Canada’s Prepared for the Future. Really.

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ZURICH, CH — Worried about the future? No matter how well your business is performing, no matter how satisfied you may be with your personal fortunes, worry seems impossible to avoid these days. Nothing is assured in 2013.

Well, we’re here to offer a little encouragement.

According to a unique report from Swiss investment advisors RobecoSAM, and they’re not fringe players, Canada is better prepared to face an uncertain future than most other countries. It ranks seventh out of 59, two spots ahead of the United States, perhaps surprisingly one behind the United Kingdom. At the top of the heap is Sweden, at the bottom Nigeria.

RobecoSAM is an investment specialist focused exclusively on sustainability investing, a member of the global asset manager Robeco, established in 1929. Credible, in other words.

The report’s aim is to offer an assessment of a “country’s ability to safeguard the needs of its future generations,” recognizing that this “extends beyond the protection of the environment and encompasses a range of social, economic and
governance factors.”

Unlike most such reports based on strictly economic indicators that ignore environmental and cultural factors, RobecoSAM’s ‘Measuring Country Intangibles’ study (see it here) is based on what it calls a “comprehensive and systematic ranking framework… designed to complement sovereign bond ratings developed by traditional rating agencies. By focusing on selected factors such as aging, competitiveness and environmental risks – which are long term in nature – and taking into account a country’s position in the economic cycle, the country rankings offer a view into a country’s strengths and weaknesses that are not typically covered by rating agencies.”

The country sustainability framework evaluates 59 countries – 21 developed and 38 emerging markets – on a broad range of environmental, social and governance factors that RobecoSAM considers to be relevant for investors. It consists of 17 indicators, each of which is assigned a predefined weight out of the total framework. Based on the standardized scores countries receive for each indicator and its corresponding weight, a country sustainability score ranging from 1-10, with 10 being the highest, is calculated. The resulting scores offer insights into the investment risks and opportunities associated with each country, says RobecoSAM, and allow investors to compare countries to each other.

Environmental factors count for 15% of scores, covering renewable energy and such things. Social factors include elements like life expectancy and level of worker unrest. Governance is a biggie here at 60% of the total, ranking things like corruption and inequality.

While the report doesn’t offer specific details on Canada’s performance, it does explain why Sweden is in top spot. It earned high scores across almost all criteria and unlike a lot of other developed countries it also scored well on environmental factors like the use of renewable energy sources and CO2 emissions. In social terms Sweden scored well on factors such as labor participation, education, and income inequality. Its strengths were in governance where it earned the top score for its institutional framework.

Canada scored well in governance too, considerably better than the U.S. in that category and environmental matters as well, but slightly behind it in social factors.

The top 10 countries and their scores:

Sweden 8.25
Australia 7.87
Switzerland 7.83
Denmark 7.71
Norway 7.68
United Kingdom 7.57
Canada 7.53
Finland 7.36
United States 7.27
Netherlands 7.22

Down at the bottom, Russia comes in 55th followed by Indonesia, Venezuela, Egypt, and Nigeria.

And by the way, in case you’re wondering, as I always have, why ‘CH’ is the international short form for Switzerland, it’s the acronym for the Latin, Confoederatio Helvetica. The Swiss, you see, have historically been known as a confederation of Helvetians. And there you have it. — RL

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Rolf Lockwood is editor emeritus of Today's Trucking and a regular contributor to

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