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Expat Insider - The World Through Expat Eyes

The Best and Worst Destinations in the Products & Utilities Subcategory

When it comes to products and utilities, European destinations rank far ahead of Asia and the Middle East. Sweden, Finland, and Austria claim the top spots for the subcategory overall as well as for each individual factor.

The Products & Utilities subcategory of the Environment & Sustainability Ranking is based on three individual factors. Respondents were asked to share their satisfaction with the availability of green goods and services, such as renewable energy, organic food, and sustainable products. Additionally, they rated the country’s energy supply (e.g. availability of clean energy, saving energy) and its waste management and recycling efforts (e.g. littering, local recycling measures).

Top Spots for Sweden

Sweden is the clear winner in the Products & Utilities subcategory, ranking 1st out of 60 overall, as well as for two out of the three factors featured in this subcategory: energy supply and waste management & recycling. Three in five expats (60%) believe that the Swedish energy supply is very environmentally friendly, for example, with regard to green energy sources or energy-saving measures (vs. 29% globally), and 54% believe that the waste management and recycling efforts could not be any better (vs. 25% globally). According to the country’s official website, Sweden currently uses more than 50% renewable energy and is aiming towards 100% before 2040. By 2016, the country had also already exceeded the government’s recycling targets for 2020 and now plans to go much further.

When it comes to the availability of green goods and services, Sweden is only beaten by Austria, which lands in the top spot for this factor. However, Sweden still performs exceptionally well here: more than half of the expats surveyed in Sweden (51%) say the availability of green goods and services is very good (vs. 24% globally).

Sweden’s taxation system is perceived to be the reason why the country has such good environmental products and utilities. One US American expat disagrees with the negative attitude towards high income tax — he says: “I’ve been here for over 20 years and can say that I clearly see the benefits of my taxes paid coming back to me and the rest of society.”

India Comes Last

Just like as Sweden is the clear winner in the Products & Utilities subcategory, India is the clear loser. The country comes in last place (60th), both overall and for each individual factor.

The share of expats who think that the availability of green goods and services is very bad in India is actually four times the global average (20% vs. 5% globally). Additionally, 57% rate the energy supply negatively (vs. 18% globally). Data from the World Bank suggests that India’s output of renewable energy is eight percentage points lower than the global average (15% in India vs. 23% globally).

More than half the expats in India (53%) think that the waste management and recycling infrastructure is very bad (vs. 9% globally), a damning statistic for one of the world’s largest countries. Many participants in the Expat Insider 2020 survey mention rubbish, pollution, and dirt as things they really do not like about living in India. A Danish expat claims he is “seeing waste all over, with small lakes and streams full of plastic”. And a Columbian woman says that there is “garbage everywhere, no pathways for pedestrians”. These impressions do not paint a pretty picture of expat life in India. However, it should be noted that India is one of the countries that have been receiving most of the plastic waste from Western nations, such as Australia, and India is now trying to tackle that problem with a number of initiatives.

Europe Dominates the Top 10

Looking at the full Products & Utilities subcategory, Taiwan (8th) is the only non-European destination to make it into the top 10 worldwide. Regarding each of the three factors that the subcategory is based on, European countries are also the most prevalent. The only non-European destinations to break into the top 10 are

  • Canada, for the availability of green goods and services (8th) and its energy supply (9th);
  • Taiwan, for the availability of green goods and services (9th) and the local waste management and recycling infrastructure (5th);
  • New Zealand, for the availability of green goods and services (10th);
  • and Japan for waste management and recycling (9th).

These results probably do not come as much as a surprise to many who see Europe as taking a leading role in protecting the environment. However, a couple of European countries in the ranking bring down the marks for the continent. Greece comes 51st in the Products & Utilities subcategory, with 58% of expats rating the waste management and recycling infrastructure negatively (vs. 28% globally) and 31% expats judging the energy supply unfavorably (vs. 18% globally). The Mediterranean island state of Malta comes in 43rd place, with 40% of expats rating its energy supply negatively (vs. 18% globally) and 44% giving the availability of green goods and services a negative rating (vs. 21% globally).

