Measuring Growth of Societies with GDP Alone Shows an Incomplete Picture

Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)
Fact box

At the United Nations Sustainable Development Summit on 25 September 2015, world leaders adopted the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, which includes a set of 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) to end poverty, fight inequality and injustice, and tackle climate change by 2030.

Sustainable Development Goals

No poverty
Zero hunger
Good health and well-being
Quality education
Gender equality
Clean water and sanitation
Affordable and clean energy
Decent work and economic growth
Industry, innovation and infrastructure
Reduced inequalities
Sustainable cities and communities
Responsible consumption and production
Climate action
Life below water
Peace and justice, strong institutions
Partnership for the goals
source: UNDP

Rafał Rudzki

About Rafał Rudzki

Rafal Rudzki is a Senior Manager, Sustainability Consulting Central Europe, Deloitte. He is a sustainability expert. He advises Polish and foreign clients in sustainability analysis & strategy, non-financial reporting, stakeholders’ engagement and dialogue, building companies’ reputation, impact measurement and designing and implementing organizational structures & networks. Rafał coordinates regional development of Sustainability Consulting practice within Deloitte Central Europe.

Recent statistics, for example, those from the Brookings Institution, prove there have been impressive reductions in the percentage of people living in poverty. Is the problem solved and should we all applaud? Well, no, as progress in improving people’s lives has been uneven at best. Often, economic growth has depended on industrial, agricultural, and economic processes that are not environmentally sustainable and which, in many cases, produce social inequity. While it was once assumed that economic growth would solve most problems, it is now clear that social and environmental improvements do not necessarily accompany sustainable economic growth. 

Moreover, there is growing awareness that economic measures alone do not fully capture social progress. Currently, Gross Domestic Product (GDP) is the traditional benchmark of success in the global economy. However it is a known fact that GDP provides us, conversely, with an incomplete picture of the state of affairs. For instance, it ignores for example the environment or well-being of society; both of which are important conditions for societal and economic advancement.

Social progress depends on the policy choices, investments, and implementation capabilities of multiple stakeholders: governments, civil society and business, says Michael Porter of the Harvard Business School. However, in order to make the correct decisions one needs a robust, yet credible, source of information. This has been the starting point for the Social Progress Index (SPI), a new tool to provide a measurement framework that supports the analysis of a country’s performance as an aid to discussions, insights and investment decisions.

The SPI framework does not cover economic indicators and measures only social and environmental outcomes. The 2016 results have helped in the ranking and analysis of 133 countries, covering 94 per cent of the world’s population. It measures country performance across 53 areas (including anything from access to electricity, through obesity to tolerance for immigrants) and seeks to answer three questions: Does a country provide for its people’s most essential needs? Are the building blocks in place for people to improve their lives? Is there an opportunity for people to improve their position in society?

Why are the answers to these questions relevant? It is because the Social Progress Index identifies priority areas for action and aims to spark discussion among governments, international organisations, regional governments, businesses and civil society about where to focus investments.  These investments could bridge social and economic development gaps and could leverage developmental opportunities, which are a base for an inclusive and sustainable growth of societies and economies.

In addition to this, making an impact has become the focus of policy makers and business leaders who are seeking ways to resolve social, economic, and environmental issues. 2015 was an especially important year on this path, as it was marked by the announcement of new 17 Sustainability Development Goals (SDGs); these are the goals to transform our world over the next 15 years e.g. to end poverty, fight inequality and injustice, and to tackle climate change by 2030.

“In an increasingly performance-oriented society, metrics matter. What we measure affects what we do. If we have the wrong metrics, we will strive for the wrong things.” Jean-Paul Fitoussi, Amartya Sen and Joseph Stiglitz wrote in “Mismeasuring Our Lives Now”.

It is time to reflect on where we are as businesses, nations and regions and to contribute to our future growth. SPI is one of the ways of looking at where we stand globally in the achievement of our inclusive and sustainable growth agenda.


The article is based partially on the materials delivered by the Social Progress Imperative, the creators of the Social Progress Index.


