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Dichotomous impacts on social and environmental sustainability: competitiveness and development levels matter

Eleanor Doyle (Department of Economics and Environmental Research Institute, University College, Cork, Ireland)
Mauricio Perez Alaniz (Department of Economics, Business School, University of Limerick Kemmy, Limerick, Ireland)

Competitiveness Review

ISSN: 1059-5422

Article publication date: 21 May 2020

Issue publication date: 25 May 2021




Whereas in developed countries, sustainability primarily focuses on environmental topics, in developing countries the issues of poverty, development and equity are equally, if not more, important. The purpose of this paper is to apply measures of social and environmental sustainability to assess sustainable development for the period 2005–2015 across a sample of 94 countries for which relevant data are available. Countries include two groups: developed and developing countries.


Using the index-based approach introduced by the World Economic Forum in its Global Competitiveness Project, a range of indicators are collected for estimating trends in both social and environmental sustainability. For the panel of data identified, a dynamic panel data estimator method is applied to the data set constructed. This paper presents the empirical results identifying key competitiveness factors related to social and environmental sustainability (separately and combining both aspects in a comprehensive sustainability framework).


This study explores how sustainable competitiveness offers a comprehensive assessment of the inter-related dynamics of the social, the environmental and economic building blocks of sustainable development simultaneously. Performance impacts are found to differ substantially across two groups of countries depending on their development level. This highlights the challenges in shaping and achieving sustainable development goals.


To the best of the authors’ knowledge, this research is novel in examining the intersections between economic competitiveness and environmental and social sustainability addressing an identified research gap. In addition, the paper investigates the most important competitiveness pillars focusing on both strengths and weaknesses in sustainable competitiveness across developed and developing countries.



The authors acknowledge funding support from the Irish Environmental Protection Agency for this research (STRIVE Award Project Number: 2015-SE-DS-2).


Doyle, E. and Perez Alaniz, M. (2021), "Dichotomous impacts on social and environmental sustainability: competitiveness and development levels matter", Competitiveness Review, Vol. 31 No. 4, pp. 771-791.



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