By Gary Stevenson

In 2008, I started a job predicting interest rates and the strength of the world’s largest economies.  In the thirteen years since then, financial markets, economists, and global central banks, predicted a recovery for both interest rates and the economy in every single year from 2009 to 2020.

Despite these twelve consecutive years of predicted recovery, now, in 2021, interest rates all over the world, much like the global economy, remain at emergency levels.  This was true even before the onset of the Covid-19 economic crisis.

So why have economic forecasts, as well as the recovery of economies, been so disappointing since the 2008 crisis?  I have devoted the last twelve years of my life to figuring this out.

The logic behind these optimistic predictions has been as follows:

The economic collapse of 2008, as well as the prolonged “Great Recession” that has followed it, were both what economists would call “demand crises”.  That means that, at their core, they are caused by society, as a whole, not spending enough money.  When people don’t spend enough money, businesses can’t sell their products, and they respond by closing down, shrinking, or stopping hiring.  That pushes up unemployment and pushes down wages, leaving people with even less money to spend, making the problem worse.

Modern economics is well familiar with this kind of problem, and has two broad solutions which can be used.  The first, often referred to as “fiscal stimulus”, refers to the government boosting spending and employment directly, either by giving money to people, or large scale spending and investment projects.  The second, often called “monetary policy”, refers to making large amounts of low interest rate loans, via the banking system, in the hope that companies and individuals will use the cheap loans to increase their own spending and investment.

After the 2008 crisis, at first, both of these policies were used in large amounts.  Soon afterwards, however, with the election of an austerity-focused government in the UK, and the emergence of the sovereign debt crisis in Europe, direct spending from many governments was cut back, and “monetary policy” was left to take centre stage, with increasingly larger and larger amounts of money lent, rather than spent, into the economy via the financial system.

Despite cutbacks in government spending across the world, financial markets, central bankers and economists continued to predict that these aggressive “monetary policy” interventions, such as zero or even negative interest rates, and “quantitative easing” would be enough to kick start the economy.  The fact that these supposedly temporary measures are still in place today, shows that they were wrong.

So why didn’t this policy work, and why were economists still predicting a recovery as recently as early 2020, before the Covid crisis hit?

These were the questions about which I obsessed in 2010 and 2011.

At that time, I was an interest rates trader at Citibank in London.  My job was to predict when interest rates would recover, and I had witnessed markets incorrectly predict a recovery for the previous three years.  I was also, at that time, still living in my family home, a small terraced house squeezed in between a railway track and a disused factory in Ilford, East London.

I had studied Economics at the London School of Economics, and I knew that economic theory suggested that the huge amount of cheap loans being lent out by the Bank of England should stimulate the economy.  But I could not see any trace of a meaningful effect on the people who grew up with me in this working-class corner of East London.

At the same time, I was working on an enormous trading floor, in a glittering skyscraper in Canary Wharf.  I was immersed in financial markets, which had been rocketing despite the despondent economy, and was working shoulder to shoulder with millionaires, who got richer each day that financial markets rose.

It started to become apparent to me that “monetary policy” had an achilles heel.  No matter how much money global central banks poured into the economy, cheap loans were only available to the rich.  Not only that, but the rich were not spending the money – they were using it to buy assets, such as stocks and property, which did nothing to boost the economy.  Inequality was the missing link.  Unless the money was channeled to ordinary and poorer working families, rather than just the wealthy, it would never boost the economy, only asset prices.

My conclusion from this was inescapable, but depressing – since inequality was at the heart of the crisis, but was not being addressed, the economic crisis would be interminable: wages would stay low forever, and new money would constantly be pushed, via wealthier individuals, into stock and house prices.  The economy would never get a boost.  Upon realising this, in 2011, I started to bet that there would be no end to the economic recession.  By the end of that year, I was Citibank’s most profitable trader in the world.

This is a bleak economic forecast, and I believe it is true.  But it also provides profound opportunity for improvement and change.  Our current tools have not been working to boost the economy, but that is only because we have been failing to address this key issue.  Richer people tend to save their money, whereas ordinary working families spend almost everything they make.  When too much wealth accumulates in the hands of very wealthy families, it causes problems of underspending in society, and oversaving, pushing down wages and interest rate and crushing the economy, whilst simultaneously making housing unaffordable and pushing stock markets up.  All of these problems can be resolved, and both the economy and collective wellbeing can be improved enormously, if we only start treating wealth inequality as a serious issue and policy goal.

