The Europe Sustainable Development Report 2023/24 provides a quantitative assessment of SDG priorities for the EU, EFTA countries, the UK and candidate countries. The data work was conducted between August and October 2023. Due to their recent accension to candidate-country status in December 2023 and limited data availability for now in European databases, Georgia, Moldova and Ukraine are not covered in this year’s edition but may be included in future editions. The 2023 SDG Index and Dashboards for Europe comprises 109 indicators, including 95 that permit an evaluation of progress over time. The same indicator set is used for all countries to generate comparable scores and rankings.
The SDG Index and Dashboards for Europe builds on the methodology of the Sustainable Development Report, developed by the SDSN and Bertelsmann Stiftung to track countries’ performance on the 17 SDGs. The methodology has been peer-reviewed by Cambridge University Press1 andNature Geoscience2 and has been statistically audited – during development of the 2019 global edition – by the European Commission Joint Research Centre.3 The SDG Index has been listed among the ten composite indices useful for policymaking by the European Parliamentary Research Service.
This European edition builds on the findings of the 2018 SDSN-EESC study, which called for independent monitoring of SDG performance in Europe.4 The report is co-designed by civil society and aims to complement the European Commission’s reporting on the SDGs. Since 2016, the European Commission, via Eurostat, has released a dataset for the SDGs and published the annual report Sustainable Development in the European Union,5 which is the lead SDG monitoring report in the EU. The SDG Index and Dashboards for Europe complements the Eurostat report in five principal ways:6
1. It measures distance to pre-defined performance thresholds
2. It monitors both current performance (latest year available) and trends over time
3. It presents results on each of the 17 SDGs for all 27 EU member states, as well as for EFTA countries, the UK and candidate countries
4. It uses more non-official data from peer-reviewed papers and civil society
5. It covers extensively the issues of international spillovers and ‘leave no one behind’ principles (including via dedicated indices)
The selection of indicators and performance thresholds benefited from inputs submitted in various rounds of stakeholder consultations. A kick-off workshop was organized in September 2023, we then launched an online public consultation on preliminary data and results in November 2023, and held a workshop in Brussels on November 8, hosted by the EESC, to discuss the preliminary findings.
The Europe Sustainable Development Report 2023/24 covers 38 European countries, including the 27 EU member states and 11 partner countries. This year, the report includes a new indicator issued from geographic information systems (GIS) to better track access to key urban services. This edition also includes updates to the SDG 4 indicators issued from the Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA). These updates incorporate the results of the newly released PISA 2022 and reflect the most recent PISA’s focus on mathematics. The 2023/24 report also includes a refinement to the spillover indicator tracking imported GHG emissions (which previously tracked only CO2 emissions). Our Codebook, available for download online, contains the full list of new and modified indicators as well as all indicator metadata. In addition to the indicator refinements, we present for the first time an estimation of the percentage of SDG targets that are on track to be met by 2030, for all countries with sufficient data in their respective country profiles.
Another purpose of this report is to identify data gaps in tracking the SDGs. Compared to other regions, Europe is a data-rich environment. This is due in large extent to the work of the European Statistical System, continued collaboration across National Statistical Offices, and the leadership of the European Commission (via Eurostat). However, despite the strengths of the EU and partner countries in terms of data, there are gaps that need to be filled to track the SDGs at the national level in a comprehensive and timely way. Table A1 summarizes these main data gaps.
Approximately 70% of the indicators come from official statistics (primarily services of the European Commission) and 30% from non- official data sources (NGOs, academia). The full list of sources by indicator is presented in Table A5. Five major criteria were used to inform the final indicator set for the Europe Sustainable Development Report:
1. The total number of indicators was limited to 100 (plus or minus 15%)
2. Simple, single-variable indicators were preferred, with straightforward policy implications
3. Indicators must allow for high frequency monitoring
4. Indicators must be statistically valid and robust
5. Indicators must allow measurement of distance to targets (it must be possible to define optimal performance)
Performance thresholds (‘upper bound’) for each indicator were determined using the following decision tree:
1. Use absolute quantitative thresholds in SDGs and targets: e.g. zero poverty, universal school completion, universal access to water and sanitation, full gender equality.
2. Apply the principle of ‘leave no one behind’ when no explicit SDG target is available.
3. When available, use science-based or technical targets that must be achieved by 2030 or later (for example, net-zero greenhouse gas emissions from energy by 2050, 80% yield gap closure).
4. For all other indicators, use the average of the top performers.
The lower bound (0%) was defined by the lowest 2.5th percentile, either from the global Sustainable Development Report or from the European countries included in the Europe-specific datasets.
To make the data comparable across indicators, each variable was rescaled from 0 to 100, with 0 denoting worst performance and 100 describing the optimum. After establishing the upper and lower bounds, variables were transformed linearly to a scale between 0 and 100 using the following rescaling formula for the range [0; 100]:
Image A.1 | Rescaling equation
where x is the raw data value; max/min denote the bounds for best and worst performance, respectively; and x’ is the normalized value after rescaling. Each indicator distribution was censored, so that all values exceeding the upper bound scored 100, and values below the lower bound scored 0. The rescaling equation ensured that higher values indicated better performance. In this way, the rescaled data became easy to interpret: a country with a score of 75 has covered three quarters of the distance from worst to best.
