Vermont Establishes a Genuine Progress Indicator, Blazes a Path for Measuring What Matters

Release Date: 
May 9, 2012

Last week Vermont lawmakers passed groundbreaking legislation establishing a Genuine Progress Indicator (GPI) for the state.

Vermont's Governor, Peter Shumlin, signed the bill this week, adding momentum to a national and global movement for going Beyond GDP in the metrics we use for public decision-making and policy development. Demos commends Vermont lawmakers for their leadership with this legislation, the first of its kind in the United States. 

The GPI is a new type of measurement system designed to improve public decision-making in favor of sustainable economic development and shared prosperity. By focusing on aspects of distribution, well-being, and sustainability, which are critical for the state's prosperity but poorly reflected in the conventional measures of growth headlined by Gross State Product (the state version of Gross Domestic Product), Vermont’s Genuine Progress Indicator provides an important assessment tool for budget decisions, resource management, and economic development. 

With its adoption of this alternative measurement system for the state, Vermont is setting a new path for responsible governance and effective decision-making in support of shared and sustainable prosperity

Lew Daly, who directs Demos' Sustainable Progress Initiative and helped organize Vermont officials and community stakeholders behind the legislative effort, stated that "In the twenty-first century, progress will increasingly depend on expanding and protecting our human, social, and environmental wealth. With its adoption of this alternative measurement system for the state, Vermont is setting a new path for responsible governance and effective decision-making in support of shared and sustainable prosperity. This is an important step forward for Vermonters and a great example for the rest of the country." Demos is actively engaged in several other states on this issue, and “the landscape is clearly shifting,” Daly adds.

The Vermont GPI initiative will receive technical support from the Gund Institute for Ecological Economics at the University of Vermont, a national leader in developing alternative indicator systems. One other state, Maryland, has an official GPI accounting system, adopted in 2010 by the administration of Governor Martin O'Malley. Among the notable findings in Maryland's GPI reporting thus far, the single biggest factor limiting the state's progress has been growing economic inequality, even as Maryland has outperformed the national trend in this category in recent years. Positive gains in Maryland’s GPI are being generated in other key areas, however, including lower crime rates and the expansion of wetlands and forest acreage under responsible land-use policies.