NETGREEN – Network for Green Economy Indicators

The discussion on how to put our economy on a more sustainable path has intensified in recent years. More and more policy makers at all levels of policy making are looking for indicators and tools that can help them inform decisions to facilitate this transition. At the same time, many researchers have already developed indicators that measure pathways to a greener economy or a more sustainable development, but at the moment these indicators are not often enough used.

NETGREEN develops a systematic and consistent overview on the existing efforts to measure sustainable development and the transformation to green economy. By conducting a stock taking exercise on existing initiatives and indicators and assessing those indicators, NETGREEN will provide guidance to policy makers and researchers who want to use and further develop indicators and tools in the field.

Additionally NETGREEN aims to serve as a focal point of the discussions on the measurement of the green economy, and further develop this discussion with a communication tool that supports the understanding of the landscape of indicators, their specific uses and interpretations. Through the use of the communication tool and networking events, NETGREEN will foster the debate on the right use of indicators in the discussions about green growth, the green economy and Beyond GDP.

Collecting and summarising current initiatives and approaches

The project collects an inventory of previous and current initiatives that can be labelled as indicators or support tools related to sustainable development, supplementing GDP and green economy. The task is to collect and compare different initiatives over all subject boundaries (e.g., economic, social, environmental) and methodological boundaries (e.g., composite indices, indicator sets, ecosystem assessments, energy throughput, input-output analysis, environmental accounting and many others). This work is concentrated in WP2 and is led by the New economics foundation.

Making the knowledge on indicators available

Using the inventory from WP2, the project will develop a typology of indicators. It will structure and cross-classify indicators and tools according to a set of criteria established in WP2 and WP3. Rather than a linear or nested classification, we use a multi-dimensional cross-classification (matrix) approach because the indicators and support tools can share similar and contradictory characteristics simultaneously. Since the majority of indicator initiatives and related support tools were developed for specific purposes, their ‘fitness for use’ has already been tested and the goal here is to bring order and structure into the inventory, rather than dismiss or select the best indicators. With information on past and current applications of the indicators and tools in real world scenarios, NETGREEN will offer a sound basis for recommending specific indicators and tools for use and to help them identify and use the results of the initiatives most relevant to them. The method of display will not be a report but a website with an inventory database, which enables the interactive search and the visualisation of results. For example, the website will allow the user to search for the most relevant indicators and tools by specifying (i) what they want to measure (e.g. green economy, sustainable development), what framework they wish to apply (e.g. accounting, DPSIR), what type of indicator (e.g. indicator set, composite indicator), and what temporal coverage they desire (e.g. historical, current, forecast). At the same time, ‘reverse’ search is also possible for users (e.g. non-experts) who are unsure about any of the directed search criteria by following a qualitative decision-tree that guides them to the set of recommended indicators. This work is led by the DLO Foundation and the Ecologic Institute.

Stimulating exchange and debate: During and after deploying the website, NETGREEN engages stakeholders and stimulates the debate and development of overarching approaches. The focus of the stakeholder analysis is to understand the needs of different user groups and the requirements for indicators and tools. The work will, therefore, complement rather than duplicate the work that is already taking place as part of the FP7 e-frame and BRAINPOoL projects which also involve a review of the development and use of ‘Beyond GDP’ indicators, as well as work currently undertaken by Eurostat and the ESS, the OECD, and UNECE. The project will also build on the work of earlier projects such as POINT. The Centre for European Policy Studies is leading this work.

Providing policy recommendations: The inventory database, indicator structure (typology), website, and workshops jointly form the basis for catalysing the gathered information into practical recommendations for EU policy. Three types of recommendations will be developed: (i) best practices in indicator choice and application for measuring and monitoring sustainable development or green economy in the EU and beyond, (ii) development of sustainable solutions and models for businesses in the context of transitioning to a green economy, and (iii) identification of persistent research gaps and approaches to address them.. The recommendations will be derived from the project outputs, stakeholder consultation during thematic workshops and policy briefs. The policy briefs, in particular,  demonstrate how the collected indicators are used, while the website will provide a foundation from which recommendations for environment and social policy can be made. This work will be led by the Ecologic Institute.