I have personally made millions by betting that failing to tackle wealth inequality will keep our economy in a slump forever.  I firmly believe that wealth, well paid work, and good quality, secure housing could be a realistic possibility for all if we deal with wealth inequality as a society.

The only realistic path to reduced wealth inequality is a serious change to the way that we tax the super rich.  Reducing wealth inequality is not about increasing tax on hard working, well paid workers and professionals.  These people may be relatively high income, but they generally do not hold huge amounts of wealth.  Billionaires and multi-millionaires, increasingly sitting on large amounts of inherited, family wealth, do not earn their incomes from working and, as a result, do not pay income taxes.  Instead, they pay other, lower taxes, which are often completely avoidable.  If we allow this situation to continue, it is inevitable that wealth inequality will increase, and our economic and societal problems will get worse.  We must amend the tax system so that the richest pay higher rates of tax than the rest of us, not lower rates than their cleaners, as they often do now.

It will not be an easy task, undoubtedly.  The super rich have the best tax lawyers and often the ability to amplify their voice in the media. They will proclaim that leaving them untaxed is essential for the economy.  I have made a career and a fortune by betting that isn’t true.

If you want to know more about the damage that wealth inequality does to our economy and society, please feel free to watch and share my videos on Youtube, or to read the full theory on my website.

A prosperous, dignified future can be available to all of us.  But only if we fix wealth inequality.

Photo by Simran Singh Mohan

Join the WEAll community –become a WEAll Member & join our WEAll Citizens Platform.

As part of our work to amplify the important work in the Wellbeing Economy movement, these WEAll Weekly Update blogs will share some of the latest and greatest updates from our membership and beyond. Please use the comment box to share any relevant updates from this week and keep the conversation going!

Weekly Reads

Pathways to good work: toolkit for community organisations

“Work that is decent and fair is crucial to creating a motivated and skilled workforce that is empowered to deliver high quality services and to innovate.”

A New Economics to Achieve Sustainable Development Goals – by Marcello Hernández-Blanco  and Robert Costanza

“The Anthropocene” has been proposed as the new geological epoch in which we now live. We have left behind the Holocene, an epoch of stable climate conditions that permitted the development of human civilization.”

Open Letter: A Strong EU Renewed Sustainable Finance Strategy

“This July, we therefore expect to see the European Commission’s Renewed Sustainable Finance Strategy
propose strong instruments and laws to achieve the necessary change”

European Commission: Economic Policy-Making Beyond GDP: An Introduction

“Although GDP remains central to much of the European Commission’s economic analysis and communication, several steps have been taken over the last decade to acknowledge the ‘beyond GDP’ agenda and lay the groundwork for the collection and publication of new data on relevant variables that are not captured by GDP alone”

Silver-Spoon Oligarchs – Inequality.org

“There are several reasons we should be concerned about the formation of inherited wealth dynasties and the larger hidden wealth-preservation system that makes them possible”

Socio-economic conditions for satisfying human needs at low energy use: An international analysis of social provisioning. – Jefim Vogel, Julia K.Steinberger, Daniel W. O’Neill, William F. Lamb, Jaya Krishnakumar

“Here, we assess which socio-economic conditions might enable societies to satisfy human needs at low energy use, to reconcile human well-being with climate mitigation.”

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Wellbeing Economy Alliance (WEAll) Scotland is recruiting a Policy and Engagement Lead and a Communications Lead!

Closing date: 23:00 on 1st August 2021

Interviews: First interviews w/c 9th August 2021, second interviews w/c 16th August 2021

WEAll Scotland is looking for two new people.  The first is a Policy and Engagement Lead who will play a key role in influencing across parliament, local government and business audiences.  They will coordinate and support our Allies to promote Wellbeing Economy messages to various levels of government and other policy audiences.  They will represent the network externally with key stakeholders from business, government and civil society. They will present at events and will also support key voices from within the core team and network to be heard at external events.   They will also support evaluation and monitoring across the organisation, and will create useful summaries of the impact of work which is in support of a Wellbeing Economy, enabling Allies to contextualise this for their specific work.  

