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Special Issue "Economic Complexity and Sustainability"

A special issue of Sustainability (ISSN 2071-1050). This special issue belongs to the section "Economic and Business Aspects of Sustainability".

Deadline for manuscript submissions: closed (20 December 2020).

Special Issue Editors

Prof. César A. Hidalgo
E-Mail Website
Guest Editor
Artificial and Natural Intelligence Toulouse Institute (ANITI), University of Toulouse, 31000 Toulouse, France
Interests: economic complexity; relatedness; economic geography; economic development; complex systems
Prof. Dr. María Semitiel-García
E-Mail Website
Guest Editor
Department of Applied Economics, University of Murcia, 30100 Murcia, Spain
Interests: sustainable human development; complex systems; socio-ecological systems; economic complexity; environmental governance
Dr. Philipp Aerni
E-Mail Website
Guest Editor
Center for Corporate Responsibility and Sustainability (CCRS), University of Zurich, Zähringerstrasse 24, CH-8001 Zürich, Switzerland
Interests: technological change; sustainable development; environmental policy; innovation for development; entrepreneurship; migration; public private partnerships
Special Issues and Collections in MDPI journals
Mr. Markus Schaefer
E-Mail Website
Guest Editor
Hosoya Schaefer Architects, Flüelastrasse 10, 8048 Zürich, Switzerland
Interests: urban design, urban development, urban innovation, industrious city, open data, complexity

Special Issue Information

Dear Colleagues,

During the last decade, economic development efforts have been marked by both a return of industrial policy [1–3] and the growing need to consider social and environmental sustainability [4–7]. At the intersection of both of these topics, we find important policy efforts, such as Europe’s Green Deal [8], and also a growing academic literature on economic complexity [9,10], green growth [11], green innovation [12,13], and sustainability. On the one hand, this literature is exploring how the product space [3] and the principle of relatedness [14] can facilitate an economy’s transition into green products [15–18]. On the other hand, this literature is exploring the connection between environmental sustainability and the complexity of an economy [19–22]. In fact, evidence thus far shows that economies tend to reduce emissions when they become sufficiently complex [21–23], and also, that higher complexity economies tend to experience lower levels of income inequality [7] and higher levels of human development [24].

The purpose of this Special Issue is to stimulate, promote, and gather research at the intersection between environmental sustainability, social sustainability, and economic complexity. We are looking for contributions exploring these and other topics:

  1. Relatedness and the development of green products/jobs/industries;
  2. Sustainability and global value chains;
  3. Economic complexity, environmental sustainability, and the environmental Kuznets curve;
  4. Economic complexity, inequality, and sustainable human development;
  5. Green Growth;
  6. Green Innovation.

Sustainability is an indexed peer-reviewed MDPI journal.

Papers should be submitted by 31 October 2020.

We look forward to your contributions.

References:

