The 2017 Sustainable Competitiveness Index: Scandinavia & Northern Europe dominate; US set to decline under Trump-proposed policies



Scandinavia & Nothern Europe top GSCI 2017; US expected to decline

Zurich/Seoul, November 2017. The 6th edition of the Global Sustainable Competitiveness Index (GSCI) is dominated by Northern European nations with the top 5 spots taken by the Scandinavian nations, topped by Sweden. Of the largest economies, Germany is ranked 14th, Japan 20th, the UK 22st, the US 29th, and China 32nd.  Download the Report

The Global Sustainable Competitiveness Index is based on 111 quantitative performance indicators  to ensure total subjectivity. All data is derived from renowned sources (the World Bank, various UN databases). All data sets are scored for the latest available data as well as the development over the last 10 years. The 111 indicators are grouped in the 5 areas  of the sustainable competitiveness model:



  • Natural Capital: the given natural environment, (availability of resources, depletion of resources)
  • Social Capital: health, security, freedom, equality and life satisfaction
  • Resource Management: resource efficiency and intensity
  • Intellectual Capital: education, innovation, value-adding industry
  • Governance Efficiency: infrastructure, market and employment structure, financial industry


The GSCI is based on an inclusive model of competitiveness, looking at the fundamentals that allow a nation-economy to thrive. Contrary to conventional evaluation of “competitiveness” that are based on financial and/or economic figures, the GSCI evaluates the root cause of economic development and success.

Key takeaways of the 2017 Sustainable Competitiveness Index:

  • The top 20 are dominated by Northern-European countries and Eastern European nations, with Scandinavia covering the top 5 spots. The Baltic states are also doing notably well.
  • The only non-European contenders in the top 20 of the GSCI 2017 are New Zealand (13), South Korea (16), and Japan (20).
  • The World’s largest economies show a mixed picture: Germany is ranked 13, Japan 20, the UK 22, and the US 29. The US is scoring particularly low in social issues, and resource intensity – indicating not only development potential, but also significant cost reduction opportunities.
  • The BRICs: China scores highest on rank 32, Brazil 42, Russia 45, and India 121. China is amongst the leading nations when it comes to Intellectual capital and investments; however, the combination of limited natural resources, arid areas, and low resource efficiency could possibly jeopardise the future development of the country.
  • Analyising he bottom-line impacts of the policies proposed by the new Trump-administration shows that the US is set to loose ground – particularely against China – if all policies were to be implemented
  • Comparison of the GSCI results to sovereign bond ratings suggest that the latter do not sufficiently all investor risks.

While there seems to be a certain correlation between the GSCI rankings of this index to current wealth levels as expressed in the GDP, these correlations are superficial. Some of the World’s richest countries, particularly the oil-rich countries of the Middle East, score significantly lower on the index than their GDP output would suggest. Some of the nominally poorest countries, on the other hand (e.g. Bhutan, Bolivia, Laos) are ranked considerably higher than their current GDP would indicate.

The Sustainable Competitiveness World Map:


A detailed Report as well as individual country scores for 180 nations can be downloaded on our website.


  • Countries with high abundance of water, regardless of location and cold/tropical zones, poses the highest levels of natural capital
  • Resource intensity rankings are lead mostly by lesser developed countries. However, Sweden on rank 5 proves that high wealth levels and low resource intensity are not mutually exclusive
  • Asian nations (South Korea, Japan, Singapore, and China) and Scandinavia lead the Intellectual Capital ranking. However, achieving sustained prosperity in China might be compromised by Natural Capital constraints and current high resource intensity/low resource efficiency
  • The Social Cohesion ranking is headed by Northern European (Scandinavian) countries, indicating that Social Cohesion is the result of economic growth combined with social consensus

Download the Global Sustainable Competitiveness Report