The second is a Communications Lead.  This role is responsible for the internal and external communications for WEAll Scotland.   They will represent the network externally with key stakeholders from business, government and civil society.  They will be responsible for creating an external communications strategy and delivering this for the Allies programme.  They will also be responsible for creating and delivering on an internal communications strategy, ensuring high quality communications across the Board, the Core Team, Associates and volunteers, who collaborate to support both practical and policy changes. They will build relationships with key journalists across Scotland which will maximise the profile of our work.  They will create content for external events and the media, by working with the Core Team, Associates and volunteers, as well as designing and hosting events, seminars and press conferences.  They will also manage our social media channels and support the redevelopment of the WEAll Scotland section of the wider global WEAll website.

How to Apply

If either of these roles sound like you, please download the application pack and application form for the Policy and Engagement Lead role here, and the Communications Lead role here. The closing date is 23:00 on 1st August 2021.

We acknowledge that people from a number of communities are underrepresented in our team and in the wider movement of those seeking systemic economic change and the charity sector in general, and we’re committed to addressing this. If you believe you would bring greater diversity to our team, we’re keen to hear from you. 

If you have any questions or if you feel you could succeed in this role but don’t have all the characteristics we’re looking for, please get in touch with Jimmy Paul, WEAll Scotland Director, on jimmy@scotland.weall.org.

Join the WEAll community –become a WEAll Member & join our WEAll Citizens Platform.

As part of our work to amplify the important work in the Wellbeing Economy movement, these WEAll Weekly Update blogs will share some of the latest and greatest updates from our membership and beyond. Please use the comment box to share any relevant updates from this week and keep the conversation going!

Weekly Reads

An EU renewed sustainable finance strategy– Open Letter from Change Finance

“Financial flows must be diverted from unsustainable to sustainable activities and that investments in fossil fuel production and infrastructure must be halted immediately. It is also quite clear that this must be done at a rapid pace”

Silver-spoon oligarchs: how America’s 50 largest inherited wealth dynasties accelerate inequality– Report from inequality.org

“The U.S. continues to suffer from the extreme and growing wealth and power of inherited-wealth family dynasties – and the growth of their extreme wealth accelerated during the pandemic”

What we learned at the Stories for Life Virtual Gathering – Green Economy Coalition

“What do stories and story-telling have to do with the daunting challenges we face in the coming century? Turns out, quite a lot.”

IUTC Global Rights Index 2021

European Commission report on alternative indicators to GDP

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Join the WEAll community –become a WEAll Member & join our WEAll Citizens Platform.

As part of our work to amplify the important work in the Wellbeing Economy movement, these WEAll Weekly Update blogs will share some of the latest and greatest updates from our membership and beyond. Please use the comment box to share any relevant updates from this week and keep the conversation going!

Weekly Reads

Open-source archive of The Leap’s operational policies and guidelines

“This page archives the policies and guidelines we created, as we struggled to build a workplace rooted in revolutionary values”

Sustainable Corporate Governance– NGO Policy Briefing

“This paper focuses on presenting recommendations on elements of sustainable corporate governance that clarify the specific responsibilities of the board to oversee sustainability but do not further address broader aspects of corporate governance”

The Senses Toolkit – Making sense of climate change scenarios for activists

“These modules help you understand and communicate climate change scenarios.

Intentional Communities and Covid– Foundation for Intentional Community

“A study of how intentional communities have responded to the Covid-19 pandemic in 2021”

Why the good society needs a wellbeing economy

“Masawa recently joined Wellbeing Economy Alliance with the goal of helping to make the shift to an economic paradigm that puts health, wellbeing, and participation at the forefront.”

Launch of Feminist Pocketbook for Human Rights Defenders

“The pocketbook is a result of years of collaboration with partner organisations in Africa and around the world and aims to give the readers hands-on tools and a resource that will help them reflect upon and adopt feminist principles and practices in their human rights work.”

What we learned at the Stories for Life Virtual Gathering – Green Economy Coalition

“What do stories and story-telling have to do with the daunting challenges we face in the coming century? Turns out, quite a lot.”

10 Real-life Prototypes for a Common Good Economy

Our new publication shows 10 international prototypes that illustrate how transformative change can happen on different levels:”

Guest column: Time for Canadians to redefine economic success

“What if we set our gaze on building an economy that delivered for more people, did so on a healthy planet and measured it all in a way that actually means something to people?”

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Canada gains new momentum toward a wellbeing economy

During World Wellbeing Week (June 21-30), Canada and sovereign Indigenous nations announced the launch of the latest WEAll hub.

“The current economic system was borne out of the Second World War, and it served its purpose at the time, which essentially was to prevent another war,” said Yannick Beaudoin, Innovation and Ontario director with the David Suzuki Foundation and lead facilitator with the WellBeing Economies Alliance for Canada and Sovereign Indigenous Nations (WEAll Can).