  1. Rodrik, D. Where are we in the economics of industrial policies? Econ. China 2019, 14, 329–336.
  2. Mazzucato, M. The entrepreneurial state. 2011, 49, 131–142.
  3. Hidalgo, C.A.; Klinger, B.; Barabási, A.-L.; Hausmann, R. The Product Space Conditions the Development of Nations. 2007, 317, 482–487.
  4. Rodrik, D. Green industrial policy. Rev. Econ. Policy 2014, 30, 469–491.
  5. Mazzucato, M. The green entrepreneurial state. In The Politics of Green Transformations. Routledge: Abingdon, UK, 2015, 152–170.
  6. Nyström, M.; Jouffray, J.-B.; Norström, A.V.; Crona, B.; Jørgensen, P.S.; Carpenter, S.R.; Bodin, Ö.; Galaz, V.; Folke, C. Anatomy and resilience of the global production ecosystem. 2019, 575, 98–108.
  7. Hartmann, D.; Guevara, M.R.; Jara-Figueroa, C.; Aristarán, M.; Hidalgo, C.A. Linking Economic Complexity, Institutions, and Income Inequality. World Dev. 2017, 93, 75–93.
  8. A European Green Deal. European Commission—European Commission. Available online: https://ec.europa.eu/info/strategy/priorities-2019-2024/european-green-deal_en (accessed on 5 March 2020).
  9. Hidalgo, C.A.; Hausmann, R. The building blocks of economic complexity. Natl. Acad. Sci. 2009, 106, 10570–10575.
  10. Hausmann, R.; Hidalgo, C.A.; Bustos, S.; Coscia, M.; Simoes, A.; Yildirim, M. The Atlas of Economic Complexity. MIT Pres: Cambridge, MA, USA, 2014.
  11. Dai, H.; Xie, X.; Xie, Y.; Liu, J.; Masui, T. Green growth: The economic impacts of large-scale renewable energy development in China. Energy 2016, 162, 435–449.
  12. Davis, S.J.; Lewis, N.S.; Shaner, M.; Aggarwal, S.; Arent, D.; Azevedo, I.L.; Benson, S.M.; Bradley, T.H.; Brouwer, J.; Chiang, Y.-M.; et al. Net-zero emissions energy systems. 2018, 360, eaas9793.
  13. Zhang, D.; Rong, Z.; Ji, Q. Green innovation and firm performance: Evidence from listed companies in China. Conserv. Recycl. 2019, 144, 48–55.
  14. Hidalgo, C.A.; Balland, P.-A.; Boschma, R.; Delgado, M.; Feldman, M.; Frenken, K.; Glaeser, E.; He, C.; Kogler, D.F.; Morrison, A.; et al. The Principle of Relatedness. In 12th Chaotic Modeling and Simulation International Conference; Springer Science and Business Media LLC: Berlin, Germany, 2018; pp. 451–457.
  15. Hamwey, R.; Pacini, H.; Assunção, L. Mapping Green Product Spaces of Nations. Environ. Dev. 2013, 22, 155–168.
  16. Fraccascia, L.; Giannoccaro, I.; Albino, V. Green product development: What does the country product space imply? Clean. Prod. 2018, 170, 1076–1088.
  17. Huberty, M.; Zachmann, G. Green exports and the global product space: Prospects for EU industrial policy 2011. Available online: https://www.bruegel.org/2011/05/green-exports-and-the-global-product-space-prospects-for-eu-industrial-policy/ (accessed on 5 March 2020).
  18. Dordmond, G.; De Oliveira, H.C.; Silva, I.R.; Swart, J. The complexity of green job creation: An analysis of green job development in Brazil. Dev. Sustain. 2020, 1–24. Available online: https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s10668-020-00605-4 (accessed on 5 March 2020).
  19. Mealy, P.; Teytelboym, A.M. Economic Complexity and the Green Economy. 2017. Available online: https://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=3111644 (accessed on 5 March 2020).
  20. Neagu, O.; Teodoru, M.C. The Relationship between Economic Complexity, Energy Consumption Structure and Greenhouse Gas Emission: Heterogeneous Panel Evidence from the EU Countries. 2019, 11, 497.
  21. Neagu, O. The Link between Economic Complexity and Carbon Emissions in the European Union Countries: A Model Based on the Environmental Kuznets Curve (EKC) Approach. 2019, 11, 4753.
  22. Can, M.; Gozgor, G. The impact of economic complexity on carbon emissions: evidence from France. Sci. Pollut. Res. 2017, 24, 16364–16370.
  23. Swart, J.; Brinkmann, L. Economic Complexity and the Environment: Evidence from Brazil. In Proceedings of the International Business, Trade and Institutional Sustainability; Springer Science and Business Media LLC: Berlin, Germany, 2019; pp. 3–45.
  24. Ferraz, D.; Moralles, H.F.; Campoli, J.S.; De Oliveira, F.C.R.; Rebelatto, D.A.D.N. Economic Complexity and Human Development: DEA performance measurement in Asia and Latin America. Gestão Produção 2018, 25, 839–853.

Prof. César A. Hidalgo
Prof. María Semitiel-García
Dr. Philipp Aerni
Mr. Markus Schaefer
Guest Editors

Manuscript Submission Information

Manuscripts should be submitted online at www.mdpi.com by registering and logging in to this website. Once you are registered, click here to go to the submission form. Manuscripts can be submitted until the deadline. All papers will be peer-reviewed. Accepted papers will be published continuously in the journal (as soon as accepted) and will be listed together on the special issue website. Research articles, review articles as well as short communications are invited. For planned papers, a title and short abstract (about 100 words) can be sent to the Editorial Office for announcement on this website.

Submitted manuscripts should not have been published previously, nor be under consideration for publication elsewhere (except conference proceedings papers). All manuscripts are thoroughly refereed through a single-blind peer-review process. A guide for authors and other relevant information for submission of manuscripts is available on the Instructions for Authors page. Sustainability is an international peer-reviewed open access semimonthly journal published by MDPI.

Please visit the Instructions for Authors page before submitting a manuscript. The Article Processing Charge (APC) for publication in this open access journal is 1900 CHF (Swiss Francs). Submitted papers should be well formatted and use good English. Authors may use MDPI's English editing service prior to publication or during author revisions.

