What is the most environmentally friendly country in the world?

22 April, 2019 Share socially

Today is Earth Day which will be marked by various events around the world to demonstrate support for environmental protection. Whilst the need for change is evident, the world’s richest countries have increasingly divergent attitudes towards environmentalism and climate change. It is generally accepted that governments alone cannot adequately combat climate change, rather, it is a shared responsibility between them, corporations and the public, as both citizens and consumers. However, leadership and commitment on an international level is fundamental to making real change.

The upcoming FutureBrand Country Index 2019 will reveal which countries are perceived as being the most environmentally friendly. In advance of this, we take a look at some of the recent environmentally focused activities which have made the headlines across the world to gauge which countries are making progress and which ones are falling behind.


The worldwide "Youth Strike 4 Climate" global activism movement was inspired by the commitment and messages of a 16-year-old Swedish schoolgirl, Greta Thunberg, who gained worldwide attention for her action against climate change and, as a result, was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize. Hundreds of thousands of students from 123 countries left their classrooms to take part in peaceful protests against climate inaction. The fact the movement began in Sweden is not surprising given it has long been recognised for its progressive approach to environmentalism. In 2015, when the world’s countries gathered in New York at the United Nations Sustainable Development Summit and agreed on part of the new global agenda on sustainable development, Sweden was already ahead of the curve having adopted 16 targets in 1999 that covered different aspects of environmental protection, with the aim of achieving them by 2020. In the corporate sphere, look no further than IKEA. The iconic Swedish furniture brand is a sustainability leader, well known for its commitment to the environment and investment thoughout its entire business operation – from the supply chain to the store – as it moves towards a circular economy.

Our most recent FutureBrand Country Index placed Sweden at number 5 in the environmental rankings, but has their longstanding environmental approach and international activism contributed to an even stronger perception this year?

What is the most environmentally friendly country in the world?


The US government’s environmental actions over the last couple of years have ranged from dismantling Obama-era policies intended to curb climate change and limit environmental pollution to threats of limiting federal funding for science and the environment. From pulling out of The Paris Agreement to the recent executive order which smooths the path for companies to build oil and gas pipelines (ignoring concerns about land use, water quality and fossil fuel pollution), the US seems to be stepping away from a global environmental leadership position, paving the way for other nations and organisations to take a lead.

Seemingly at odds with the government’s approach, the new World Bank chief David Malpass (notably appointed by Trump and who was formerly a US Treasury Official) recently confirmed the organisation’s renewed commitment to the environment – ruling out any change in the bank’s refusal to lend for new coal-fired power plants and pledging support to helping developing countries cope with global warming. This move away from growth at any cost shows a more balanced approach and a rejection of White House policy. From a brand perspective, US companies also more than pull their weight by pushing the sustainability agenda forward. They range from Patagonia (their unwavering commitment to corporate social responsibility is well documented) and P&G to Cisco Systems who have recently committed to eliminating one million metric tons of greenhouse gas emissions from its supply chain by 2020.


Despite being Western Europe’s biggest petroleum producer, Norway has also long been regarded as an environmental leader and was number 2 in the last Country Index environmental rankings. However, Norwegians are starting to question oil exploration, their biggest export and source of wealth, amid growing concerns over climate change. It was reported earlier this month that Norway’s love affair with oil is over – to the dismay of the nation’s powerful oil industry – with its parliament supporting an end to drilling offshore in the sensitive Lofoten islands in the Arctic. This shift could signal that the Scandinavian nation is edging closer to the end of an era that made it one of the world’s most affluent. It also highlights a strong identity committed to environmentalism evidenced by Norwegian companies such as Storebrand, an insurance company that invests in sustainable companies utilizing a proprietary sustainability rating system aligned with the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals.

What is the most environmentally friendly country in the world?

United Kingdom

The UK didn’t make the top 10 for environmentalism in our last Index, and last week bore witness to a large climate rebellion in London with thousands of protestors calling on the government to reduce carbon emissions to zero by 2025 and establish a citizens’ assembly to devise an emergency plan of action to tackle climate change and biodiversity loss. The demonstrations are part of a global campaign organised by the British climate group Extinction Rebellion with demonstrations planned in 80 cities across 33 countries in the coming days.

Simultaneously, the Bank of England issued a stark warning that the global financial system faces an existential threat from climate change and companies must take urgent steps to reform, whilst also calling for more collaboration between nations on the issue. They warned that a “massive reallocation of capital” was necessary to prevent global warming above the 2°C maximum. They have also taken practical steps by telling financial organisations that they need to incorporate climate change into their corporate governance, risk management analysis, forward planning and disclosure policies. It is notable that London, one of the world’s leading financial centres, is now taking proactive steps towards protecting the environment and forcing companies to be more accountable in the way they operate. The UK is currently committed to cutting emissions by 80% by 2050 but the government recently asked its climate advisers to consider whether a deeper cut is needed in light of a landmark UN report on the risks posed by global warming. Is public activism and a change in corporate behaviour enough to encourage politicians to be more ambitious and will it help the UK climb in the rankings? Do they also have enough major companies pushing the agenda beyond the likes of Unilever and their Sustainable Living Plan?

What is the most environmentally friendly country in the world?

This is just a snapshot, the tip of the iceberg, of what the world’s wealthiest nations and the organisations within them are currently doing with regards to the environment. But 50 years on from the oil spill off the coast of California which led Gaylord Nelson, a US Senator, to establish Earth Day and force environmental protection onto the national political agenda, it is alarming how fragmented our global approach still is.

We can use the rankings on environmental friendliness from the 2019 FutureBrand Country Index to celebrate the countries leading the way but also to shine a light on the wealthy nations that could and should do more.

The FutureBrand Country Index will be launched soon.