The Earth Charter Index:
Measuring the Contributions of Countries to
Planetary Well-being

What are contributions of countries to planetary well-being? 

The values of respect and care for the community of life, ecological integrity, social and economic justice, and democracy, nonviolence, and peace, when put in practice, contribute to planetary well-being. When these values drive actions and policies in a country, they result in the country’s contributions to planetary well-being. 

Why should we care about planetary well-being?

When planetary well-being breaks down, human-well-being or economic well-being breaks down as we experienced during the global lockdown. We, along with the greater community of life, who we share the planet with, are responsible to keep the planet alive, habitable, and thriving. If we do not contribute to planetary well-being, we will make our planet less habitable as, for example, we are discovering by experiencing an accelerating pace of global warming extreme weather events, rapid melting of glaciers and polar caps, and food and water insecurities. Hence our survival, in this interdependent world we live in, depends on planetary well-being.

How do we measure the contributions of our countries to planetary well-being?

Since September 2020, a small team at the Earth Charter International (ECI) has been working on a project to develop an instrument to measure Contributions of Countries to Planetary Well-being through the lenses of the four pillars of the Earth Charter. As a part of this work-in-progress, a proof-of-concept was developed for an index to score and rank countries based on their contributions.

The proof-of-concept scores countries according to the presence of ethical values articulated in the four pillars of the Earth Charter by considering simple indicators that are sensitive to actions and policies taken by the country, as well as to the Earth Charter pillars. In turn, it would also be expected that using these indicators as a driver to actions and policies would reinforce practice of the ethical values of the Earth Charter. The indicators are standardised for comparison into Index of Contributions of Countries to Planetary Well-being.

This Index is not meant to replace existing indices nor to measure Earth Charter Pillars, but rather to serve as a surrogate to measure the presence of ethical values of the pillars of the Earth Charter as contributions of the countries to planetary well-being.

Are the indicators used in the proof-of-concept representative? 

The country actions and policies that contributed to the indicators scoring higher provide evidence of the representative nature of the indicators. In order to gather this evidence, we issued an open invitation to develop Country Factsheets. You can participate by developing a Country Factsheet for your country by submitting information through our online data submission form.

Different indicators have different sensitivity and specificity to the presence of the ethical values of the Earth Charter in the actions and policies of a country. The sensitivity of an indicator is the proportion of the countries that score well with the indicator for the ethical values of the pillar to those countries that actually practice the ethical values of the pillar. Specificity of an indicator is the proportion of countries that score badly with the indicator to those countries who do not practice the ethical values of the pillar. In order to be representative, indicators need to strike a balance between sensitivity and specificity.

In order to expand our views on this and to offer an opportunity for those who wish to contribute to this effort, we issued an open invitation for anyone to come up with a different set of indicators with different sensitivity and specificity that encourage the practice of the Earth Charter ethical values in the actions and policies of a country. For this, we issued an open invitation to develop indicators that are more sensitive and specific than those that we have identified in the proof-of-concept research. We also seek to make the indicators representative by choosing those that are likely to reinforce the use of ethical values of the Earth Charter in actions and policies.

What purpose will these indicators serve?

Indices influence decisions, national policies, individual behaviour and shape our perception. How we define and measure “progress” impacts how we make “progress”. Countries have been measuring economic growth and driving economic growth ever since they adapted Simon Kuznets concept of Gross Domestic Product (GDP) after the Bretton Woods Conference in 1944. Human Development Index (HDI), published by the United Nations Development Programme ever since 1990, has driven human well-being. The Happy Planet Index, published by the New Economics Foundation in 2006, has created a narrative about how well countries are doing at achieving long, happy, and sustainable lives.

Based on the indicators, in 2022, Earth Charter International will launch the Index of Contributions of Countries to Planetary Well-being in order to elevate the importance of planetary well-being and expand the narrative focused on economic and human well-being to planetary well-being.

This index will enable leaders, policymakers, and citizens to visualize how much their country contributes to keeping the planet habitable and thriving, while seeking economic progress and human well-being. Bringing visibility to their contributions will inspire action and policies towards planetary well-being. 

With this new instrument, we envision to provide a view of the current status of contributions of countries to planetary well-being. We aim to make this instrument become a reference for countries and an information, communication, education, and research tool.

Why now? 

This new Index will be launched in June 2022 on occasion of the 30th Anniversary of the Rio-92 Earth Summit. Measuring the contributions of countries to planetary well-being provides a new angle to expand our view on the importance to address the challenges of the breakdown of planetary well-being that have not been addressed for inability to measure progress. It would also further international cooperation, reinforce our ethical responsibilities and guide our actions and policies to contribute to planetary well-being.

What can you do about the contributions of countries to planetary well-being?

Look up your country’s contributions to planetary well-being through the four pillars of the Earth Charter. Ask what actions and policies drive the indicators for each pillar. Do the actions and policies in your country reflect values of the four pillars of the Earth Charter? Which ethical values of the Earth Charter pillars can your country practice to increase its contributions to planetary well-being? How can your country commit itself to contributing to planetary well-being through ethical values of the four pillars of the Earth Charter? Share your insights in your circles and on social media.