While not all of the high-performing European countries are EU member states, the European Union’s extensive environmental policy is seen as a good example on a global scale. Many countries outside of the EU also aim to meet or beat the targets of the European Parliament, which is one reason why so many European countries lead the way in the Products & Utilities subcategory.

The Best and Worst Places for Green Goods and Services

One of the three factors measured in the Products & Utilities subcategory is the availability of green goods and services, with renewable energy, organic food, and sustainable products given as examples in the questionnaire. Research from the Harvard Business Review shows that consumers are consciously buying more sustainable products, and expats are no exception to this trend. This means that companies and countries are bending to market needs and developing more green goods than ever.

Austria, Sweden, and Denmark (in this order) make up the global top 3 for this factor. Exactly half the expats in Austria (50%) believe that the availability of environmentally friendly goods and services is very good, and a similar share of expats in Denmark (48%) thinks the same (vs. 24% globally). A South African expat says of Denmark: “They are environmentally conscious. Organic food and products are easily available, and they are good at recycling.” This statement also shows that the topic of green and sustainable goods is important to expats. Finland and Germany come fourth and fifth for this factor. A Romanian expat living in Munich says: “I like the tendency towards a greener eco-friendlier approach to life in general.”

Coming in last for the green goods and services factor are India (60th), Kuwait (59th), and Egypt (58th). One in five expats in Egypt (20%) and 23% in Kuwait even think the local availability is very bad (vs. 5% globally). A French expat living in Cairo claims there are “very few organic or pesticide-free foods” available.

Asia and the Middle East Do Not Perform Well

While Europe leads by example in the Products & Utilities subcategory, Asia is one of the regions which lag behind. Just ahead of India in last place are Egypt (59th), Indonesia (58th), Kuwait (57th), and the Philippines (56th). In Indonesia, 39% of expats believe that the waste management and recycling infrastructure is very bad (vs. 9% globally). Additionally, one in five expats in Egypt (20%) give the energy supply the worst possible rating (vs. 4% globally).

Similar to the respondents living in India, an expat in Indonesia says that the country is “not environmentally friendly, and there is too much use of plastic bags and littering”. Garbage disposal and waste management seems to be key issues among expats living in these countries.

Moreover, a lot of these countries are dependent on non-renewable sources of energy, such as fossil fuels, partially due to their geographical proximity to oil reserves. Data from the World Atlas shows again that Middle Eastern and Asian countries are among the worst offenders. However, they are not always perceived as the worst by expats, which might be because the Expat Insider survey also asks about the affordability of energy. Oman is ranked as the most dependent on fossil fuels by the World Atlas but comes in 12th out of 60 in the Environment & Sustainability Ranking regarding its energy supply, probably because expats do not have to pay too much for their energy consumption.

Surprises in the Rankings

There are a few surprises in the Products & Utilities subcategory, including the UAE, whose best score in the subcategory is 15th for energy supply: 70% of expats rate this factor positively (vs. 62% globally). This is despite the country being 99.9% reliant on fossil fuels, according to data from the World Atlas. Expats might have rated UAE’s energy supply so positively because it is cheap, instead of its environmental impact.

Another surprising result is Costa Rica. While the country did not perform poorly in the Products & Utilities subcategory (23rd), this result is actually the country’s worst score in the entire Environment & Sustainability Ranking. The subcategory is negatively affected by Costa Rica’s rank for the factor waste management and recycling (38th), with fewer than half the expats rating it favorably (49% vs. 60% globally). This is a letdown for the country who won the UN Champion of the Earth for Policy and Leadership in 2019.

South Korea is perhaps another country with surprising results. It performs best in the Products & Utilities subcategory (29th), including a 19th rank for waste management and recycling, which 69% of expats rate positively (vs. 60% globally). The surprise is that South Korea’s scores regarding products & utilities are significantly better than in the other two subcategories: South Korea comes in at 50th place in the Quality of Environment subcategory, and at 40th place for the Policies & People subcategory.

Further Reading