“But our lives now are about more than preventing war. Instead of just focusing on material growth forever, we need an economy whose purpose is to deliver on all aspects of wellbeing.”

“It’s not about being anti-growth, anti-business, anti-anything. It’s about being pro wellbeing,” Beaudoin said.

“That’s a big difference. And it’s going to make a big difference to all our lives, and to the future of the planet, if we can get it right.”

WEAll Can will work to co-create an economic model and supportive systems that nurture wellbeing for people and planet. It emerges from an acknowledgement of pre-settler economies, where Indigenous Peoples prioritised wellbeing among each other and with nature for millennia. WEAll Can will also begin to track for the first time Canada’s progress toward a wellbeing economy.

“White economics informed by a reductionist western world view have dominated the scene for too long,” Beaudoin said. “We need to go back to the table, to sit with Indigenous knowledge keepers, change actors from underrepresented communities, women and youth. We need to rethink, together, what we want our economy to deliver and how we know that we’re getting there. It’s already being started in other countries. It’s about time we started here too.”

Learn more about the Well-Being Economies Alliance for Canada and Sovereign Indigenous Nations at www.weallcanada.org

For more information or to arrange an interview, please contact:

Stefanie Carmichael, David Suzuki Foundation: scarmichael@davidsuzuki.org, 437-221-4692

In May, WEAll launched a policy paper titled, “5 Pathways toward Health-Environment Policy in a Wellbeing Economy” which outlines transformational approaches in five policy areas that can offer a co-benefit – both to the environment and to human health. These five areas are Energy, Food, Healthcare, Education and Social Cooperation. 

On June 8, the authors of the paper, Éloi Laurent, Fabio Battaglia, Alessandro Galli, Giorgia Dalla Libera Marchiori and Raluca Munteanu hosted an event to showcase the paper and open a conversation with Lorenzo Fioramonti who is the former Italian Minister of Education, University and Research. 

Over the hour-long discussion, the authors and Lorenzo discussed the practical implementation of these co-beneficial policies. 

Lorenzo, as a former politician himself, gave quite a lot of insight into what is needed for policymakers to design, advocate and implement these kinds of co-beneficial policies. 

“Policymakers need catchy titles – they don’t have time to study” he says, “[the concepts] have to be easily understood and put in language that can be reused.” 

He then goes on to address the framing of a Wellbeing Economy: “The economy we’re talking about is an expansive economy. It’s not an economy that gives up, but an economy that gains.”

When he speaks about advocating for an alternative economic system, he encourages us by saying, “Your message needs to be positive, forward looking. This is very important.”

Lorenzo touched on the framing that policy-makers often use, with the WEAllpaper going against the cost-benefit  approach that is typically undertaken. Instead of seeing through a lens where you’re giving up something to gain something else, there is an alternative way. This is the concept of the co-beneficial approach. The authors of the paper remind us that we don’t have to choose between human health and the environment, rather, we can build policies  that are co-beneficial to both objectives. To make this point heard, Lorenzo says, “it’s not a battle between more or less, it’s a battle for better.”

This quick recap only touches the surface of the discussion. If you’re interested in learning more, watch the full webinar here:

Next Monday June 28, WEAll is hosting another event with the authors that also features individuals from the case studies in the paper. We’ll showcase three of the case studies in the session which will unpack how they are able to reach these co-benefits in their work locally. 

Find more information and register for the next event here 

Join the WEAll community –become a WEAll Member & join our WEAll Citizens Platform.

As part of our work to amplify the important work in the Wellbeing Economy movement, these WEAll Weekly Update blogs will share some of the latest and greatest updates from our membership and beyond. Please use the comment box to share any relevant updates from this week and keep the conversation going!

Weekly Reads

Why the good society needs a wellbeing economy

“Masawa recently joined Wellbeing Economy Alliance with the goal of helping to make the shift to an economic paradigm that puts health, wellbeing, and participation at the forefront.”

Launch of Feminist Pocketbook for Human Rights Defenders

“The pocketbook is a result of years of collaboration with partner organisations in Africa and around the world and aims to give the readers hands-on tools and a resource that will help them reflect upon and adopt feminist principles and practices in their human rights work.”

What we learned at the Stories for Life Virtual Gathering – Green Economy Coalition

“What do stories and story-telling have to do with the daunting challenges we face in the coming century? Turns out, quite a lot.”

