Macro-Level Datasets for Sustainability Governance

By Michael Rose

Comparative politics scholars love macro data. To comparatively analyze all kinds of nation states and institutions, they build datasets on their characteristics. For example, there are several datasets and indices that help to assess and eventually measure democracies and autocracies worldwide, such as the Freedom House Index, Varieties of Democracy, The Economist’s Democracy Index, or the Polity Project. But data are systematically collected and made available to the research community far beyond democracy indices (see below).

In sustainability governance research, though, these kinds of databases are rarely used or developed. This is a pity, as comparative (macro) data could help to conduct mid- and large-n studies, account for important parts of context variance in comparative case studies, and thereby facilitate relating and cumulating knowledge.

The following list offers a selection of open access datasets used in political science that can be of great benefit for sustainability governance scholars. Feel free to post additional datasets in the comment section!

The Comparative Constitutions Project codes the world’s constitutions, including variables on the states’ polity (branches of government, formal institutions, election rules, federalism) and the constitutions’ issue areas, e.g. if and how the constitution refers to the environment and natural resources. Constitutional changes are tracked on a yearly basis (Elkins et al. 2019).

Polity IV accounts for democratic and authoritative regimes, including variables such as the central state authority, executive constraints, political participation, and transitions (Center for Systemic Peace 2019).

ParlGov provides data on parties, elections and cabinets for 37 western democracies (Döring and Manow 2019).

The Party Manifesto Project codes, inter alia, the party family of ecological parties and statements regarding environmental protection and sustainability in party manifestos (electoral programs) (Volkens et al. 2019).

World Values Survey and European Values Study include aggregatable information on the interviewee’s membership in environmental organizations, attitudes towards environmental care, participation in demonstrations for the environment, donating behavior towards ecological organizations, confidence in the environmental protection movement, and satisfaction with issues such as air quality, public transport, or water quality (Inglehart et al. 2019; European Value System Study Group et al. 2019).

The Sustainable Governance Indicators analyze the policy performance and governance capacities in EU and OECD countries. This includes environmental policies and outcomes (such as waste and GHG emissions), the participation in multilateral environmental agreements and evidence-based instruments such as sustainability checks (Bertelsmann Stiftung 2018; Schraad-Tischler et al. 2018).

The Environmental Performance Index analyses 24 performance indicators for 180 countries (Wendling et al. 2018).

And, of course, the statistics departments of international organizations such as the World Bank and the OECD provide many additional time-series data on key economic, social, environmental, government and development indicators (World Bank 2019; OECD 2019).

Moreover, in their Sustainable Development Report, the Bertelsmann Foundation and the Sustainable Development Solutions Network jointly track the SDG achievements of most of the world’s nations statistically (Sachs et al. 2019).

Cited literature

Bertelsmann Stiftung (2018): Sustainable Governance Indicators. Gütersloh. Available online at

Center for Systemic Peace (2019): Polity IV Project. Vienna (Virginia). Available online at, checked on 8/14/2019.

Döring, Holger; Manow, Philip (2019): Parliaments and governments database (ParlGov). Information on parties, elections and cabinets in modern democracies. Available online at, checked on 8/13/2019.

Elkins, Zachary; Ginsburg, Tom; Melton, James (2019): Comparative Constitutions Project. Informing constitutional design. Available online at

European Value System Study Group; Tilburg University; GESIS (2019): European Values Study. Tilburg, Mannheim. Available online at, checked on 8/13/2019.

Inglehart, R.; Haerpfer, C.; Moreno, A.; Welzel, C.; Kizilova, K.; Diez-Medrano, J. et al. (2019): World Values Survey. Edited by JD Systems Institute. Madrid. Available online at, checked on 8/13/2019.

OECD (2019): OECD.Stat. Paris. Available online at

Sachs, J.; Schmidt-Traub, G.; Kroll, C.; Lafortune, G.; Fuller, G. (2019): Sustainable Development Report 2019. Transformations to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals. Edited by Bertelsmann Stiftung, Sustainable Development Solutions Network (SDSN). New York. Available online at

Schraad-Tischler, Daniel; Schiller, Christof; Hellmann, Thorsten; Lopes, Elisabeth Faria (2018): Policy Performance and Governance Capacities in the OECD and EU. Sustainable Governance Indicators 2018. Edited by Bertelsmann Stiftung. Gütersloh. Available online at, checked on 8/2/2019.

Volkens, Andrea; Krause, Werner; Lehmann, Pola; Matthieß, Theres; Merz, Nicolas; Regel, Sven; Weßels, Bernhard (2019): The Manifesto Data Collection. Manifesto Project (MRG/CMP/MARPOR). Edited by Wissenschaftszentrum Berlin für Sozialforschung (WZB). Berlin. Available online at, checked on 8/13/2019.

Wendling, Z. A.; Emerson, J. W.; Esty, D. C.; Levy, M. A.; Sherbinin, A. de; et al. (2018): 2018 Environmental Performance Index. Edited by Yale Center for Environmental Law and Policy. New Haven. Available online at

World Bank (2019): World Bank Open Data. Free and open access to global development data. Available online at