To compute the SDG Index, we first calculate scores for each goal using the arithmetic mean of the scores of the indicators for that goal. These goal scores are then averaged across all 17 SDGs to obtain the SDG Index score. Equal weights were used for aggregating indicator scores into the goal scores, and for aggregating goal scores into the overall index score.
Averaging across all indicators for an SDG might hide areas of policy concern if a country performs well on most indicators but faces serious shortfalls on one or two metrics within the same SDG (often called the ‘substitutability’ or ‘compensation’ issue). As a result, the SDG Dashboards are based only on the two variables on which a country performed worst – except for Goal 3, where the three worst indicators are used. The dashboards use a ‘traffic light’ colour scheme (green, yellow, orange and red) to illustrate how far a country is from achieving a particular goal. A red rating was applied only if both of the worst-performing indicators scored red. Similarly, in order to score green, all indicators under the goal must be green.
Using panel data, we estimate how fast a country has been progressing towards an SDG and determine whether – if continued into the future – this pace will suffice to achieve the SDG by 2030. To estimate SDG trends, we calculated the linear annual growth rates needed to achieve the goal (green threshold) by 2030 (2015–2030), which we compared to the average annual growth rate over the most recent period starting from the year of the adoption of the SDGs (e.g. 2015–2022).
A green arrow denotes ‘on track or maintaining performance above goal achievement’, the intermediate yellow and orange arrows denote insufficient progress, and a red arrow indicates movement away from the target. Countries that have already achieved an SDG target, but whose performance has worsened since 2015 are assigned an orange arrow ‘stagnation.’
The EU aggregate includes the 27 EU Member States and is a population-weighted average. To calculate population-weighted averages for European subregions, countries are grouped as shown in Table A2.
The 2023 International Spillover Index for European countries tracks impacts generated by Europe on the rest of the world. The Index comprises 14 indicators, organized in three categories of international spillovers. The International Spillover Index score is calculated as an arithmetic average of a country’s scores on all of the indicators, weighted equally. The score was not generated for candidate countries.
The Leave-No-One-Behind (LNOB) Index aims to measure countries’ efforts to address material deprivation and inequalities across population groups. This year’s LNOB index includes a subset of 32 indicators used in the SDG Index, grouped into four categories: poverty and material deprivation; income inequality; access to and quality of services for all; gender inequalities. Each LNOB category is calculated as the arithmetic average of each indicator. The LNOB Index is calculated as an arithmetic average of scores obtained in each category.
Table A4 displays the complete indicator set used for the Europe Sustainable Development Report 2023/24. For the full metadata of all indicators included in the report, please consult the Codebook available online, or our interactive data visualization at sdgtransformationcenter.org.
Amnesty International (2008). Blood at the Crossroads: Making the Case for a Global Arms Trade Treaty. London, UK: Amnesty International Publications. https://controlarms.org/wp-content/ uploads/2018/03/act300112008en.pdf
Eurostat (2023). Sustainable Development in the European Union: Monitoring Report on Progress towards the SDGs in an EU Context: 2023 Edition. European Commission. Statistical Office of the European Union Publications Office, LU. www.doi. org/10.2785/403194
Lafortune, G., G. Fuller, J. Moreno, G. Schmidt-Traub and C. Kroll (2018). ‘SDG Index and Dashboards. Detailed Methodological paper’. Bertelsmann Stiftung and Sustainable Development Solutions Network, Paris.
Lafortune, G., G. Fuller, G. Schmidt-Traub and C. Kroll (2020). ‘How is progress towards the Sustainable Development Goals measured? Comparing four approaches for the EU’. Sustainability, 12(18), 7675.
Lafortune, G., and G. Schmidt-Traub (2018). ‘Exposing EU policy gaps to address the Sustainable Development Goals’. European Economic and Social Committee.
Papadimitriou, E., A. R. Neves, W. Becker, the European Commission and Joint Research Centre (2019). JRC Statistical Audit of the Sustainable Development Goals Index and Dashboards.
Sachs, J., C. Kroll, G. Lafortune, G. Fuller and F. Woelm (2021). Sustainable Development Report 2021, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, UK.
Schmidt-Traub, G., C. Kroll, K. Teksoz, D. Durand-Delacre and J. D. Sachs (2017). ‘National baselines for the Sustainable Development Goals assessed in the SDG Index and Dashboards’, Nature Geoscience, 10(8), 547–555.
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The Europe Sustainable Development Report 2023/24 is the fifth edition of our independent quantitative report on the progress of the European Union and its member states towards Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). The report was prepared by teams of independent experts at the Sustainable Development Solutions Network (SDSN) and SDSN Europe.
Guillaume Lafortune, Grayson Fuller, Adolf Kloke-Lesch, Phoebe Koundouri and Angelo Riccaboni (2024). European Elections, Europe’s Future and the SDGs: Europe Sustainable Development Report 2023/24. Paris: SDSN and SDSN Europe and Dublin: Dublin University Press, https://doi.org/10.25546/104407