10 Real-life Prototypes for a Common Good Economy

Our new publication shows 10 international prototypes that illustrate how transformative change can happen on different levels:”

Guest column: Time for Canadians to redefine economic success

“What if we set our gaze on building an economy that delivered for more people, did so on a healthy planet and measured it all in a way that actually means something to people?”

Pay Equity Analysis Is a Critical Step to Advancing Racial Equity in Corporate America

“Corporate America has an opportunity and a responsibility to end these inequitable cycles. It begins with performing an audit to identify where racial wage gaps exist, then being transparent to help drive accountability, and finally doing the work to close the gaps”

Half-Earth or Whole-Earth? Green or transformative recovery? Where are the voices from the Global South?

“To succeed we need the Global North to shed its remnant colonialism and to acknowledge the central role of the Global South, both in the specific arena of conservation and in the wider paradigms of planetary wellbeing”

Climate Litigation as Climate Activism: What Works?

“In this briefing we examine this wave of post-Paris legal mobilisation. We discuss the who, why, how and what for, of this new wave of activity that has not been quietened by increased multilevel commitments to take steps to manage the climate crisis.”

Job Openings & Opportunities

What to Watch

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Publications:

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We need your help! Help us shape the future of WEAll. Take this short survey to support our strategy.

As part of our work to amplify the important work in the Wellbeing Economy movement, these WEAll Weekly Update blogs will share some of the latest and greatest updates from our membership and beyond. Please use the comment box to share any relevant updates from this week and keep the conversation going!

Weekly Reads

What we learned at the Stories for Life Virtual Gathering – Green Economy Coalition

“What do stories and story-telling have to do with the daunting challenges we face in the coming century? Turns out, quite a lot.”

10 Real-life Prototypes for a Common Good Economy

Our new publication shows 10 international prototypes that illustrate how transformative change can happen on different levels:”

Guest column: Time for Canadians to redefine economic success

“What if we set our gaze on building an economy that delivered for more people, did so on a healthy planet and measured it all in a way that actually means something to people?”

Pay Equity Analysis Is a Critical Step to Advancing Racial Equity in Corporate America

“Corporate America has an opportunity and a responsibility to end these inequitable cycles. It begins with performing an audit to identify where racial wage gaps exist, then being transparent to help drive accountability, and finally doing the work to close the gaps”

Half-Earth or Whole-Earth? Green or transformative recovery? Where are the voices from the Global South?

“To succeed we need the Global North to shed its remnant colonialism and to acknowledge the central role of the Global South, both in the specific arena of conservation and in the wider paradigms of planetary wellbeing”

Climate Litigation as Climate Activism: What Works?

“In this briefing we examine this wave of post-Paris legal mobilisation. We discuss the who, why, how and what for, of this new wave of activity that has not been quietened by increased multilevel commitments to take steps to manage the climate crisis.”

Five key dimensions of post-growth business: Putting the pieces together – Jennifer Hinton

“The intention of developing this five-dimensions framework is to offer a more coherent and concrete theoretical basis for ongoing discussions about which types of business are compatible, or incompatible, with post-growth pathways.”

Can we legitimately say something? – Rabia Abrar

“Since my day job revolves around promoting the creation of a Wellbeing Economy, I could legitimately say something about this situation [events in the Occupied Palestinian Territories] if I can show how it is relevant to that. Let’s see…”

The Importance of Resource Security for Poverty Eradication – Global Footprint Network

“72% of the world population live in countries faced with a precarious situation. These countries both (1) run a biological resource deficit (where demand for biological resources exceeds regeneration) and (2) generate less than world-average income, limiting their ability to purchase resources from elsewhere.”

Public Banks and COVID-19

“Five overarching and promising lessons stand out: public banks have the potential to respond rapidly; to fulfill their public purpose mandates; to act boldly; to mobilize their existing institutional capacity; and to build on ‘public-public’ solidarity. In short, public banks are helping us navigate the tidal wave of Covid-19 at the same time as private
lenders are turning away.”

WEAll Publication: Health and the Environment

WEAll Scotland Report: Business and a Wellbeing Economy

How to achieve a ‘health renaissance’ – Social Europe

“First and foremost, recognise the health-environment nexus as the core of planetary health and evolve from cost-benefit analysis to recognition of ‘co-benefits’”

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Simplifying complexity is one of the greatest challenges in understanding the practical implementation of a Wellbeing. Economy. Luckily, there are media producers, such as Broaden who champion the initiative. With their 11-minute video interviewing Simon Mair, an Ecological Economist, the video simplifies the complex nature of discussing the topic of economic systems change.

On June 2, WEAll hosted a Q&A discussion with Broaden (Bryony Simcox & George Webster), Simon Mair and Lukas Hardt around ecological economics, narratives, and the Wellbeing Economy.

The hour-long webinar first premiered the video with the audience, then opened the conversation up for discussion. You can watch the recording here:

One question that erose during the conversation was “How do you make a living in a way that embodies your ideals if they conflict with the dominant system?” Simon spoke of the power of the current economy in that it forces each of us to choose between meeting our basic needs – i.e. participating in the system – or choosing to make decisions that are more in line with our  values.  Noting the success of the current system to nearly  require us to participate in it. 

He carries on to say, “find a way to participate in the market, but find a way to do it to engage with the things that shift the balance of power within a workplace or a community.”

Bryony adds, “models and frameworks help us but we don’t have to adopt a single one. We are working toward the same goals with a slightly different framework and a slightly different model. We’re trying to erode the system, as opposed to completely overthrowing it.” 

 Later, Lukas spoke to frameworks and models and added, “There are  lots of different models and we don’t have to choose one. I think it’s very  encouraging  that a diversity of models are being taken up. And hopefully at some point it can lead to change at a higher level.”

This event was a beautiful collaboration of the WEAll Network supporting each others initiatives. If  you’re interested in hosting a session on your work, please reach out to Isabel <isabel@weall.org> to learn more.

Originally posted on Meta from European Environmental Bureau (EEB) here

Christian Felber is the author of books on economic reform. These include Change Everything: Creating an Economy for the Common GoodMoney: The New Rules of the Game, and Trading for Good: How Global Trade can Serve People not Money. He is a university lecturer and affiliate scholar at the IASS Potsdam in Germany. In addition, he is a contemporary dancer and performer.

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It may sound like a paradox but it is possible to grow the economy without raising GDP, if we widen the definition of the economy to take account of human wellbeing and nature, says Christian Felber, the founder of the Economy for the Common Good.

A fierce battle is raging around the role of growth in the economy. While critics, such as British economist Tim Jackson, are demanding degrowth or post-growth, neoclassical economists and political leaders seem to be addicted to growing the economy. Without growth, they fear that the capitalistic engine would grind to a halt and the economy die.

Nevertheless, four female prime ministers – of Iceland, Scotland, Finland and New Zealand – are officially seeking a more suitable successor to gross domestic product (GDP) for measuring wellbeing.

One reason why the debate is so entrenched is due to the ambiguity of the core concepts involved. Economics does not offer a clear and universally accepted definition of “welfare”, let alone what it means when it refers to the “economy”. As a consequence, it remains unclear what exactly is meant when we talk about “economic growth”, beyond the equating of GDP growth with economic growth.

Money doesn’t grow on trees

But what grows when GDP grows is not necessarily cereals, vegetables, food security, affordable housing, meaningful work, healthy ecosystems, or even love and peace. GDP growth is little more than an aggregation of market transactions measured in monetary terms, such as the production and sale of chocolate, airplanes, facility cleaning, business consultancy, weapons production, regardless of whether or not they contribute to human wellbeing and the health of the planet.

The reason why mainstream economists focus on GDP and neglect the economy is quite simple: GDP is straightforward to measure. It is mathematically exact. However, it has no direct link to the satisfaction of needs and general welfare, which is supposed to be the goal of the economy.

If we define the aim of the economy as the satisfaction of the basic needs of present and future generations, within the planet’s ecological boundaries, while respecting democratic and social values like dignity, solidarity and justice, then countless economic activities are not measured by GDP but contribute to the growth of the – so defined – economy and create value.

Examples include childcare and other unpaid work, clean rivers and forests, growing your own herbs and vegetables, strengthening communities and social security, and much more. All this creates real value for real humans, but it is not considered by market economists nor accounted for by GDP. Theoretically, GDP could be zero and all these needs met.

Values-added economies

This reflects how inadequate GDP is when it comes to measuring human wellbeing. But there are alternatives.

One example is the Economy for the Common Good, a term which I coined over a decade ago. This approach goes back to basics by first asking “What is the economy?”. It clarifies the goal of the economy as the satisfaction of human needs without degrading the foundations of life and respecting democratic values. It then adjusts economic indicators to measure these goals using a Common Good Product (CGP), instead of the more common GDP, the composition of which is defined democratically.

