On January 25 at the World Economic Forum Annual Meeting in Davos, Switzerland, I had the pleasure of launching the 2014 Environmental Performance Index on behalf of my colleagues at the Yale Center for Environmental Law and Policy and the Center for International Earth Science Information Network (CIESIN) at Columbia University.

The Environmental Performance Index is a biennial ranking of how well countries perform on high-priority environmental issues, including air quality, water resources, and climate change and energy. The 2014 edition ranks 178 countries on 20 indicators that span nine issues.

I’m particularly proud of the work our team did in terms of communicating the content and results of the EPI. We have a brand new website with data visualizations and interactivity and a completely redesigned report. Recognizing that communicating data and science are just as critical as crunching the numbers, I recruited a team of designers and strong writers at Yale to revamp our entire communications strategy. With our target audiences being policymakers, journalists, and the general public, I wanted the EPI to be effective in how we tell the stories behind the data and how we convey the meaning of the indicators.

We accomplished these goals in several ways. First, we had to elevate our web presence and emphasize visual graphics to achieve maximum impact through the main medium by which people would access the EPI. We worked with Matt Schwartz Design Studio to reconceptualize the entire EPI website – from the homepage interface, to how we wanted users to engage with the content, and how we wanted information visualized. Second, I wanted to lower the barrier to unpacking what goes into each and every indicator through the design of friendly infographics that would answer three fundamental questions: 1) What does it mean? 2) How do we know? and 3) Why does it matter? These are the three major takeaways I wanted our audience to have in understanding each issue and indicator we measured. Third, we wanted to explore the complexity of the EPI and composite indices through narrative vignettes that unpack the challenges of measuring environmental performance for the issues we considered. The EPI report and rich content on the website are both major results of this goal.

You can view the press conference, which features co-creator of the EPI Kim Samuel of the Samuel Family Foundation, myself, and Marc Levy, Deputy Director of CIESIN here:

Here’s also a fantastic slideshow Omar Malik created that introduces the key findings of the 2014 EPI: