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Canada and UK top global list of infrastructure investments for social good: shows new research from Economist Impact, Deloitte, and Duke University

  • The analysis looks at infrastructure ecosystems in 30 countries and how they deliver on social, economic, and environmental outcomes
  • Canada and the UK rank highest, with Nigeria and Indonesia receiving the lowest scores 
  • Countries that approach infrastructure as an ecosystem, rather than in silos, deliver more sustainable and inclusive outcomes 

NEW YORK, NY, USA, 20 June 2023—With more than US$5 trillion per year in global economic stimulus and infrastructure spending forecasted annually, infrastructure investments in Canada and the United Kingdom are most likely to deliver positive societal, economic, or environmental benefits, according to the newly launched Infrastructure for Good barometer presented by Deloitte Global.

A ground-breaking research initiative by Economist Impact supported by Deloitte and Duke University’s Nicholas Institute for Energy, Environment & Sustainability, the barometer benchmarks the capacity of 30 countries to sustainably deliver efficient and quality infrastructure that addresses critical social, economic, and environmental needs. 

“We’re proud to support this research and Economist Impact’s Infrastructure for Good initiative. We believe that investment in infrastructure can have a transformative power on economies and societies,” says Luke Houghton, Infrastructure Advisory Leader, Deloitte Global. “In order to see the benefits, however, it is critical that governments and countries improve how they prioritize and utilize infrastructure, while supporting dialogue between key stakeholders and measuring its impact." 

The barometer assesses key aspects of infrastructure ecosystems across five major pillars, encompassing the general foundations of infrastructure for good (governance and planning; sustainable financing and investment) and key outcomes and dividends (social and community impact; economic benefits and empowerment; environmental sustainability and resilience). Canada and the UK were the only countries analyzed to perform highly in all five areas. 

Overall, the barometer revealed that most countries prioritize governance and planning, however the execution and financing of infrastructure projects are often insufficient to deliver positive social outcomes. Less than a quarter of the countries analyzed conduct strategic social assessments and 24 of 30 countries do not require projects to assess social impact. 

“This important research allows global countries and leaders to help identify gaps in planning and areas for opportunity in order to generate positive social, economic, and environmental outcomes,” says Michael Flynn, Infrastructure Public Sector Leader, Deloitte Global. “A strong baseline understanding is necessary for defining a path toward global growth and prosperity. It’s our hope that this research guides leaders in leveraging their infrastructure investments for the better.”

Social and community impact indicators accounted for the weakest scores across the 30 countries, with 60% of countries only engaging in consultation with local communities on an ad-hoc basis. The barometer indicates that countries that performed poorly could likely deliver better outcomes by prioritizing community engagement, providing protection for workers and communities, and enhancing general access to public services. 

The research additionally revealed a “double dividend” in developing countries such as Brazil, China, Indonesia, and Thailand, which benefitted environmentally from efforts to transition to clean energy, and economically by realizing strong economic returns and driving job creation. Despite this, insufficient institutional support to ensure pipelines and drive investment for projects prioritizing social or environmental returns was observed in most countries, suggesting these benefits are not inevitable and may require targeted efforts. 

For more information, please visit the Infrastructure for Good hub:

About Economist Impact

Economist Impact combines the rigor of a think-tank with the creativity of a media brand to engage a globally influential audience. We believe that evidence-based insights can open debate, broaden perspectives, and catalyze progress. The services offered by Economist Impact previously existed within The Economist Group as separate entities, including EIU Thought Leadership, EIU Public Policy, EIU Health Policy, Economist Events and SignalNoise.

We are building on a 75-year track record of analysis across 205 countries. Along with framework design, benchmarking, economic and social impact analysis, forecasting and scenario modeling, we provide creative storytelling, events expertise, design-thinking solutions, and market-leading media products, making Economist Impact uniquely positioned to deliver measurable outcomes to our clients.

About Duke University’s Nicholas Institute for Energy, Environment & Sustainability

The Nicholas Institute for Energy, Environment & Sustainability at Duke University accelerates solutions to critical energy and environmental challenges, advancing a more just, resilient and sustainable world. The Nicholas Institute conducts actionable research and undertakes sustained engagement with policymakers, businesses and communities—in addition to delivering transformative educational experiences to empower future leaders. The Nicholas Institute plays a significant role in the Duke Climate Commitment, which unites the university’s education, research, operations and public service missions to address the climate crisis.