Green growth and sustainable development

Green Growth Indicators


 ‌"Green and growth go very well together. Green growth means we go for growth, we recover GDP... but we preserve and we actually enhance the endowment of natural resources that we were provided with, and which today are sustaining the economic activity on our planet."

Ángel Gurría, OECD Secretary-General

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What is green growth ?

How many patents are registered in each country? By whom?
How much do researchers collaborate across countries? 
The OECD published a new set of green patent indicators in March 2015.

The OECD designed the Green Growth Indicators to help countries assess and compare their progress. The measurement framework combines the main features of green growth with the basic principles of accounting and the pressure-state-response model.

The green growth indicators have been selected based on three well-specified criteria: analytical soundness - measurability - policy relevance. 

Green Growth Indicators development requires progress on two fronts: methodological development and addressing data gaps. National statistics agencies have an important role to play here. 


25-30 indicators were identified, under four main headings: 

1. Environmental and resource productivity

2. The natural asset base

3. The environmental dimension of quality of life

4. Economic opportunities and policy responses

Indicators that describe the socio-economic context and the characteristics of growth complete the picture.

For more details, read the chapter on the measurement framework in the 2011 report Towards Green Growth: Monitoring Progress.

1. Environmental and resource productivity

How productive is the economy in using natural capital?

These indicators monitor the efficient use of natural capital in the economy. They capture aspects of production which are rarely quantified in economic models and accounting frameworks. Currently, the database includes:

  • CO2 productivity. GDP growth or real income are related to production- and demand-based CO2 emissions.
  • Energy productivity. How much energy is necessary to generate one unit of GDP ? What is the share of renewables in energy supply?
  • Material productivity. How much materials are consumed to produce one unit of GDP?

Direct access to the OECD.Stat database

Work in progress: Nutrient flows and balances; Water productivity by sector; Multifactor productivity reflecting environmental services. 

2. Natural asset base

Are we preserving the natural asset base of our economy?

Natural resources are a major foundation of economic activity and human welfare. They provide materials and ecosystem services that are necessary to develop human, social and produced capital. A declining natural asset base is a risk to economic growth and to the well-being of current and future generations.

Currently, the database includes:

  • Freshwater.  Is water used efficiently? How do countries use water relative to their population or resources? 
  • Land. What shares of the total land area are dedicated to agriculture, pastures and meadows, forest? 
  • Wildlife. How many animal and plant species are threatened?

Direct access to the OECD.Stat database

Work in progress: Energy and mineral resources; Changes in land cover and use; Natural resources index. 




3. Environmental quality of life

How does environmental quality interact with people's health and lives?

Production and income growth may not always be accompanied by a rise in well-being. A degraded environment can incur health costs, lower labour productivity, reduce agricultural output, impair ecosystem functions and generally lower the quality of life. 

Currently, the database includes:

Access to sewage treatment. What share of the population is connected to sewerage with primary, secondary, tertiary treatment?

Direct access to the OECD.Stat database

Work in progress: Population exposure to air pollution; Access to environmental amenities. 




4. Economic opportunities and policy responses

Are policies effective in delivering green growth?

Environmental protection can be harnessed as a source of growth, competitiveness, trade and jobs. Are countries putting in place the right policies and measures to catalyse the investments needed for a greener growth?

  • R&D. What share of the government’s budget, or of the GDP, goes to research and development? And what share is directed at energy or the environment?
  • Development assistance. What share of official developement assistance is in favour of green growth?
  • Patents. How many patents are applied for in each environmental sector? How many inventions are protected in foreign countries? How much do researchers collaborate internationally?
  • Taxes. What share of total tax revenue is raised through environmentally related taxes? How much applies to energy or road transport? 

Direct access to the OECD.Stat database

Currently under development: Environmentally related expenditure; Environmentally related subsidies; Environmental policy stringency and design; Carbon market financing. 


 ‌Green Growth Indicators 2014 cover


Green growth Indicators 2014

This report updates and extends Towards Green Growth - Monitoring Progress (below).
A new edition will be published in 2017. 

It summarises the conceptual framework, describes recent developments and presents national and international initiatives related to green growth indicators.

It also charts the progress that countries have made in the four areas described above. 



Towards Green Growth: Tracking Progress

Four years after the launch of the OECD Green Growth Strategy, the report draws lessons from country experience and examines how to enhance policy design to deliver green growth. 

The brochure presenting the key findings and recommendations is available in English, en français, y en español

Green growth indicators in practice

Some countries have already applied and adjusted the OECD green growth measurement framework and indicators to their specific national contexts. Read the country reports:

Workshop on Green Growth Indicators in Latin American countries, OECD, 11 June 2015.

Shared environmental information system and green growth (Regional workshop for the countries of Eastern Europe, the Caucasus and Central Asia), OECD, 10-11 March 2015. 

This is the cover of the paper Measuring Inclusive Growth at the Country Level - Taking Stock of Measurement Approaches and Indicators

Measuring Inclusive Green Growth at the Country Level - Taking Stock of Measurement Approaches and Indicators

This paper, published by the Green Growth Knowledge Platform (GGKP) in February 2016, takes stock of current measurement approaches (including dashboards, composite indexes, footprint indicators and adjusted economic measures) and reviews available global data for indicators of inclusive green growth. The paper finds that significant gaps remain as existing approaches do not comprehensively cover natural resource depletion and environmental degradation. For example, data on economic cost and benefits, accessibility, and optimal or sustainable use of natural resources are rare. There is also a lack of comprehensive approaches and metrics for measurement of economic resilience to environmental risks as well as measurement of economic opportunities, related policies, and the distributional aspects of green growth.

Moving towards a common approach on Green Growth Indicators

On April 4, 2013, four leading international organisations on green growth launched a joint report under the auspices of the Green Growth Knowledge Platform (GGKP): the Global Green Growth Institute, the OECD, the United Nations Environment Programme, and the World Bank. 

In offering a conceptual framework for green growth indicators, this preliminary report marks the first time that the participating international organisations have shared a joint vision for a set of indicators that can help communicate the central elements of green growth and green economy. The indicators alert governments and citizens to pressing issues where policy action and societal responses are needed to address the environmental challenges.


The 2011 Green Growth Strategy identified six “headline” indicators to monitor central elements of green growth. Two of them have been produced (carbon productivity and non-energy material productivity).

Methodological work to develop the other headline indicators is ongoing. The indicators include:

  • environmentally adjusted multifactor (whole-economy) productivity to identify the extent to which economic growth is affected by pollution and natural resource use; 
  • demand-based material productivity to identify the materials embedded in final consumption
  • a natural resource index to monitor the sustainability of the natural asset base, including renewable and non-renewable assets; 
  • changes in land cover and use, to assess the pressures on biodiversity and ecosystems not covered by the natural resource index;
  • population exposure to air pollution (PM2.5), highlighting an important element of people’s environmental quality of life.

The potential of Earth observation data to help produce the latter two indicators is being assessed.

Work on indicators reflecting effective policy responses is also underway (including environmentally related taxes and subsidies).

In addition to methodological development, progress with data collection is also required to enable production of the indicators.

Governments need to continue their efforts to ensure availability of internationally comparable data. The role of national statistical agencies is vital.