The Happy Planet Index (HPI) is an index of human well-being and environmental impact that was introduced by the New Economics Foundation (NEF) in July 2006. The index is weighted to give progressively higher scores to nations with lower ecological footprints.
The index is designed to challenge well-established indices of countries’ development, such as Gross Domestic Product (GDP) and the Human Development Index (HDI), which are seen as not taking sustainability into account. In particular, GDP is seen as inappropriate, as the usual ultimate aim of most people is not to be rich, but to be happy and healthy. Furthermore, it is believed that the notion of sustainable development requires a measure of the environmental costs of pursuing those goals.
Out of the 178 countries surveyed in 2006, the best scoring countries were Vanuatu, Colombia, Costa Rica, Dominica, and Panama, although Vanuatu is absent from all later indices. In 2009 Costa Rica was the best scoring country among the 143 analyzed, followed by the Dominican Republic, Jamaica, Guatemala and Vietnam, with Tanzania, Botswana and Zimbabwe featuring at the bottom of the list.
For the 2012 ranking, 151 countries were compared, and the best scoring country for the second time in a row was Costa Rica, followed by Vietnam, Colombia, Belize and El Salvador. The lowest ranking countries in 2012 were Botswana, Chad and Qatar
Nine out of the ten top countries are located in the Caribbean Basin, despite high levels of poverty. The ranking is led by Costa Rica for the second time in a row, and its lead is due to its very high life expectancy which is second highest in the Americas, and higher than the U.S., experienced well-being higher than many richer nations and a per capita footprint one third the size of the U.S. Among the top 40 countries by overall HPI score, only four countries have a GDP per capita of over US$15,000. The highest ranking OECD country is Israel in 15th place, and the top Western European nation is Norway in 29th place, just behind New Zealand in 28th. Among the top five world’s biggest economies in terms of GDP, Japan has the highest ranking in 45th place, followed by Germany in 46th, France is placed 50th, China 60, and the U.S. is ranked 105, mainly due to its environmental footprint of 7.2, the seventh highest of all countries rated for the 2012 index