The economic theory of sustainable growth that arose in the 1960s marks the beginning of the movement for the preservation of planet Earth, added to the assumption that economic growth must necessarily make sustainable use of the available natural resources. In that context, world leaders have to adopt policies to reduce pollution and improve the quality of life in countries in a sustainable way. An important aspect of this process is the measurement of the environmental impacts caused by human actions and business and their effects on the health of citizens. In this sense, more complete and reliable environmental information must be based on indicators that enable us to understand the current situation and its evolution and can be used in decision-making processes. Following this thinking, it is essential to construct and apply environmental performance indicators (EPIs) as a management tool to quantify the damage suffered by the environment and as a parameter to identify areas of environmental inefficiency and efficiency, improving the planes for future actions. Globally, there are many initiatives with this aim. Among others, the Joint Research Centre (JRC) of the European Community, in association with Yale and Columbia University, has developed a methodology that proposes a weighted combination of indicators in relation to impacts on human health and nature to calculate countries’ environmental performance, and the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) has proposed indicators grouped into categories that aim to provide information for the sustainable management of its member countries. In general, the various proposals for environmental performance indicators present different methodologies and aim to measure countries’ environmental performance following different approaches. The variables – inputs and outputs – are not common among the models, or in the case of matching, the statistics to calculate differ. This lack of standardization between methods of calculating the environmental performance makes it difficult to compare the results to arrive at a common point, causing divergence in the results obtained and the ranking of countries evaluated, while implying greater cost of collection and processing of the information requested by the various agencies. Additionally, the grouping of variables to measure environmental performance is associated with subjective weighting factors, which, along with the consideration of circumstantial factors, influence the level of pollution in a country, the level of technological development, social, political and educational aspects, etc., leading to a complex process of integration of variables that differ in time and in space. In addition, there is a need to incorporate environmental health indicators (EHIs) into the traditional EPI, to analyze the relationship between environmental change and human health.
The main objective is measuring the environmental performance of countries. The Composite Index of Environmental Performance (CIEP) was developed based on the driving force–pressure–state–exposure–effect–action (DPSEEA) framework. The selection of the DPSEEA model as a reference for the proposed indicator is a consequence of its robustness compared with other theoretical models used for building composite indicators.
The CIEP model is based on 19 single variables grouped into 5 dimensions, which are subsequently synthesized in the final composite indicator. Its application to a sample of 152 countries that allows the generation of an annual ranking of the countries analyzed in relation to their respective performances.
The CIEP has a distinct advantage over the DPSEEA model and generates a synthesized global indicator, allowing disaggregate information by dimensions, simplifying the environmental policy making and enabling greater objectivity for specific purposes. Following figure summarizing the used methodologies: