Work to complement GDP has been going on for almost two decades, at both national and international level in the context of sustainable development. In recent years the European Commission stepped up its efforts and communication in this field.
In August 2009, the European Commission published a communication with the title “GDP and beyond – Measuring progress in a changing world” from the European Commission [COM(2009) 433]. This communication aims at improving indicators for better reflecting policy and societal concerns.
It seeks to improve, adjust and complement GDP with indicators that monitor social and environmental progress.
It identifies five key actions for the short and medium term:
- Action 1: Complement GDP with environmental and social indicators (a comprehensive environmental index, quality of life and well-being).
- Action 2: Provide near real-time information for decision-making (more timely environmental and social indicators).
- Action 3: Report more accurately on distribution and inequalities
- Action 4: Develop a European sustainable development scoreboard (coordinated by Directorate General for Environment (DG ENV).
- Action 5: Extend national accounts to environmental and social issues
In September 2009, the Commission on the Measurement of Economic Performance and Social Progress (Stiglitz-Sen-Fitoussi Commission) published a report with 12 recommendations on how to better measure economic performance, societal well-being and sustainability.
To answer the challenges presented by these two initiatives, the European Statistical System Committee (ESSC) launched a Sponsorship Group on "measuring progress, well-being and sustainable development". The work of this group focused on making better use of and improving existing statistics with a view to providing the most appropriate indicators. It prepared a report which was adopted by the European Statistical System Committee in November 2011 (see ESS Website).
Two important milestones for the work of the Sponsorship Group took place when the Directors General of the National Statistical Institutes (DGINS) adopted the Sofia Memorandum (in September 2010) and the Wiesbaden Memorandum (in September 2011):
- In Sofia, the DGINS agreed to work further in particular on the households perspective, distributional aspects in our societies, the consumption perspective of environmental pressures, objective and subjective conditions of people’s quality of life and complementarities between micro data sources;
Sofia Memorandum on measuring progress, well-being and sustainable development
- In Wiesbaden, the DGINS agreed on a new conceptual design for households and social statistics
Wiesbaden Memorandum: New conceptual design for household and social statistics
An additional milestone to the work of the Sponsorship is the Prague Memorandum