The Hinrich Foundation Sustainable Trade Index was created by a research team at the Economic Intelligence Unit (EIU) and is the first index that attempts to benchmark countries using indicators across the three recognized pillars of sustainability: economic (“profit”), social (“people”), and environmental (“planet”).


According the 2016 Sustainable Trade Index report:


  • Singapore tops the overall ranking
  • South Korea, Vietnam, and Cambodia over-perform relative to their per capita GDP while China underperforms
  • South and Southeast Asia’s poorer countries, including Bangladesh, Myanmar, and Pakistan, rank at the bottom


The inaugural version of the index measures 19 countries in Asia and the United States as a comparator. It focuses on Asia because it includes some of the world’s most populous countries and two of the world’s top three economies, and because more than a billion people have been lifted above the poverty line in the past generation as these countries generated growth through participation in the global trading system.


The index is dissimilar from the other Tools curated by TradeVistas as it doesn’t offer an interactive visualization at this time. But, it offers users the ability to change the weighting of the three pillars to perform different analyses. Users can also explore the scores assigned to each country for the underlying indicators, which include measures of technological infrastructure, inequality, educational attainment, political stability, deforestation, and water and air pollution.


The Index provides a useful tool through which to study the impacts on sustainable trade of different policy approaches. Using the Index, a government can evaluate the components of its own score and benchmark against itself to determine the impact of its own policies over time or to chase the best performance being achieved in Asia right now.


As the report authors also point out, “Tracking the sustainability of countries’ trade practices is an important means of benchmarking…the achievability of the SDGs [Sustainable Development Goals].” In this regard, the Sustainable Trade Index is breaking ground by grounding the conversation in data.