About SPES – Sustainability Performances, Evidence & Scenarios

Rising inequalities, persistent multidimensional poverty, and climate change are among some of the most alarming trends facing societies today. A growing number of experts attribute these trends to the long-term emphasis on policy decisions that focus too narrowly on GDP growth as the only measure of prosperity.

A growing consensus recognizes that economic growth does not inherently lead to social inclusion and environmental sustainability. Economic, social, and environmental policies in Europe are progressively characterized by a commitment to sustainable and inclusive growth, leaving no one behind. But to achieve this, there is a need for original concepts and evidence that can support European and global policies in the transition towards achieving sustainable human development.

about The project Sustainability Performances, Evidence and Scenarios (SPES) project to better understand the interconnections between economic growth, human flourishing, and sustainability SPES

SPES objectives

The objective of the Sustainability Performances, Evidence and Scenarios (SPES) project, funded by the European Union’s Horizon Europe Programme, is to better understand the interconnections between economic growth, human flourishing, and sustainability. The ambition is to equip policymakers with information that will guide their strategies for achieving sustainable human development, using new evidence about past, present and future performances of the sustainability transition.

The SPES project will aim to bridge productivity and growth with inclusiveness and environmental protection, to ensure shared prosperity and wellbeing for all. It will do so by focusing on five pillars of sustainable human development:

  1. Productivity, defined as aiming for an efficient use of economic, human and natural resources through innovation;
  2. Equity for all, defined as fostering equal political, economic, social and cultural opportunities for all;
  3. Sustainability, defined as aiming to avoid, reduce, and adjust to climate change and ensuring the protection, restoration and improvement of the environment;
  4. Participation and empowerment, defined as enabling citizens, social groups and communities to be active agents of their future.
  5. Human security, defined as the sum of capabilities “freedom from want, freedom from fear, and freedom to live with dignity”.

SPES methods

The SPES project will tackle this question through extensive, collaborative research, focusing on the following four axes:

Concepts and meanings

Concepts and meanings, by dealing with the debates, theories, and narratives on sustainable human development to find a common ‘framework’ for researchers, policy-makers, and stakeholders active in this field.

Measurement frameworks and methods

Measurement frameworks and methods, by dealing with the debate on beyond GDP indicators to measure sustainable human development;


Transition performances, by dealing with the analysis of past, current, and future performances of the sustainability transition;


Policies, by dealing with possible policy implications for integrating productivity, equality, sustainability, and participation.

SPES research approaches will combine desk-based, quantitative, and participatory methods, while jointly performing literature and policy reviews, as well as statistical, case-study and scenario analyses.

The SPES project is expected to impact on policymaking and advocacy processes at different levels by reaching different target groups:

  • EU policymakers;
  • National / local policymakers;
  • Qualified European and global stakeholders;
  • Scientific community;
  • General public – through appropriate tools, enabling the use of SPES results and outcomes.

Will Bartlett
London School of Economics

Kaushik Basu
Cornell University

Leonardo Becchetti
Tor Vergata University

Koen Decanq
University of Antwerp

Salvatore Di Falco
University of Geneva

Marc Fleurbay
Paris School of Economics

Helena Freitas
University of Coimbra

Enrico Giovannini
Tor Vergata University

Jayati Gosh
University of Massachusetts Amhers

Monica Guillen-Royo

Connie Hedegaard
Chair of the Board for the EU Commissions Mission Board on Adaptation to Climate Change including societal change

Daniela Jacob
Climate Service Center Germany

Anna Rita Manca

Santosh Mehrotra
University of Bath

Alessandra Petrucci
University of Florence

Eva Sierminska
LISER Luxembourg

Pieter Vanhuysse
University of Southern Denmark

Pierre Vigier

Action Aid International
African Economic Research Council
EC Competence Centre on Composite Indicators and Scoreboards
EC JRC Seville
Environmental Defense Fund

Just Transition Alliance
OECD Wise Center
SDG Watch Europe
UN Habitat
UNDP Human Development Report Office
UNFCCC (Adaptation Division)
UNIDO (Directorate of SDG Innovation and Economic Transformation)
UNIDO (Directorate of Digitalization, Technology and Agri-business)
World Bank (Social Sustainability and inclusion Global Practice)