Keywords

  • economic complexity
  • sustainability
  • inequality
  • emissions
  • human development
  • ecology
  • green growth
  • green development
  • green innovation

Published Papers (9 papers)

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Research

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Article
Amalgamation of Export with Import Information: The Economic Complexity Index as a Coherent Driver of Sustainability
Sustainability 2021, 13(4), 2049; https://doi.org/10.3390/su13042049 - 14 Feb 2021
Cited by 2 | Viewed by 889
Abstract
Countries that achieve economic complexity in a holistic way are well-prepared to respond to external shocks through internal processes that may also improve their resilience. This article suggests that the Economic Complexity Index (ECI) can capture this ‘resilience dimension’ of complex economies and [...] Read more.
Countries that achieve economic complexity in a holistic way are well-prepared to respond to external shocks through internal processes that may also improve their resilience. This article suggests that the Economic Complexity Index (ECI) can capture this ‘resilience dimension’ of complex economies and assesses their contribution to sustainable change through the amalgamation of export and import information. This novel methodological approach incorporates import information by applying amalgamation on a pre S-Level, which is based on the Lie-Trotter methodology, inducing a Random Walk on a Graph. In the empirical part, this procedure is examined. It shows that the ECI ranking may not always reflect the underlying internal economic complexity of a country, and with it, the country’s resilience and contribution to sustainable change. The novel approach is to some extent comparable with the degree of eligibility criteria of the original ECI and consistent with the organic evolutionary character of complex economies. After translating the ECI framework into its stochastic counterpart, the proofs of its interpretation in statistic and probabilistic terms, and its relationship to the Shannon Entropy are conducted. Coherency conditions of sustainability as further eligibility criteria are formulated and the degree of coherency of the ECI is investigated. In view of the challenges related to data preparation, we suggest applying the approach to a broader set of data including import information in order to gain additional insights in a country’s internal economic complexity and resilience. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Economic Complexity and Sustainability)
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Article
Economic Complexity and Human Development: Moderated by Logistics and International Migration
Sustainability 2021, 13(4), 1867; https://doi.org/10.3390/su13041867 - 09 Feb 2021
Viewed by 595
Abstract
Living in a world where we can expand our economic wealth and the richness of human life is the core of the human development concept. Greater well-being for all can be achieved by improving people’s capabilities and more importantly, by giving individuals the [...] Read more.
Living in a world where we can expand our economic wealth and the richness of human life is the core of the human development concept. Greater well-being for all can be achieved by improving people’s capabilities and more importantly, by giving individuals the ability to use their knowledge and skills. The economic complexity index (i.e., ECI) is a new indicator that defines a country’s complexity. Through a vast network, citizens can transfer an enormous quantity of relevant knowledge, leading to the creation of diversified and complex products. However, the relationship between economic complexity and human development is not that simple. Thus, this paper aimed to understand it deeper—international migration and logistics performance are used as moderators. Hierarchical linear modeling was the statistical tool used to analyze two groups of countries from 1990 to 2017. For robustness and to deal with possible endogeneity issues, different year lags were also included. The results show that international migration and logistics performance are decisive moderators as they change the relationship between economic complexity and human development. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Economic Complexity and Sustainability)
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Article
Economic Complexity and Inequality: Does Regional Productive Structure Affect Income Inequality in Brazilian States?
Sustainability 2021, 13(2), 1006; https://doi.org/10.3390/su13021006 - 19 Jan 2021
Cited by 2 | Viewed by 840
Abstract
Recent research on the effects of the productive structure of an economy has turned to examining whether economic complexity is associated with lower income inequality. In contrast to the commonly adopted approach that estimates the impact of economic complexity in a cross-country setting, [...] Read more.
Recent research on the effects of the productive structure of an economy has turned to examining whether economic complexity is associated with lower income inequality. In contrast to the commonly adopted approach that estimates the impact of economic complexity in a cross-country setting, we use panel data for Brazilian states to identify the relationship between economic complexity and income inequality at the sub-national level. Our findings show that the relationship between economic complexity and income inequality has an inverted U-shape, indicating that growing levels of complexity first worsen and then improve the income distribution in Brazilian states. Our findings also show that this relationship is particularly prominent in those states that have relatively high levels of urbanization and overall development. Furthermore, we identify separate effects on income inequality from the degree to which regional productive structures are characterised by diversity in terms of industries and occupations. These effects are particularly pronounced in less developed states with a more rural character. In combination, these findings confirm the important role that the productive structure plays in processes that drive improvements in income distributions and suggest that more research on this impact is warranted at the regional level. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Economic Complexity and Sustainability)
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Article
Mapping the Green Product-Space in Mexico: From Capabilities to Green Opportunities
Sustainability 2021, 13(2), 945; https://doi.org/10.3390/su13020945 - 18 Jan 2021
Cited by 1 | Viewed by 891
Abstract
The aim of this paper is to examine the current and potential capability to promote the green economy in Mexico, simultaneously detecting new opportunities for diversification and “green” productive sophistication so that Mexican entities can move toward environmentally friendly ecological products. For this, [...] Read more.
