Press release

New plans to assess UK progress towards sustainable future

Defra has launched a consultation on a new set of Sustainable Development Indicators (SDIs).

This was published under the 2010 to 2015 Conservative and Liberal Democrat coalition government

The UK’s progress towards sustainable long-term economic growth and social wellbeing will be easier for people to track under new plans announced by Environment Secretary Caroline Spelman.

Defra has launched a consultation on a new set of Sustainable Development Indicators (SDIs) providing an overview of the UK’s progress towards a more sustainable economy, society, and environment.

The indicators will make it easier for people to monitor if the UK is developing in a sustainable way and help Government see where more work needs to be done. Updates will be published annually with a scorecard showing whether progress is in the right direction.

Environment Secretary Caroline Spelman said:

“We want to help our economy, our communities and the environment to grow and flourish in a sustainable way for the benefit of future generations. We have put sustainability at the heart of everything that the Government does, and these new indicators will help us take stock of our progress and give the public the means to chart our success.

“At Rio+20 we successfully argued for the need for countries to look beyond their economic performance as a measure of progress. These indicators along with the measures of wellbeing underline our own commitment to going beyond GDP to measure the health and wealth of the UK.”

Assessments on our use of natural resources, and the skills and knowledge we possess, are amongst the new measurements proposed. Twelve headline measures are supported by 25 supplementary indicators.

The revised Sustainable Development Indicators will be used alongside the national wellbeing measures developed by the Office for National Statistics, and work on valuations of our natural resources, to provide a wide set of measures to view how society is progressing. Taken together, these measures demonstrate the UK’s leading role in championing the need to move beyond GDP as the sole measure of progress, which received international recognition at Rio+20.

Previous SDIs have been widely used outside of Government by academics, NGOs and businesses. This consultation will give these groups the opportunity to give us their views and feedback on the new proposed SDIs.


The consultation on the new Sustainable Development Indicators can be found on the Defra website here

The 12 headline indicators are economic prosperity, long term unemployment, poverty, knowledge and skills, healthy life expectancy, social capital, social mobility in adulthood, housing provision, greenhouse gas emissions, natural resource use, wildlife and biodiversity, and water availability.

The indicators proposed in this consultation document relate predominantly to England. However in some cases where it more sensible to do so a UK measure will be used.

The proposed indicators are not binding on the other countries in the UK, which have their own approaches to Sustainable Development.

Published 24 July 2012