China: A Giant That Is Hard to Crack

Where’s My Cheese? – The GREAT British Food Tour 2014

Cheese Shop

Old Fashioned Skulduggery Overshadows the Elections in Moldova

Will the New Five-day Visa-free Regime Encourage More Visitors to Belarus?

Central and Eastern European Consumers Are Joining the Global Trends for Change

Could the West At Least Help Ukraine To Insure FDI Against Political Risks?

The Sharing Economy Could Bring New Business Models to CEE

A Bosnian Referendum Shows Russia’s Influence in the Balkans—As Well As Its Limits

Examining How a Strong Swiss Franc Could Single-Handedly Topple Poland’s Economy

Falling into Old Ways in 2017? Ukraine’s Struggle for Functioning Economic Institutions

The Capital Markets Union: a New Beginning in the European Financial Sector?

The Morawiecki Plan Promises a Brighter Future for Poland

A New Division Between Eastern And Western Europe?

The Voice of European Business Must Be Heard Loud and Clear by Brexit Negotiators

Poland’s Unicorn, Slovakia’s Flying Car and the Future of Europe

The EU’s Choice: Fundamental Reform Or Disintegration

Ukraine’s Reputation for Cheap Labour May Not Ring True in the Long-term

Breaking With Imitations of the Past

Big Fish, Small Fish, Where to Fish? On the Eve of the Fourth Industrial Revolution

Europe Needs To Be More Proactive In Embracing Armenia

LGBT in CEE — A New Acceptance Is Being Born From Migration

Romania Surviving the Waves of Recent Political Tsunamis in Europe

Let’s Stop Wasting Time Redefining our Place in Europe

Fiscal Policy Predictability in CEE — It’s Time for Change

Poland: Is it Ready, and is it Time to Adopt the Euro?

Resignation in Ukraine: War, Revolution, Crisis — Some Things Never Change

How Will Poland Approach the Brexit Negotiations?

The Right to Water: Who Can Change Today’s Situation?

Are There Differences Between How Tax Regulations in Poland and IAS Treat Intangible Assets?

Belarus 2020: Turning the Vicious Circle Into an Upward Spiral

Prepare for a New Europe

After 25 Years of Restructuring, the Romanian Power Sector Is at a Crossroad

Brexit: Let’s Learn the Lesson and Hope a Better Europe Will Arise

Outsourcing in Germany: Stop Talking at and Start Talking to

CEE — Do We Need a Launch Pad For Our On-Site Tech Intelligence in the Silicon Valley

European Volatility Makes Economic Development Slower for Ukraine

Global Expansion in the Digital Age

The Netherlands’ Objection to the Ukraine-EU Association Agreement could be Costly to Europe

United or Divided? Europe in the Face of the Challenges of Tomorrow

The Global Outsourcing Industry — the Rise of the Phoenix

The GREAT London Food Scene

Bakery in London

History as Destiny? Institutional Erosion in Ukraine and Poland

Will a Two-speed European Union Side-line the Visegrad Four?

Polish Tax Laws — Fighting a Winning Battle Against Tax Evaders

Changing Perspectives and Showing That True Romania is a Vibrant Innovative Country

The Competitive Edge in Central and Eastern Europe

SOFIA BULGARIA - MAY 5: View of the Ivan Vazov National Theatre in Sofia on May 5 2016. Sofia is the largest city and capital of Bulgaria.

A Positive and Modern View of Entrepreneurship

International Women’s Day — Let’s Take Action And Then Celebrate

Not All Quiet on the Eastern Front

Are Labour Shortages Driving Economic Growth?

January Kicks Off an Exciting Year for Emerging Europe

Business Moving Forward with Cautious Optimism — Can Investors Win the Confidence Game?

The CEE Region Is Making Advances in Prioritising Waste-to-Energy Projects

Czech Republic Renaming Has Real Economic Costs

People Power Reminds the Government of the Rule of Law

The EU’s Benign Neglect Of Eastern Europe

Europe at Odds over OPAL and Nord Stream 2

The Long Tail of Global Expansion

Finalising the DCFTA is Expected to Bring Multiple Benefits to Ukraine

Poland’s Confusing GDP Growth

We, the Post-Communist Generation, Have the Skills to Rid of the Past And Create Our Own Future

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *