table 1), sharing the highest score with SDGI.
The index results from the normalized aggregation of indicators within the four dimensions, with a maximum score of one hundred [36]. Furthermore, correlation tests were carried out among indicators in each dimension to ensure no multicollinearity and enhance statistical power. This index prefers rankings on a regional basis rather than a global basis. The normalization makes it easy to use this index as a comparative tool for progress towards sustainability. However, like the SDGI, this index is relatively new, and changes in methodology and additions of new indicators can make scoring and ranking volatile.
Furthermore, more than 300 experts in more than 40 countries have carried out a significant amount of work, including sensitivity analysis, to evaluate the impact of uncertainty in indicators and input targets that showed minimal impact on the index [36]. This increases the transparency and confidence in GGI.
The SDGI is also one of the best indices for SE since it encompasses most SE features and scores thirteen, sharing the highest score with the GGI. Both indices are considered very recent and were first published in 2016 and 2019, respectively, which might not be regarded as a considerable time gap between their development timing. Therefore, the three-year difference is not expected to pose a challenge in choosing which index to adopt. In short, both are considered relatively new in comparison with other indices. Table 2 summarizes the main similarities and differences between SDGI and GGI.

In addition, the SDGI mainly measures progress towards the SDGs, while the GGI measures sustainability, including achieving the SDGs. Both cover a wide range of countries (165 and 140, respectively), indicating that data are available for most countries. Although there is a minor disparity, if the set of countries being observed is not in one of the indices, the choice is to go with the one with the most coverage of the observed countries.

Both indices give maximum scores of one hundred. This is very helpful in ranking countries and making progress comparisons for the same countries or comparisons with other countries. However, caution should be considered here: a historical comparison might not give an accurate conclusion for both indices. This is because both evolve by integrating new indicators and metrics annually or changing calculation methodologies. The adaptability to include changes in the framework of both indices adds a dynamic aspect to them; however, it is at the cost of losing historical comparison accuracy through volatility in ranking.

There is a difference between the two indices regarding ranking basis. While the SDGI ranks at the global level, the GGI focuses on the regional level. Still, it depends on whether the global or regional context is more important for the researcher’s purpose. This is relevant to the spatial issue of an index, but overall, in both indices, the geographical concern is defined by the country’s border, which is not a serious concern. In some cases, the regional context can be more meaningful for comparison, in which case the GGI can be considered more appropriate. Still, since it uses one hundred as the maximum, the ranking can be modified to reflect the global position with little effort. The SDGI also provides progress reports at the regional level. Therefore, the reporting basis is not an issue, and both appear adequate in terms of spatial definition.

Another noteworthy point is that both indices rely on reputable international organizations for data collection and processing. This might cause a time lag of up to three years but minimizes the chance of revising the data since several reputable international organizations, including the World Bank, the World Health Organization, and the United Nations bodies, have their own methods of managing, processing, and treating data to ensure accuracy. In this case, there is a tradeoff between recent data and quality data, in which quality data come at the cost of time. Thus, it is important to obtain the data directly from the statistical authority of a country to stay up to date. In some cases, this might require more time and effort to organize the data since different countries report statistical data in different formats. In several cases, the early numbers might be revised later, reducing accuracy while increasing effort and time.

The SDGI and GGI include 120 and 40 metrics and indices, of which ten overlap. The indicators building up both indices have been analyzed and mapped individually across the identified SE features. Table A1 in Appendix A attempts to map 142 indicators extracted from the SDGI and GGI along the identified SE features and their relevance to each feature. It also reveals that resilience and a long-term view are not being covered directly but can be sensed in indicators mapped along other SE features. Another observation is that some features are better covered than others. For example, circular economy indicators are included only by adopting a wider macroeconomic level boundary since several are designed to measure circularity at the industrial level, not the national level, while sustainability-focused indicators are sufficiently available. Thus, there is no direct indicator of entrepreneurship within the SDGI and the GGI.

In SDGI and GGI, indicators selected through consultations and collaborations with experts, countries, and international organizations must pass statistical and scientific methods. For example, once a metric is selected, it goes through a normalization process, correlation tests, and aggregation process. Following proper scientific and statistical procedures, these processes are carried out to ensure that each metric contributes positively to the index with appropriate statistical power. Therefore, either can be used by researchers with confidence.

