Ireland is ranked among the lowest of our nearest EU neighbours for progress towards a just society, an equitable economy and a clean environment.
A 'Sustainable Progress Index' compiled by the think tank, Social Justice Ireland, places Ireland 10th, 11th and 13th respectively in the three categories, and 11th overall.
The index compares Ireland to the EU15: Austria, Belgium, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Italy, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Portugal, Spain, Sweden and the UK. Sweden takes the top spot overall while Greece comes last.
The index is based on the United Nations' Sustainable Development Goals - 17 global goals agreed by UN member states in 2015.
Professor Charles M A Clark of St John's University, New York and Dr Catherine Kavanagh of University College Cork who carried out the work for Social Justice Ireland, said the idea was to measure progress in a more meaningful way than simply looking at GDP - the measure of wealth creation.
"Our primary argument is that such a narrow way of thinking about economic growth leads to policies that only promote one aspect of what can be called sustainable social progress, and either ignores or harms other aspects," they write.
Ireland's best ranking, at number 10, is under the heading of society as the country performs well on quality of education, public safety and an accountable justice system but less well on gender equality, overall equality, corruption, obesity, death from chronic disease and excess alcohol consumption and smoking.
Under the economy heading, Ireland ranks only 11th. It is noted that GDP per capita is high but the country's performance on the provision of good jobs with decent conditions, labour rights and security is middling and ground is lost because of a high incidence of low pay, high youth unemployment and the lowest expenditure on research and development in the EU.
Performance on the environment is a poor 13th. In one area, universal access to safe and affordable drinking water and sanitation, Ireland does well but progress is poor on quality of life in cities and communities due to issues with access to transport, air pollution and cost of rents.
Climate action, clean energy, safeguarding oceans and ecosystems are all areas where the country falls down, and we come 14th in relation to responsible consumption and production because of high levels of untreated wastewater, low recycling rates and the highest volume of waste generated in the EU15.
The authors said the improving economy raised the question: "Is full employment sufficient for a just and fair society?" "It is critically important that Government integrate all 17 SDGS into all policy-making processes," they said.
"Measuring Progress: Sustainable Progress Index 2019" has been written by Prof. Charles M.A. Clark of St John’s University, New York; and Dr. Catherine Kavanagh of University College Cork.
You can read the full report here.