Mapped: The Greenest Countries in the World
From widening wealth disparity to the environmental ramifications of economic development—the growing focus on global sustainability is a clear sign of the times.
Research reveals that when a sustainable ethos is applied to policy and business, it typically bodes well for economies and people alike. By providing benchmarks for those decisions, indexes like Yale’s Environmental Performance Index (EPI) can be critical to measuring national sustainability efforts.
The above map interprets the EPI ranking of 180 economies across 32 environmental health indicators by narrowing in on the top 40 greenest countries.
Who’s the Greenest of them All?
Despite the decades-long trend of globalization, national environmental policies have proved to be widely divergent. The EPI report confirms that those policies—and their positive results—are highly correlated with national wealth.
This is evidenced in the global EPI distributions, seen below:
|OVERALL RANK||COUNTRY||SCORE||REGIONAL RANK|
|24||United States of America||69.3||21|
|42||United Arab Emirates||55.6||2|
|63||Antigua and Barbuda||48.5||10|
|65||St. Vincent and Grenadines||48.4||11|
|69||Trinidad and Tobago||47.5||14|
|78||Bosnia and Herzegovina||45.4||18|
|119||São Tomé and Príncipe||37.6||10|
|124||Central African Republic||36.9||12|
|125||Dem. Rep. Congo||36.4||13|
|146||Papua New Guinea||32.4||20|
|154||Republic of Congo||30.8||26|
Regional grouping in the report include: Global West, Asia-Pacific, Eastern Europe, Former Soviet States, Greater Middle East, Latin America & Caribbean, Southern Asia, and Sub-Saharan Africa
Scandinavian countries, which tend to have a high GDP per capita, show strong and consistent results across EPI parameters. Denmark for instance—which ranks first overall—leads the world in slowing its growth in CO2 emissions. Meanwhile, neighbor Sweden leads in landfill and recycling treatment, while wastewater treatment is led by a handful of countries within and beyond Scandinavia including Denmark, Finland, the Netherlands, Singapore, and Sweden.
In North America, Canada claims top spot in the biodiversity and habitat category, while the U.S. ranks sixth in agricultural diversity globally. In Asia, Singapore leads the world in fishery health and sustainability.
Ultimately, it appears the world’s greenest countries tend to focus on all areas of sustainability, while laggard countries show more uneven performance across categories.
What Does “Green” Mean?
Each high-level performance indicator with the EPI, like “environmental health”, is broken into subsections. Nations are scored on each subsector on a scale up to 100. As a result, multiple countries can rank first in any given category.
By evaluating national sustainability on a scale that is unrelated to other nations, we get a clearer idea of comparative national progress, beyond a basic ranking.
For instance, 30 countries tie for first in marine protection, all with scores of 100. This shows that many economies are prioritizing this area of sustainability.
The EPI categories and subsectors are shown in the diagram below:
Each section is weighted differently, and is reflected as a percentage within the index. For example, Ecosystem Vitality accounts for 60% of the EPI, Climate Change makes up 24% of a country’s score, and CO2 emission reduction is weighted at 13.2%.
The Cost of Being Green
Infrastructure costs are one reason why wealthier nations tend to fare better across sustainability measures. Everything from air pollution reduction and water treatment, to hazardous waste control and mitigation of public health crises are especially expensive—but have a huge potential impact on citizens.
This trend can be seen the scatterplot, which demonstrates the distribution of economies evaluated by the EPI:
For a more detailed look, the table below highlights the GDP per capita of each of the top 40 greenest countries, based on data from the World Bank and Statista:
|COUNTRY||EPI SCORE||GDP Per Capita||RANK|
|United States of America||69.3||65,298||24|
Despite the strong correlation between GDP per capita and EPI score, developing countries do not have to abandon sustainability efforts. China for instance leads the world in the adoption of electric vehicle technology.
Although some rankings can seem prosaic, indexes like the EPI provide a helpful benchmark for economies to compare efforts. It also allows governments to iterate and build upon environmental strategies and investments by highlighting what is and isn’t working.
CO2 emissions, for instance, are a major driver of climate change. Although the global economic stall has led to a temporary dip of CO2 emissions in early 2020 (a slower growth rate than the 11% expected rise), global emissions still continue.
However, the EPI shows that investments have impact. High-level sustainability efforts—political commitment, media coverage, regulations—can deliver results, even at the grassroots level.
Charted: The Industries Where Asian Companies are the Strongest
We look at the share of Asian companies in the top 3,000 global firms—measured by market capitalization in 2020—broken down by industry.
The Industries Where Asian Companies are the Strongest
The last 30 years of globalization have benefited Asia greatly.
As a result of deepening trade relations and access to other markets, Asian companies have grown in output and prominence. But which sectors do they excel in?
Using data from McKinsey Global Institute we visualize Asian companies’ share of the top 3,000 global companies, broken down by industry, revenue, and patent share.
A top 3,000 company was defined as having a market capitalization of over $5 billion in 2020.
Ranking Asia’s Strongest Industries
Unsurprisingly, among the top 3,000 companies globally, Asian companies are most prevalent in the manufacturing sector. Specifically, the region’s strength is in industries like consumer electronics, industrial electronics, electric vehicles, and semiconductors.
For many Asian countries, manufacturing is the bulwark of the economy. In Asia’s largest economy, China, the manufacturing sector accounts for nearly one-third of economic output. In Asia’s 13th largest economy, Vietnam, it accounts for almost one-fourth of gross domestic product.
However, manufacturing isn’t all what Asia is known for anymore. Here’s a full list of the top Asian companies’ share in various industries.
|Industry||Asian Share of Top 3,000 Companies||Revenue Share (%)||Patent Share (%)|
Note: The top 3,000 companies list is industry agnostic; companies are classified by sector according to their main business.
Another fast-growing industry where Asian companies are thriving is in the consumer internet services space. Asia is home to half of the world’s internet users, which is driving innovation within the region’s online services industry.
And even though Asia is home to “only” 22% of e-commerce companies within the top 3,000, these firms accounted for 50% of patents granted.
Five Distinct “Asias”
Asia is of course a vast place, and for this reason McKinsey divides the Asia-Pacific region into five distinct “Asias” to get a more granular view. For the most part, they use UN country groupings here, though McKinsey notes it excludes parts of Western Asia (i.e. the Middle East) due to dissimilarities with other Asia-Pacific economies:
- Advanced Asia: High per-capita GDP, urbanization, and connectivity. Includes Australia, New Zealand, Japan, South Korea, and Singapore.
- China: 18% of global GDP and population.
- Emerging Asia: Southeast Asia, strong regional connections and trade. Includes Indonesia, Vietnam, Thailand, and others.
- India: 18% of global population but only 3% of global GDP.
- Frontier Asia: Limited integration, large populations and potential. Includes Pakistan, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, and others.
McKinsey noted that the region is economically integrated—without formal political governance and despite sometimes being at odds with each territorially—with 59% of Asian trade done with other Asian countries.
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