In 2015, the world’s governments signed on to the U.N. Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) with a commitment to bring the global economy back into balance with the living world. Now, five years later, as the U.N. General Assembly convenes online to discuss the global ecological crisis, everyone wants to know how countries are performing.
To answer this question, delegates and policymakers have referred to a metric called the SDG Index, which was developed by Jeffrey Sachs “to assess where each country stands with regard to achieving the Sustainable Development Goals.” The metric tells a very clear story. Sweden, Denmark, Finland, France, and Germany—along with most other rich Western nations—rise to the top of the rankings, giving casual observers the impression that these countries are real leaders in achieving sustainable development.