The aim of this paper is to examine the current and potential capability to promote the green economy in Mexico, simultaneously detecting new opportunities for diversification and “green” productive sophistication so that Mexican entities can move toward environmentally friendly ecological products. For this, we adopted a novel methodology to measure the productive capabilities of the green economy in Mexico, thereby discovering the green product space at a subnational scale. Economic complexity methods were used to estimate the Green Complexity Index (GCI) and the Green Complexity Potential (GCP) for 32 Mexican regions considering a time series from 2004 to 2018 and a set of data on international trade in ecological products. The main findings are reflected in a grid of the Green Adjacent Possible (GAP) and a heatmap that shows the “grasslands” (current green products by state). The results are likely to influence industrial policy and state innovation agendas. A limitation of this work is that it is based only on data from the formal, industrial, and regulated economy. The originality lies in the fact that there were no previous studies in the context analyzed, and the fecundity of the research reflects the need to expand the study with a focus on green business models. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Economic Complexity and Sustainability)
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Article
The Impact of Economic Complexity on the Formation of Environmental Culture
Sustainability 2021, 13(2), 870; https://doi.org/10.3390/su13020870 - 16 Jan 2021
Cited by 1 | Viewed by 707
Abstract
This paper establishes economic complexity as a powerful predictor of environmental attitudes. While the economic complexity index (ECI) has been associated with a series of economic outcomes, yet there has not been a link in the literature between ECI and environmental attitudes. This [...] Read more.
This paper establishes economic complexity as a powerful predictor of environmental attitudes. While the economic complexity index (ECI) has been associated with a series of economic outcomes, yet there has not been a link in the literature between ECI and environmental attitudes. This research pushes forward the hypothesis that economic complexity shapes cultural values and beliefs. The research method used is a multilevel empirical analysis that associates aggregate values of the ECI, at the country level, with individual responses related to attitudes towards the environment. Our findings suggest that a marginal increase of the ECI, increases by 0.191 the probability to be a member of environmental organisations and an increase by 0.259 in the probability to engage in voluntary work for the environment. To further reinforce our findings by ensuring identification we replicate the benchmark analysis using as a proxy of a country’s level of economic complexity, the average ECI of the neighbouring countries (weighted by population and/or volume of trade). With a similar intention, i.e., to mitigate endogeneity concerns as well as to further frame our findings as “the cultural implications of ECI” we replicate our analysis with a sample of second generation immigrants. The immigrant analysis, suggests that the level of economic complexity of the parents’ country of origin, has a long-lasting effect on second generation immigrants’ attitudes related to the environment. Because humankind’s attitudes and actions are of key importance for a sustainable future, a better understanding as to what drives environmental attitudes appears critical both for researchers and policy makers. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Economic Complexity and Sustainability)
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Article
Exploring EU’s Regional Potential in Low-Carbon Technologies
Sustainability 2021, 13(1), 32; https://doi.org/10.3390/su13010032 - 22 Dec 2020
Cited by 3 | Viewed by 617
Abstract
This research builds on the regional innovation literature, and aims to better understand the potential for, and development of, low-carbon technologies in the European Union. Exploiting the OECD’s REGPAT for regionalised patent data, we estimate the potential advantage of European NUTS2 regions have [...] Read more.
This research builds on the regional innovation literature, and aims to better understand the potential for, and development of, low-carbon technologies in the European Union. Exploiting the OECD’s REGPAT for regionalised patent data, we estimate the potential advantage of European NUTS2 regions have in 14 green technologies. We use network proximity between technologies and between regions to understand technological/regional clusters of revealed technological advantage and build the regressors for estimating regional potential advantage in specific technologies via zero-inflated beta regressions. Based on this, we explore the region-technology networks, finding two gravity centres for green innovation in France’s and Germany’s industrial and high-tech hubs (Île de France, Stuttgart, and Oberbayern). We also construct a dataset of lagged potentials and labour market, economic and demographic variables, and perform an elastic net regularisation to understand the association with current revealed advantages. Our approach indicates an association between technological advantage in green technologies and the (lags of) participation rates in labour markets, sectoral employment in science and technology, general higher education, duration of employment, percentage of GDP spent on R&D (public and private) and other expenditure on R&D. If confirmed by causality tests, the established associations could help in designing horizontal economic policies to enable specific regions to realise their specialisation potential in specific green technologies. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Economic Complexity and Sustainability)
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Article
Economic Complexity and Ecological Footprint: Evidence from the Most Complex Economies in the World
Sustainability 2020, 12(21), 9031; https://doi.org/10.3390/su12219031 - 30 Oct 2020
Cited by 10 | Viewed by 797
Abstract
The paper introduces economic complexity as an explanatory variable of ecological footprint change, along with income per capita and fossil fuel energy consumption. The link between the ecological footprint and economic complexity is explored within a panel of 48 complex economies over the [...] Read more.
The paper introduces economic complexity as an explanatory variable of ecological footprint change, along with income per capita and fossil fuel energy consumption. The link between the ecological footprint and economic complexity is explored within a panel of 48 complex economies over the period 1995–2014. The panel analysis is based on the annual data series of the economic complexity index (ECI), fossil fuel energy consumption, income per capita, and the ecological footprint of production. The econometrical analysis, based on second-generation unit root tests, cointegration testing, and estimation of fully modified ordinary square (FMOLS) and dynamic ordinary least square (DOLS) models in a heterogeneous panel of countries, revealed a validated positive long-run association between the ecological footprint of production as dependent variable and the economic complexity index, gross domestic product per capita, and fossil fuel energy consumption. The paper sheds light on the critical situation of environmental sustainability, taking into consideration that 75% of countries under examination are in ecological deficit. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Economic Complexity and Sustainability)