This could be done directly by the people through a citizens’ assembly or economic convention. People can submit their proposals for the most relevant facets to be measured to gauge quality of life, wellbeing for all and the common good. Of all these proposals, let’s say the top 20 are included in the final Common Good Product (CGP) or Index (CGI). The Common Good Index could be measured using neutral points rather than in monetary terms. Its result would be comparable both across time and place.

In the future, all decisions of economic and other policies could be evaluated and taken according to their contribution to the growth of the (common good) economy rather than GDP.

If, for instance, life is better with clean rivers, breathable air, enough bees and fertile soil, growing food using agroecology or permaculture might generate fewer dollars but the sum total of healthier and happier children and adults will boost our gross CGI. In addition, more cohesive communities might take care of each other more effectively than expensive and GDP-boosting personal care services to mitigate loneliness.

In the end, when we use CGI, it simply does not matter if GDP rises, shrinks or stagnates – this measure becomes irrelevant. What matters is the improvement of the economy, in the broad sense of the word, with people thriving, societies flourishing, democracy strengthened, and ecosystems made more resilient – all of which are reflected in a rising GCI.

Adherents of GDP growth as a goal of economic policy erred in three regards. Firstly, they present no precise definition of the economy beyond the value of monetary transactions. Secondly, they have no clearly defined goals for the economy. Thirdly, as consequence of the previous two failings, there is no precise methodology for measuring economic success.

And it gets worse. We know that GDP accounts positively for many destructive and harmful activities, including possibly the most damaging of all, the production of weapons and even wars. Giving positive value to negative activities is methodologically flawed.

A new kind of ‘green growth’

This highlights a deeper reason why ‘green growth’ falls short as a concept. Not only is there no empirical evidence that resource consumption can be decoupled in absolute terms from GDP growth, GDP encompasses many activities that destroy the social fabric and the foundations of life. However, green and internal growth is possible in the context of the Economy for the Common Good, which decouples and liberates human happiness and planetary health from the chains of GDP growth (see the new report ‘Towards a wellbeing economy that serves people and nature‘, produced by the EEB and Oxfam Germany in the context of the Climate of Change project).

A Common Good Index has other benefits too. In addition to conventional financial balance sheets, companies could start keeping a common good balance sheet, in which they report what and how much they contribute to the Common Good Index. Tax levels, freedom to trade and access to public procurement contracts could be linked to the CGI, providing companies with an incentive to bolster the common good.

As a result, the goods and services provided by sustainable and responsible businesses would become cheaper, while the products of irresponsible and polluting firms would become more expensive. This means that companies will no longer be able to gain a competitive advantage by externalising costs and the polluter will truly pay.

So far, almost 1,000 businesses and other organisations – including cities and universities – have conducted their first common good balance sheet. The alternative is spreading to ever more countries.

At the microlevel, banks, funds and stock markets would apply a common good assessment before they finance a project, fund or list a company. This will enable them to set fair terms and conditions: cheaper money for sustainable business activities and more expensive loans or none at all for less responsible actors.

The result of this interplay at the macro and micro levels would be a greener, more sustainable, inclusive, democratic, and resilient economy. As a side effect, everybody, not only economists, would finally know what we mean when we talk about “the economy” and “economic growth”. And nobody, except statisticians, would care if GDP grows, shrinks or remains steady.

As part of our work to amplify the important work in the Wellbeing Economy movement, these WEAll Weekly Update blogs will share some of the latest and greatest updates from our membership and beyond. Please use the comment box to share any relevant updates from this week and keep the conversation going!

Weekly Reads

Half-Earth or Whole-Earth? Green or transformative recovery? Where are the voices from the Global South?

“To succeed we need the Global North to shed its remnant colonialism and to acknowledge the central role of the Global South, both in the specific arena of conservation and in the wider paradigms of planetary wellbeing”

Climate Litigation as Climate Activism: What Works?

“In this briefing we examine this wave of post-Paris legal mobilisation. We discuss the who, why, how and what for, of this new wave of activity that has not been quietened by increased multilevel commitments to take steps to manage the climate crisis.”

Five key dimensions of post-growth business: Putting the pieces together – Jennifer Hinton

“The intention of developing this five-dimensions framework is to offer a more coherent and concrete theoretical basis for ongoing discussions about which types of business are compatible, or incompatible, with post-growth pathways.”

