Moving Beyond GDP To Achieve The SDGs

World leaders increasingly believe it is time to move beyond GDP as the central measure of progress. At their 2018 meeting in Canada, Group of Seven heads recognized that GDP is “insufficient for measuring success.” In the same vein, the United Nations secretary-general wrote in 2021 that “it is time to collectively commit to complementary measurements”, calling our excessive reliance on GDP “a glaring blind spot in how we measure economic prosperity and progress.” This blind spot is one of the factors limiting the financing required to achieve the UN Sustainable Development Goals and realize the 2030 Agenda.

By Livia Bizikova, Zakaria Zoundi, Robert Smith on September 1, 2022
  • “Global decision-making is fixed on immediate gain, ignoring the long-term consequences of decisions.” —UN Secretary-General António Guterres

  • GDP might be “indispensable in short-run macroeconomic analysis and management [but] it is wholly unsuitable for…identifying sustainable development” —Sir Partha Dasgupta

  • The list of approaches that meet the requirements for moving #beyondGDP is not long. It is easy to conceive large indicator dashboards that may cover all dimensions of #wellbeing.

Among the handful of credible counterparts to GDP is inclusive wealth. Inclusive wealth measures the assets that underlie human wellbeing: natural, human, social, produced and financial capital. An increase in inclusive wealth signals an increase in wellbeing. Conversely, when inclusive wealth falls, wellbeing must fall as well. Inclusive wealth is, therefore, a powerful measure of sustainability.

Building on the recommendation of T20 Saudi Arabia, this policy brief calls for G20 countries to move beyond GDP by complementing it with inclusive wealth indicators by 2025. Doing so is key to unlocking the financing needed for the SGDs and achieving the 2030 Agenda. GDP drives decision-makers towards short-term thinking. Adding inclusive wealth to decision-makers’ toolboxes would ensure that long-term goals like the SDGs—and the funding to achieve them—are not forgotten.