Conclusions and Next Steps
This chapter assesses sustainable competitiveness in 113 economies and fosters the understanding of conceptual links between productivity on the one hand and social and environmental sustainability on the other. By combining social and environmental indicators with the GCI’s results, the Forum has been able to continue its assessment of sustainable competitiveness at the national level and to contribute to creating a policy space for both dimensions of sustainability in relation to competitiveness. This analysis continues to support the important finding that there is no necessary trade-off between being competitive and being sustainable. In fact, competitiveness and sustainability can work in complementary ways and holistic policies can have a positive effect on both in the long term.
As environmental and social tipping points become more palpable, economies that have been investing and planning for the long run, balancing economic progress with social inclusion and good and effective environmental stewardship, will be in a better position to maintain high prosperity for their citizens, even in presence of external shocks. Given the complexity of the issue at hand and important gaps in data, it must be remembered that this is a work in progress and that conclusions regarding countries’ performance in terms of sustainable competitiveness can only be indicative.
We find that progress varies across different areas of sustainability. Five consecutive years of low growth in advanced economies and the more recent slowdown in emerging markets create a climate of lack of opportunities, which is reflected in growing concerns about the social dimension. This makes the inclusiveness of the growth process an increasingly topical and timely issue.
Public interest in environmental issues—with the exception of climate change—is higher than it was decades ago, although it seems less strong than it had been before the crisis. At the same time, firms are now more actively transitioning toward more sustainable practices. Overall, it is increasingly urgent that more tangible results on enhancing environmental sustainability are achieved.
The World Economic Forum will continue to serve the international community by providing a neutral multi-stakeholder platform to advance the understanding and analysis of this important concept. The Forum will also continue to work at the frontier of sustainability measurement to fully assess progress in national policies. Recognizing that multi-stakeholder collaboration is vital for creating the confidence necessary to undertake the investments to build more sustainable economies, we hope that this assessment will provide the basis for public-private dialogue on how to make economies environmentally and socially more sustainable for the benefit of present and future generations.