The World's Most Sustainable Countries

By Steph Wright on August 12 2020 in Environment

Image Credit: SceneNature/Shutterstock
Image Credit: SceneNature/Shutterstock
  • Environmental Performance Index (EPI) is a system that is used to rank sustainability. It ranked 180 countries on the basis of their environmental health and ecosystem vitality.
  • European countries occupy all the top 10 ranks on the EPI.
  • The index helps determine the countries that need to work harder on their sustainability goals and motivates them through a ranking system.

Environmental well-being is currently a top concern of conservationists and scientists across the world. With rapidly deteriorating environmental and ecological health, millions of species, and successive human generations are all at risk. To achieve a secure future, policymakers of the world need to frame policies that ensure environmental sustainability. But first, it is important to understand where the countries of the world stand in their environmental performance so that further actions can be taken. To achieve this, the Environmental Performance Index (EPI) scores and ranks countries based on a series of performance indicators to highlight sustainability leaders and laggards.

The 2020 EPI used 32 such indicators across 11 issue categories to rank 180 nations based on the health of their environment and vitality of their ecosystems. All top 10 positions were occupied by European countries where Denmark, Luxembourg, and Switzerland scored the highest and secured the top 3 positions. Here are some details about these countries:

The Top 3 Environmental Leaders

1. Denmark

Cycling is a popular mode of commuting to work in Denmark. Image credit: lkoimages/Shutterstock.com

Denmark is striving towards achieving its 17 Sustainable Development Goals by the year 2030. It is currently on track with 9 of the 17 goals already implemented. Some of them include affordable and green energy, sustainable cities and communities, and clean water and sanitation. Denmark is currently making changes to the shipping sector as the Denmark-owned Maersk Group, the world’s largest container shipping company, has made it a priority to address the CO2 impact of shipping. The country is also home to a 100% sustainable island. Since 2007, Samso has operated entirely on renewable energy, including biomass, solar, and wind power. The island is currently finding strategies to re-use all of its waste.

2. Luxembourg

A tram in Luxembourg. Public transport is now free in the country. Image credit: Weho/Shutterstock.com

One of the smallest countries in the world, the European nation of Luxembourg scores 82.3 on the EPI making it the second most sustainable country in the world. In recent years, the country has taken commendable actions to reduce road traffic and air pollution. The country also has a very efficient waste management system. In 2020, Luxembourg became the first nation to introduce free public transportation to encourage its residents to avail of such transport and avoid private vehicle use to reduce pollution. Luxembourg has also achieved one of the highest increases in the EPI score (11.6) over a 10-year assessment period.

3. Switzerland

Solar panels against a blue sky with a picture of the flag of Switzerland. Image credit: Millenius/Shutterstock.com

In 2016, Zurich, Switzerland’s capital city, was named the top sustainable city in the world. The country’s commitment to preserving the environment is demonstrated throughout the land; Switzerland is one of the world leaders in recycling and waste management. Whatever the country does not recycle, it is converted to energy. Switzerland has also been committed to improving air quality and over the last 20 years, emissions and particle matter concentrations have been reduced by 50%.

Western European Nations Perform Best

An interesting thing to note is that all the top 11 positions on the EPI list are occupied by Western European countries with Japan being the first to break the trend at rank 12. The United States of America (US) ranks 24 on the EPI list while Canada is a few positions higher at 20. According to experts, it is the way Western European nations are constructed that makes them greener than other developed parts of the world like the US and Canada. The infrastructure in these countries are more environment friendly and so is the society. The societal pressure here also works to ensure that everyone follows greener practices in their everyday life.

The World's Most Sustainable Countries

RankCountryEPI Score
1Denmark82.5
2Luxembourg82.3
3Switzerland81.5
4United Kingdom81.3
5France80
6Austria79.6
7Finland78.9
8Sweden78.7
9Norway77.7
10Germany77.2
11Netherlands75.3
12Japan75.1
13Australia74.9
14Spain74.3
15Belgium73.3
16Ireland72.8
17Iceland72.3
18Slovenia72
19New Zealand71.3
20Canada71
20Czech Republic71
20Italy71

More in Environment