Everything in our lives needs to be ranked so we know where we stand with others. No one ever wants to be last or even in the middle of the pack. Our aims are usually for the best ranking, except when the ranking is for a bad quality. There are so many ranking systems in this world and they are all based on differing criteria.
Even for sustainability ranking, there are many different systems with many different indicators. One system that I looked at was the Global Sustainable Competitive Index. This index looks at several factors when deciding who has the best sustainable competitiveness or sustainable growth. The factors include governance, intellectual capital, social capital, resource management, and natural capital. They rank each nation on each of these factors on how sustainable their practices are and how effective as well. Some nations rank higher on some factors and lower on others. They use the results from the subrankings in the overall rankings.
There are some challenges with these kinds of ranking systems. Not all information for every individual country is available for every person to use, which could make some countries better or worse if that information was available. Another challenge would be to rank countries with similar scores because what small factor would cause one nation to be better than the other if they were nearly identical? Another issue is that it is hard to compare apples to oranges and assign a score when the two aren't even related. They do have systems in place to take care of these challenges, however, they cannot be 100% perfect.
The goals of this ranking system is to show a much more rounded picture of GDP that takes into account social, environmental, and governmental factors that are otherwise left out of GDP calculations and projections. Rather than just focusing on "prosperity," the Global Sustainable Competitive Index looks at the ability of a nation to provide for the needs of its people today without compromising the needs of future generations and allowing growing wealth without depleting natural, social, and intellectual capital. This makes for a more encompassing ranking which shows which nations are using all of their resources and capital wisely.
The ranking system seems mainly holistic, but could potentially be missing several factors that others may deem necessary like air quality or ability to use renewable energies. I think that the system provides a great approach to ranking nations for sustainability and competitiveness.
In my opinion, the US ranked pretty high considering its focus on growth of wealth above the environment and its people. The US typically likes to believe it is the best nation in the world and that its this huge powerhouse. Whenever a ranking system puts them in the middle of the pack, it puts things into perspective for many Americans. If we were to have been ranked higher on this list, I don't think people would feel the need to care about improving anything in America. But if others were to see the current ranking they may feel inclined to speak up about it. So its good that America is not ranked the best because there is room for improvement.