January 26, 2001 – Business fat-cats may be reassured, but environmentalists were dismayed today by an update of the “Environmental Sustainability Index” (developed by World Economic Forum spin-off group, the Global Leaders for Tomorrow) released at the World Economic Forum this morning. The Index ranks countries according to their alleged ability to achieve economic growth and environmental sustainability together.

The index ranks rich Northern nations highly, and poor developing countries very badly. But Friends of the Earth International today accused the Index’s developers of perpetrating “ideological greenwash”. An analysis of the index by Friends of the Earth reveals that the apparent good performance of countries like the USA is because its overwhelming contribution to global problems like climate change (22% of global emissions from 5% of the planet’s population) is treated as minimal in the weighting, where domestic issues, and in particular, crude measures of social and institutional capacity.

On the other hand, the poor performance of Bangladesh in the Index, stems in part from its susceptibility to climate disasters – which have been caused largely by the profligacy of richer nations. Zambia’s low score is in part due to a poor performance on public health – yet it has been forced to cut public health spending by externally imposed structural adjustment policies.

To highlight the arbitrary and flawed assumptions of the Index, Friends of the Earth has re-ranked the top 10 and bottom 10 countries in the Index, according to their performance on five key environmental issues – including climate change, and resource depletion – and their Human Development Index ranking [see notes below]. This entirely reverses the ranking of the index -raising Uganda from eighteenth to first in this group, and dropping Norway from first to sixteenth. The USA drops from ninth to fourteenth.

Duncan McLaren of Friends of the Earth International said: “This so-called ‘Environmental Sustainability Index’ is a product of ideological greenwash. It sums up the wishful thinking of the World Economic Forum that more economic globalisation will solve the world’s problems.”

Duncan McLaren 00-44-749-192 0469 (In Davos)
Tony Juniper 00-44-771-284 3207 (In Davos)
FOE press office 00-44-7566 1649

Note for editors:
FoE’s re-analysis uses data on forest protection (% of national forests protected), marine fish catch, paper consumption, carbon dioxide emissions and pesticide use per hectare – it combines these with the country’s Human Development Index ranking (which in turn incorporates economic growth, infant mortality and literacy). For a table of rankings, contact us on the above numbers (or Simon Bullock on 00-44-20-7490 1555).