that report continued, "If our measurements are flawed, decisions may be distorted. Choices between
promoting GDP (Gross Domestic Product) and protecting the environment may be false choices, once
environmental degradation is appropriately included in our measurement of economic performance."
In other words, to frame policies and the notion of progress on the illusion that economic
growth based on GDP can be sustainable is to invite a world much like the one we have today.
Externalization of environmental liabilities and severe economic inequality are the results of our
fixation on GDP.
There have been many efforts to conceptualize a measurement of progress
that accounts for environmental and social factors. This week, as the Rio+20 Conference on sustainable development
gets underway, another indicator aimed at encouraging sustainability—the Inclusive Wealth Index
(IWI)—has been proposed.
Developed by the United Nations University's International Human
Dimensions Program on Global Environmental Change (UNU-IHDP) and the United Nations Environment
Program (UNEP), the IWI was unveiled in a report entitled the Inc
lusive Wealth Report 2012 (IWR). "A more inclusive definition of wealth that will secure a
legacy for future generations is urgently needed in the discussion of sustainable economic and
social development," it states.
The report measures the inclusive wealth of 20 nations,
which account for 56% of the world's population and 72% of world GDP. To cite an example, the GDP
of China grew by 422% between 1990 and 2008. However, its IWI increased by only 45%, largely
because of a decline of 17% in natural resources.
In fact, of the 20 countries analyzed in
the report, only Japan showed an increase in natural resources, because of increases in forest
When population growth is factored, "almost all countries analyzed experienced
significantly lower growth," according to the report.
"Rio+20 is an opportunity to call
time on Gross Domestic Product as a measure of prosperity in the 21st century, and as a barometer
of an inclusive Green Economy transition," said UNEP Executive Director Achim Steiner. "IWI is
among a range of potential replacements which world leaders can consider as a way of bringing great
precision to assessing wealth generation in order to realize sustainable development and eradicate