Both use a wide range of metrics and indicators, individually or combined, to determine economic, social, or environmental aspects. The indicators in both indices cover vast parts of the identified SE feature; however, the challenge is that one indicator can be used to measure several of the SE features and not purely cover one feature. In some cases, there are missing or insufficient indicators for covering some of the identified SE features. Thus, the coverage of SE features by indicators remains somewhat subjective. A good example might illustrate GGI’s indicators against some of the identified SE features. Table 3 shows that GGI indicator EE1 is relevant to SDG 7, “Ratio of total primary energy supply to GDP, or energy intensity level of primary energy (%)” and partially fulfills SE features of sustainability-focused and circular. However, it is more relevant to economic activity within ecological limits. One reason is that it uses GDP as the denominator; thus, it is safer to consider it part of economic activity within ecological limits.

Another example is where experts’ judgment can be valuable in developing the indicator inclusion rationale. For instance, under SDG8 (“Decent Work & Economic Growth”), the unemployment rate is used as an indicator. From a standalone point of view, it is considered a purely economic indicator associated with growth. Nevertheless, within the sustainability features context, it can fall under economic growth within the ecological limit, or it can also fall under social development depending on what is intended to be measured. Thus, the same indicator can be used for different purposes under different reasoning categories within different contexts.

Furthermore, SDGI and GGI provide a wealth of tools, information, and data on their websites, allowing researchers to use them. Both provide simple and easily understandable indices with a statistical and visual presentation. Therefore, they contain a wealth of expertise in identifying and categorizing SIs. They both include essential economic indicators, although additional indicators should be considered to cover economic resilience. For example, GGI uses ANS, which adds investment to capital and deducts depreciation and degradation from natural capital [8]. It is calculated in percentages of Gross National Income (GNI). A positive ANS percentage means that the country is sustainable. In contrast, a negative percentage indicates that depreciation of natural capital is higher than investment in building capital to replace the loss from natural capital. As a result, the ANS follows a weak sustainability form; other indicators within the GGI might compensate for this.

Both SDGI and GGI fail to consider entrepreneurship and economic resilience indicators directly. On the other hand, the SDGI uses adjusted GDP growth, which does not consider sustainability but can be compensated for by other SIs within the index.

4.4. Application of GGI and SDGI: Qatar and Selected Countries

This section examines the applicability of both indices to analyze similarities and differences in progress towards sustainability using the SDGI and the GGI for Qatar because it is the country in which the authors are based and the identified features and adopted definition of SE based on a research that comes from Qatar [1].
Figure 4 compares Qatar GGI scores to the selected set of countries from 2010 to 2022 [52]. The GGI score for Qatar has witnessed an uptrend, rising from 44.2 in 2010 to 46.5 in 2022. This suggests that green growth initiatives have been gradually progressing in the country. On the other hand, the UAE’s score has experienced significant growth, increasing from 44.5 to 50.8 during the same period. This might be attributed to the investments made by the UAE in advanced infrastructure, economic diversification and energy transformation, which are reflected in its higher GGI score. In contrast, Saudi Arabia’s trend has fluctuated over time, starting at 44.5 in 2010 and decreasing to 40.8 by 2022. This indicates challenges in maintaining momentum for growth potentially due to its heavy reliance on hydrocarbon resources.

Norway’s score has remained relatively stable throughout this period, starting at 66.2 in 2010 and slightly decreasing to 65.7 by 2022. As a leader in green practices, Norway consistently maintains policies for green growth. The decrease in GGI score is unusual and requires further analysis.

Singapore’s GGI score shows volatility over time, beginning at 45.9 and increasing to 50.1 by 2022. The improving GGI score can reflect Singapore’s commitment to green growth. South Korea demonstrates progress with its GGI score starting at 49.2 and rising consistently to 52.6 by 2022, which is especially notable in its technology and manufacturing sectors.

Gerseveral takes the lead among these countries with a score of 70.7, which steadily increases to reach its point of 75.3 by 2022. Gerseveral’s remarkable progress can be attributed to its focus on sustainability and clean energy. Gerseveral is the leading country in GGI due to its high scores and continuous improvement.

UAE and Singapore have improved their GGI scores compared to Qatar, indicating that they have implemented more proactive and effective green growth policies. On the other hand, Saudi Arabia is experiencing a decline in its scores, suggesting that it is facing challenges in transitioning towards green growth. Gerseveral and South Korea all have higher GGI scores than Qatar, which reflects their well-established practices in promoting green growth.

While Qatar has made progress at a pace, it can learn from countries like Gerseveral and the UAE and adapt its strategies to enhance its green growth efforts further. The decreasing trend observed in Saudi Arabia should serve as a wakeup call for the country to reassess and intensify its strategies for promoting development. The positive upward trends in the UAE, Singapore and South Korea are encouraging indications that focused policies and investments in technology yield outcomes.

In summary, all countries, except Saudi Arabia and Norway, are making strides towards achieving green growth; however, there are variations in scale and speed of progress. Qatar can draw insights from the experiences of nations—particularly the UAE and Singapore—where significant positive trends have been observed—to strengthen its path towards SE.

Figure 5 compares Qatar to the selected set of countries towards SE based on SDGI scores from 2000 to 2022. tells a fascinating story of progress. In 2000, Qatar started with a score of 55 and steadily improved, reaching 66.2 in 2022. This upward trend demonstrates Qatar’s efforts towards SD aligning with its National Vision for the year 2030. In comparison, the UAE began with a higher baseline score of 59.8 and consistently grew over time to achieve a score of 69.7 by 2022. The UAE’s higher scores throughout this period indicate an accelerated approach towards accomplishing SDGs compared to Qatar. Saudi Arabia’s SDGI trend closely resembles Qatar’s, starting at a score of 57.4 in 2000 and rising to 67.7 by 2022. This parallel progression highlights the growing commitment to sustainability within the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) countries.

Norway serves as a benchmark for practices, starting from an already high baseline score of 79.2 and gradually advancing to reach a noteworthy score of 82 by 2022. Norway’s more minor incremental improvements can indicate that since starting at a very high baseline, most of the measures of SD are implemented and there might be less space for improvements. Overall, the high SDGI score is evidence of Norway’s dedication to SD.

Singapore’s progress in SDGI score, starting at 66.2 and reaching 71.8 by 2022, can indicate the effectiveness of its policies towards progressing to SE. These scores suggest that Singapore integrates sustainability into its economic planning. South Korea also shows improvement, starting at a score of 73.1 in 2000 and steadily rising to 78.1 by 2022. South Korea’s stable growth can be attributed to its emphasis on innovation and technology-driven sustainability policies.

Gerseveral’s score progression from 77.2 in 2000 to 83.4 by 2022 can indicate its dedication to SD surpassing the reviewed countries. Gerseveral’s score highlights its development practices supported by robust policy frameworks and investments in green technology.

While the UAE and Saudi Arabia demonstrate trends similar to Qatar, the UAE consistently achieves higher scores than both countries. On the other hand, Norway, Gerseveral, Singapore and South Korea showcase advanced practices towards SD. Norway and Gerseveral stand out as leaders among the selected countries. This might be due to their robust policies and investments in sustainability.

Qatar has been making progress regarding its SDGI score, but there is room for improvement to catch up with countries like UAE and Singapore. Qatar can also look at Norway, a resource-rich country that has already established advanced sustainable practices. The experiences of Singapore and South Korea further emphasize that focused policies can drive efforts towards SE in countries with different economic structures and resources compared to Qatar.

It is commendable to see Qatar’s progress in SD. However, there is an opportunity for the country to learn from the policies and practices of leading countries. This analysis demonstrates that each country follows its path towards SE, with the pace and scope of progress influenced by national strategies and contextual factors. By incorporating approaches from other countries, Qatar can strengthen its development initiatives even more significantly in areas with ample room for advancement.

Countries with high scores in both SDGI and GGI, like Norway and Gerseveral, demonstrate that it is possible to align SDGs with green growth to achieve SE effectively. Countries with diverging SDGI and GGI trends, like Saudi Arabia, may need to reevaluate their green growth strategies or increase their focus in this area to progress towards SE. Adopting strategies from the leading countries can enhance Qatar’s performance in both indices. Collaborating with or learning from these countries can provide valuable insights into policy making and strategic investments in sustainability.

Figure 6 compares the GGI and SGDI for Qatar from 2010 to 2022 [52,53]. Qatar appears to be progressing towards SE; however, the SDGI consistently achieves higher scores throughout the period than the GGI. This suggests that Qatar’s performance in achieving Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) has been strong. On the other hand, the GGI shows fluctuations over the years when compared to the SDGI.

The GGI score for Qatar has increased from 44.2 in 2010 to 46.5 in 2022, indicating progress in the country’s green growth initiatives over 12 years. The GGI shows more variability, with a slight decline in 2019 and flattening from 2020 to 2022, but the overall trend is moving upward. This indicates some volatility in the factors influencing the GGI, shifts in policy, or external circumstances impacting green growth and progress towards SE. This can suggest that while there are efforts towards SE, the implementation pace and impact scale are relatively modest. On the other hand, the SDGI score for Qatar has experienced a noticeable rise from 60.1 in 2010 to 66.2 in 2022, suggesting progress in broader SD efforts compared to specific green growth initiatives. The GGI scores exhibit stability, whereas the SDGI scores consistently show a trend. This consistent progress and larger increase in SDGI scores might reflect a strategy encompassing social, economic and environmental development rather than solely focusing on green growth or SE.

The difference between the GGI and SDGI scores is quite noticeable, with the SDGI being nearly double the GGI score in 2010. This can be because the selected indicators or measurements used by the SDGI are more in line with Qatar’s development policies and initiatives than the GGI. Additional context about Qatar’s economic, social and environmental policies during these years might be helpful to provide a better analysis. An observation here is that neither index has enough historical data to carry out a statistically significant test at this stage.

The correlation between GGI and SDGI scores for Qatar is strong at 81.0%, indicating that as Qatar’s SD efforts improve, its green growth initiatives tend to follow, though not at a similar rate. This high correlation suggests that the factors driving improvements in SDGI are closely aligned with those influencing GGI. It is worth noting that ten years of data for both indices might not be sufficient for several types of analyses. Still, the correlation test here is used to give an indication of whether one index is enough for measuring progress towards SE.

In short, both indices show upward trends, but the SDGI demonstrates a more robust growth rate than the GGI, indicating that Qatar’s development strategies may be more effective in broader sustainability terms than in the specific area of green growth. While the GGI exhibits slight fluctuations over the years, the SDGI shows a more consistent upward trajectory, albeit with a brief dip in 2013 before resuming its growth.

Figure 7 compares the GGI and SGDI for the UAE from 2010 to 2022 [52,53].

The GGI and SDGI scores for the UAE have shown progress in green growth and SD from 2010 to 2022. The GGI score for the UAE started at 44.5 in 2010 and increased to 50.8 in 2022, marking a rise of 6.3 points. This indicates a steadily positive trend over 12 years, with a notable increase in 2020 suggesting a focus on initiatives that promote green growth. The SDGI score for the UAE began at 62.2 in 2010. It improved to 69.7 in 2022, reflecting a gain of 7.5 points. This shows steady progress over the period, though slightly more gradual than the GGI score, indicating ongoing comprehensive efforts towards SE.

The strong correlation coefficient of 96.0% between the GGI and SDGI scores may indicate that the UAE has integrated green growth initiatives within the framework of SDGs. This may reflect that their strategies in these areas mutually reinforce and are well aligned. In recent years, the UAE has emphasized targeted initiatives for green growth, especially in sectors like renewable energy and sustainable urban planning. The noticeable bump in the GGI score in 2020 suggests that the UAE may have implemented specific policies or projects around that time that significantly impacted its green growth metrics. The UAE’s approach can provide insights into how a country rich in hydrocarbon resources can still make meaningful progress in SD and green growth.

In summary, the UAE is firmly committed to SD and green growth, with integrated policies that address both areas effectively to achieve SE. The high correlation and overall positive trend in both indices highlight the success of the UAE’s strategies and provide a model for other countries aiming to balance economic growth with environmental and social sustainability.

Figure 8 compares the GGI and SGDI for Saudi Arabia from 2010 to 2022 [52,53]. The GGI and SDGI scores for Saudi Arabia from 2010 to 2022 exhibit differing levels of progress in green growth and SD. The GGI score increased from 37.9 in 2010 to 40.8 in 2022, showing a modest positive change of 2.9, equivalent to 7.7% over 12 years. This is a positive trend with some fluctuations, suggesting gradual improvements in green growth initiatives but not a significant transformation. On the other hand, the SDGI shows an increase of 9 points, equivalent to 15.9% during the same period, starting with 58.7 in 2010 and ending with 67.7 in 2022. Furthermore, a correlation of 15.9% between GGI and SDGI indicates a very low correlation between progress in SD and its green growth performance. This low correlation can suggest that the factors contributing to SD are not significantly impacting its green growth measures or that the improvements in broader SD, as captured by the SDGI, are not strongly reflected in green growth performance, as measured by the GGI.

The analysis indicates that while Saudi Arabia is making good progress in SD, as evidenced by the SDGI scores, there is not an equivalent level of progress in green growth, which might be more relevant to SE as reflected by the GGI scores. The SDGI demonstrates a more noticeable improvement over time than the GGI. This difference suggests that Saudi Arabia’s efforts towards SD may not fully encompass all the features of SE, highlighting a potential area for strategic focus and policy alignment to ensure balanced advancements.

Figure 9 compares the GGI and SGDI for Norway from 2010 to 2022 [52,53]. It is interesting to note that Norway’s GGI score experienced a decrease during this period, which’s unexpected for a well-developed economy focusing on sustainability. In 2010, Norway had a GGI score of 66.2, but by 2022, it marginally declined to 65.7—a reduction of 0.5 points or approximately 0.8%. This trend can suggest challenges in achieving growth within a high performing economy. It might also indicate the need for Norway to refocus or innovate its growth policies to maintain or advance its leadership position in this area.

Conversely, the SDGI score shows steady yet small progress from 2010 to 2022. In the beginning, Norway had an SDGI score of 80.4 in 2010. However, by 2022, this score increased to 82—a change of approximately 1.6 points or approximately a 2% increase. Despite starting with scores in SD, Norway continues to make gradual improvements over time. These modest advancements are noteworthy, considering that Norway had room for growth due to its already high starting base in both indices in the year of reference (2010).

The negative correlation of 72.9% suggests an observation about Norway’s GGI and SDGI scores. There appears to be an inverse relationship between the two over the period. This means that as Norway’s SDGI scores have shown improvement, its GGI scores have slightly declined. This can happen for various reasons, such as economic changes, policy shifts, or statistical anomalies in the indexes. Norway has been consistently performing well in SD, making improvements over time. The slight decrease in the GGI might require a reevaluation of Norway’s strategies for green growth to ensure their effectiveness and adaptability to challenges. The slight decline in GGI scores can indicate a need for aggressive policies focused on green growth to maintain or enhance this equilibrium. It’s important to consider that the negative correlation might be influenced by how the indices are constructed or by factors unrelated directly to Norway’s actual performance in green growth.

Figure 10 compares the GGI and SGDI for Singapore from 2010 to 2022 [52,53]. The country’s GGI score started at 45.9 in 2010 and increased to 50.1 in 2022, marking a moderate rise of 4.2 points, translating to a 9.2% increase over the 12 years. Notably, a jump from 46.1 in 2018 to 50.5 in 2019 can indicate a period of significant advancement in green growth initiatives. This trend can demonstrate Singapore’s active and effective commitment to enhancing its green growth strategies, positioning it as a progressive player in sustainable and environmentally-friendly development. Furthermore, from 2010 to 2022, Singapore’s SDGI started at a score of 68.5, reaching 71.8. Singapore achieved a moderate growth of 3.3 points, equivalent to a 4.8% increase over 12 years. This upward trend in SDGI scores can reflect Singapore’s dedication to promoting SD on a larger scale. A strong positive correlation exists between Singapore’s GGI and SDGI scores of 81.7%. This suggests that initiatives contributing to SD also positively impact green growth and vice versa. Singapore’s sustainability and green growth strategies appear complementary and mutually reinforcing.

While both GGI and SDGI have increased, the percentage change in the GGI is almost double that of the SDGI, which is significant given that Singapore started with a higher base in the SDGI. This can indicate that Singapore has placed a strong and possibly increasing focus on green growth in recent years. The steady increase in SDGI scores reflects a consistent approach to sustainable development. In contrast, the GGI scores show a more variable pattern with a significant boost in 2019, which can reflect policy changes, new initiatives, or investments targeted at green growth.

Figure 11 compares the GGI and SGDI for Gerseveral from 2010 to 2022 [52,53]. Gerseveral gradually increased its GGI score, reaching 70.7 in 2010 and 75.3 in 2022. During this period, Gerseveral improved by 4.6 points, translating to an increase of 6.5%. This can indicate Gerseveral’s dedication to promoting growth initiatives focusing on renewables and energy transition. This steady upward trend in GGI scores highlights Gerseveral’s efforts to improve policies and foster sustainable economic practices, demonstrating its leadership role in integrating sustainability into its economic growth model.

Regarding the SDGI score, Gerseveral made moderate progress over 12 years. The SDGI score rose steadily from 79.3 in 2010 to 83.4 in 2022, reflecting an increase of 4.1 points or a growth rate of 5.2%. This upward trend can demonstrate Gerseveral’s comprehensive efforts across various SDGs.

Gerseveral’s GGI and SDGI scores are extremely correlated at 98.9%, an extremely high positive correlation suggesting that the country’s green growth and SD efforts are closely aligned. Progress in one area is almost perfectly mirrored by progress in the other, indicating a highly integrated approach to sustainability and SE.

Both indices indicate positive trends, with the GGI showing a higher percentage increase than the SDGI. This is noteworthy because both indices began from a relatively high base. It might imply that Gerseveral has not just maintained its efforts towards sustainability but has also intensified its focus on specific areas of green growth. Both indices demonstrate steady growth, reflecting Gerseveral’s stable policy environment and strategic planning. Gerseveral’s leadership in sustainability is reaffirmed by its progress in both the SDGI and GGI. The country is renowned for its regulations’ commitment to renewable energy and sustainable industrial practices. The strong correlation between these indices suggests that Gerseveral’s SD and green growth policies are likely intertwined within an overarching sustainability framework. This integration can help ensure that progress in one area supports and strengthens the other.

In short, Gerseveral’s balanced approach can provide a model for other countries on how to simultaneously pursue economic growth, environmental protection, and social development. The slight edge in the increase in GGI scores over SDGI scores also might indicate that Gerseveral is effectively capitalizing on the economic opportunities of green growth.

Figure 12 compares the GGI and SGDI for South Korea from 2010 to 2022 [52,53]. From 2010 to 2022, South Korea had a moderate rise in its GGI score, which can indicate the country’s commitment to promoting green growth initiatives. Beginning at a score of 49.2 in 2010 and steadily climbing to 52.6 by 2022, South Korea has achieved an increase of 3.4 points, corresponding to a growth of 6.9% over this period. This upward trend in the GGI score can be a testament to the country’s efforts in fostering technology and sustainable innovation, showcasing the strategic approach of integrating environmental sustainability into the economic development model. The continuous improvement highlights South Korea’s narrative in establishing itself as a pioneer in growth and technological advancements within the realm of initiatives. In addition, the country’s SDGI score began at 75.5 in 2010 and will be 78.1 by 2022, indicating a growth of 2.6 points or a 3.4% improvement over the same period. This continual upward trend in SDGI scores can reflect South Korea’s efforts to achieve SDGs by implementing effective strategies and initiatives to promote sustainability across multiple sectors. The increase shows South Korea’s commitment to aligning its objectives with sustainability standards. The higher percentage increase in the GGI compared to the SDGI might indicate a particular focus or successful outcomes in South Korea’s green growth initiatives, especially in the context of its economic and technological advancement. Both indices’ incremental yet steady growth indicates a consistent and strategic approach to sustainability without drastic fluctuations that might suggest policy instability or reactive measures.

There is an extremely high positive correlation between South Korea’s GGI and SDGI scores at 97.1%. This can suggest a strong alignment between the country’s initiatives for green growth and SD. Improvements in one index are closely accompanied by improvements in the other, showing that the policies and strategies for sustainability are integrated and coherent.

