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Why Rank?

Rankings, which are both loved and loathed, create interest and provoke action. They are a vehicle to motivate policy change, and, at the very least, they can spark a conversation about the meaning behind a ranking. How a number is derived, its strengths and limitations, opens debate about what we should value and why. Ultimately, however, rankings and their sensitivity to minute methodological changes have inherent subjective characteristics. Placing countries that face disparate economic and environmental challenges in rank order may not be entirely revealing, but users of the Environmental Performance Index (EPI) can pare the index down to smaller peer groups that allow for more relevant comparisons. 

The primary value of the EPI is its potential to recommend avenues for change.

The rankings in and of themselves are not as valuable as the metrics and data that underpin them. A single, national aggregate number may be attention-grabbing, but it is the subsequent inquiry and substantive conversation that are more useful. The transparency with which the EPI is constructed and the open nature of the underlying data make the EPI a starting point for countries to take further action. Ideally, these actions would involve:

  • the development of better measurement and monitoring systems to improve environmental data collection;
  • the creation of policies to address particularly weak areas;
  • the communication and reporting of national-level data and statistics to international agencies such as the United Nations; and
  • the delineation of sub-national metrics and targets for improved environmental performance. 

We hope the 2014 EPI results are a useful conversation starter for countries to begin understanding how they perform on a range of high-priority environmental issues – both among peers and across time. As we always disclaim, the EPI is and remains a work in progress. 


The Environmental Performance Index (EPI) is constructed through the calculation and aggregation of 20 indicators reflecting national-level environmental data. These indicators are combined into nine issue categories, each of which fit under one of two overarching objectives. Click on "Learn More" to explore the complete methods.

Data Explorer

The EPI Data Explorer allows users to dynamically investigate global data: Compare environmental performance with GDP, population, land area, or other variables; create a chart that highlights all 178 ranked countries, only those in a specific region, or a custom-defined group. There's a lot more to the data than rankings, so dive in.