Review

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Review
Linking Economic Complexity, Diversification, and Industrial Policy with Sustainable Development: A Structured Literature Review
Sustainability 2021, 13(3), 1265; https://doi.org/10.3390/su13031265 - 26 Jan 2021
Cited by 3 | Viewed by 1453
Abstract
Research on economic diversification and complexity has made significant advances in understanding economic development processes, but has only recently explored environmental and social sustainability considerations. In this article we evaluate the current state of this emerging literature and reveal 13 research gaps. A [...] Read more.
Research on economic diversification and complexity has made significant advances in understanding economic development processes, but has only recently explored environmental and social sustainability considerations. In this article we evaluate the current state of this emerging literature and reveal 13 research gaps. A total of 35 different keywords and methods from structured literature reviews and network science helped to identify 374 scientific articles between 1988 and 2020 and revealed a fragmented research landscape around three larger network communities: (1) industrial policies, climate change, and green growth; (2) economic complexity and its association with inequality and environmental sustainability; and (3) economic diversification, including studies on livelihood diversification in poor areas. Economic complexity research applies new empirical methods and considers both social and environmental sustainability, but seldom scrutinizes theory and policy. Industrial policy research focuses on green growth policies but tends to omit social sustainability issues and advanced empirical methods. Research on economic diversification in poor regions provides insights on the livelihood diversification of farmers, but is disconnected from the economic complexity and industrial policy research. This review helps to summarize the main contributions and shows pathways for potential mutual learning between these communities for the sake of sustainable development. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Economic Complexity and Sustainability)
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Other

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Case Report
Decentralized Economic Complexity in Switzerland and Its Contribution to Inclusive and Sustainable Change
Sustainability 2021, 13(8), 4181; https://doi.org/10.3390/su13084181 - 09 Apr 2021
Viewed by 1162
Abstract
The UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) aim at harnessing economic complexity for sustainable and inclusive economic growth by calling for a decade of joint action. In this paper, we show how the action-oriented collaborative culture of complex and competitive economic ecosystems in places [...] Read more.
The UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) aim at harnessing economic complexity for sustainable and inclusive economic growth by calling for a decade of joint action. In this paper, we show how the action-oriented collaborative culture of complex and competitive economic ecosystems in places outside the major population centers may generate significant positive external effects for society and the environment at large. We illustrate this by means of two small case studies in Switzerland, a country with a federal system that enables decentralized economic development. The first case study investigates the economic ecosystem of the small town Monthey to show how productive migrants and embedded multinational companies increase the knowledge and know-how of local small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs). The successful collaboration of insiders and outsiders accounts for the internal economic complexity that makes the region innovative and competitive. The second case study highlights the importance of the federalist system by showing how the canton of Solothurn succeeded in nurturing globally competitive export-oriented SMEs. We conclude that the success of these inclusive economic ecosystems in unexpected places may only be understood in the specific geographical, historical and political context, as well as the general openness of these regions toward entrepreneurial migrants and global business. The importance of local social capital makes it hard to replicate such success stories. Nevertheless, they indicate that the global knowledge economy may not just pose a threat, but also offer great opportunities for productive regions beyond the major global high-tech clusters of economic complexity. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Economic Complexity and Sustainability)
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