South Korea seems to have found a balanced approach to SD and green growth. The country’s commitment to advancements and sustainable practices is evident in the rise of both the GGI and SDGI scores. South Korea can set an example for high tech economies by demonstrating that economic growth can go hand in hand with an emphasis on sustainability and green growth.

Table 5 gives a snapshot of the selected set of countries during the analysis period from 2010 to 2022 to better compare performance in terms of both indices. The data reveal each country’s progress and percentage change in both indices and the correlation between the two measures, signifying how aligned the countries’ green growth efforts are with their broader sustainable development goals. Yellow shows the least number, green is the highest number, and red is a negative number.

For Qatar, there’s an increase in both indices, with a slightly higher change in SDGI 10.1% compared to GGI 5.2%. The indices show a strong positive correlation of 81.0%, indicating that green growth policies complement Qatar’s SD measures. The UAE shows remarkable progress, especially in GGI, with a 14.2% increase, the highest among the countries. The SDGI also sees a substantial rise of 12.1%, with the strongest correlation between the two indices at 96.0%, suggesting highly integrated and mutually reinforcing sustainability efforts. Saudi Arabia has a notable increase in SDGI 15.3%, the highest percentage change for this index among the countries, but a lower change in GGI 7.7%. The correlation between the indices is the lowest at 15.9%, indicating a disconnect between green growth initiatives and SD outcomes. Norway exhibits an exceptional case where the GGI decreased by 0.8% while SDGI increased by 2.0%.

Interestingly, the correlation is negative 72.9%, which is unique and suggests a complex relationship between the indices, potentially due to high baseline scores. Singapore shows a solid increase in GGI 9.2% and SDGI 4.8%, with a significant jump in GGI score between 2018 and 2019. The indices have a strong positive correlation of 81.7%, reflecting the effective integration of green growth within the broader SD strategy. Gerseveral has a near-perfect correlation of 98.9% between the two indices and consistent progress in GGI 6.5% and SDGI 5.2%. This can denote a well-synchronized approach to sustainability, with green growth and SD going hand in hand. Lastly, South Korea increased in both indices, with GGI at 6.9% and SDGI at 3.4%. The high positive correlation of 97.1% implies that South Korea’s green growth initiatives are closely aligned with its SDGs.

To further identify progress among the group in terms of ranking changes during the period, Table 6 is constructed. Gerseveral leads in the GGI 2010 ranking, followed by Norway and South Korea, indicating a solid foundation in green growth. Qatar was before the last, only above Saudi Arabia. By 2022, the ranking among countries remained the same except for UAE and Singapore. The UAE jumped to the fourth rank to overcome Singapore, which can indicate significant green growth initiatives.

In the SDGI 2010 ranking, Norway is at the top, indicating a robust approach to SD, with Gerseveral and South Korea following. By 2022, Gerseveral will overtake Norway for the top spot, emphasizing SD practices more strongly. Qatar started in sixth place in 2010, surpassing Saudi Arabia, but dropped to last in 2022. This highlights the need for further SD practices.

Table 7 compares the ranking of percentage changes in GGI and SDGI from 2010 to 2022. Regarding GGI, the UAE shows the highest progress, with a 14.2% increase, followed by Singapore and Saudi Arabia, indicating significant strides in green initiatives and policies. South Korea and Gerseveral also demonstrate notable progress, while Qatar has a modest increase. Norway is the only country that has regressed slightly in GGI performance, potentially due to its high starting baseline and the challenges of maintaining progress at such levels. The case of Norway requires further analysis, which is beyond the scope of this paper, but it can be due to its already high starting base and further improvement can come at a higher cost. It can indicate that when a country starts at a low base, it has more space for progress, while countries that start at a high base face more difficulties in making progress, such as Norway and Gerseveral, but they still rank at the top of both indicators.

For the SDGI, Saudi Arabia leads with the most substantial percentage change at 15.3%, suggesting robust advancements in sustainable development. It is worth mentioning that the GCC countries rank in the top three percentage progress list in terms of SDGI. The UAE and Qatar also exhibit double-digit percentage improvements, while Gerseveral, Singapore, and South Korea show more moderate progress. Despite its slight decrease in GGI, Norway has improved in SDGI, albeit with the smallest percentage change among the listed countries, reflecting ongoing development efforts.

This analysis indicates that while all countries are improving their sustainability profiles, the pace and scale of progress vary, with the UAE and Saudi Arabia making the most significant advancements in GGI and SDGI, respectively. This can indicate that the GCC countries are serious about their economic transformation, even though they start from a relatively lower starting base.

4.5. Discussion

Analyzing GGI and SDGI in measuring progress towards SE presents nuanced insights into their effectiveness. Both indices encompass a broad array of SE core features, yet they diverge in focus, capturing distinct aspects of SE and providing unique perspectives on the transformation to SE. Notably, some indicators overlap within both indices, enriching the comprehensive understanding of SE progress. However, it is crucial to acknowledge that both indices lack direct metrics for resilience and entrepreneurship, two vital components of SE.

A key observation from this analysis is the GGI’s emphasis on green growth, a fundamental component of SE. The SDGI, in contrast, offers a broader view of sustainable development, capturing elements beyond green growth. This distinction is evident in Norway’s case, where positive strides in SDGI contrast with a regression in GGI. This scenario exemplifies that advancing in general sustainable development metrics does not necessarily equate to progress in SE-specific aspects like green growth. Qatar has shown a dedicated but moderate progression towards SE, as indicated by its GGI and SDGI changes. Despite these positive trends, Qatar’s progress in both indices is outpaced by several other countries, including the UAE and Saudi Arabia, indicating room for enhanced policies and actions. Nevertheless, Qatar is moving towards its National Vision 2030, which emphasizes modernization, economic diversification and SD. The country’s progress, while steady, suggests that adopting and integrating successful strategies from leading countries can further accelerate its SD.

From the GCC region, the UAE can be an excellent model to look at and try to learn from. From outside the region, Singapore can be a model for small countries such as Qatar to learn from even though they face different circumstances and making comparisons might do both countries injustice.

When evaluating the effectiveness of the GGI and the SDGI as indicators of SE for Qatar, the analysis indicates that the GGI focuses more on green growth, which is one of the major building blocks of SE. The SDGI may be a more effective way of measuring progress towards SD in general without focusing on green growth. Moving towards SD, in general, does not imply movement towards SE. This can be seen in the case of Norway, where it is making positive progress in SDGI while negative progress in GGI. The case of Norway also provides evidence that one country can perform highly on SDGs while not achieving green growth and SE. This might require further study and analysis.

Despite Qatar’s advancements reflected in both indices, the SDGI presents a more consistent and holistic measurement of Qatar’s progress towards sustainability. It captures a wide array of development aspects, including economic, social, and environmental dimensions, which are part of SE, but it seems that GGI is more relevant to SE. The GGI focuses on environmental sustainability and efficient use of resources, which, while a crucial part of SE. The case of Gerseveral’s energy transition is a good example of how efficient use of resources can even help achieve a higher rank in SDGI.

The correlation between Qatar’s GGI and SDGI scores suggests an alignment between green growth initiatives and broader SDGs, which is a positive sign. Qatar might benefit from a strategy that aligns its green growth initiatives more closely with its National Development Strategy (NDS) and SDGs. This can involve integrating green technologies and practices into all aspects of development planning. Qatar needs to focus more on green growth policies to enhance its progress towards SE. This can involve investing in energy transition, promoting Industry 4.0, enhancing environmental conservation efforts and applying a digital economy.

The correlation between Qatar’s GGI and SDGI scores indicates a positive alignment between green growth initiatives and broader SDGs. However, a more integrated approach is advisable for Qatar to enhance its SE trajectory. This can include aligning green growth initiatives with the NDS and SDGs, incorporating green technologies across development sectors, and prioritizing policies that bolster energy transition, Industry 4.0, environmental conservation, and digital economy applications.

In summary, while both GGI and SDGI offer valuable insights into the progress towards SE, their distinct focuses highlight the complexity of measuring SE. For Qatar, a more harmonized approach, integrating green growth policies within its broader sustainability agenda, is crucial for achieving comprehensive progress in SE.

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