Can we legitimately say something? – Rabia Abrar

“Since my day job revolves around promoting the creation of a Wellbeing Economy, I could legitimately say something about this situation [events in the Occupied Palestinian Territories] if I can show how it is relevant to that. Let’s see…”

The Importance of Resource Security for Poverty Eradication – Global Footprint Network

“72% of the world population live in countries faced with a precarious situation. These countries both (1) run a biological resource deficit (where demand for biological resources exceeds regeneration) and (2) generate less than world-average income, limiting their ability to purchase resources from elsewhere.”

Public Banks and COVID-19

“Five overarching and promising lessons stand out: public banks have the potential to respond rapidly; to fulfill their public purpose mandates; to act boldly; to mobilize their existing institutional capacity; and to build on ‘public-public’ solidarity. In short, public banks are helping us navigate the tidal wave of Covid-19 at the same time as private
lenders are turning away.”

WEAll Publication: Health and the Environment

WEAll Scotland Report: Business and a Wellbeing Economy

How to achieve a ‘health renaissance’ – Social Europe

“First and foremost, recognise the health-environment nexus as the core of planetary health and evolve from cost-benefit analysis to recognition of ‘co-benefits’”

Una politica ambientale-sanitaria per il Rinascimento della sanità globale

Rethinking Values and Well-being – Dirk Philipsen

“Today, we can retell the stories above in greater detail, and with more knowledge and understanding. Yet the debate remains the same: how to think about the benefits and costs of growth-based progress? Or, even more simply: what constitutes a good life?”

Well-Being Economics – Paul Dalzi and Trudi Cameron

“This article provides an overview of well-being economics, with particular attention to public health”

Data as asset? The measurement, governance, and valuation of digital personal data by Big Tech by Kean Birch, DT Cochrane, Callum Ward

We analyse the transformation of personal data into an asset in order to explore how personal data is accounted for, governed, and valued by Big Tech firms and other political-economic actors (e.g., investors). 

House of Commons Finance Bill

Job Openings & Opportunities

What to Watch

Listen Up

Upcoming Events

WEAll Originals  

Blogs:

Publications:

From the Archives

As part of our work to amplify the important work in the Wellbeing Economy movement, these WEAll Weekly Update blogs will share some of the latest and greatest updates from our membership and beyond. Please use the comment box to share any relevant updates from this week and keep the conversation going!

Weekly Reads

Can we legitimately say something? – Rabia Abrar

“Since my day job revolves around promoting the creation of a Wellbeing Economy, I could legitimately say something about this situation [events in the Occupied Palestinian Territories] if I can show how it is relevant to that. Let’s see…”

The Importance of Resource Security for Poverty Eradication – Global Footprint Network

“72% of the world population live in countries faced with a precarious situation. These countries both (1) run a biological resource deficit (where demand for biological resources exceeds regeneration) and (2) generate less than world-average income, limiting their ability to purchase resources from elsewhere.”

Public Banks and COVID-19

“Five overarching and promising lessons stand out: public banks have the potential to respond rapidly; to fulfill their public purpose mandates; to act boldly; to mobilize their existing institutional capacity; and to build on ‘public-public’ solidarity. In short, public banks are helping us navigate the tidal wave of Covid-19 at the same time as private
lenders are turning away.”

WEAll Publication: Health and the Environment

WEAll Scotland Report: Business and a Wellbeing Economy

How to achieve a ‘health renaissance’ – Social Europe

“First and foremost, recognise the health-environment nexus as the core of planetary health and evolve from cost-benefit analysis to recognition of ‘co-benefits’”

Una politica ambientale-sanitaria per il Rinascimento della sanità globale

Rethinking Values and Well-being – Dirk Philipsen

“Today, we can retell the stories above in greater detail, and with more knowledge and understanding. Yet the debate remains the same: how to think about the benefits and costs of growth-based progress? Or, even more simply: what constitutes a good life?”

Well-Being Economics – Paul Dalzi and Trudi Cameron

“This article provides an overview of well-being economics, with particular attention to public health”

Data as asset? The measurement, governance, and valuation of digital personal data by Big Tech by Kean Birch, DT Cochrane, Callum Ward

We analyse the transformation of personal data into an asset in order to explore how personal data is accounted for, governed, and valued by Big Tech firms and other political-economic actors (e.g., investors). 

House of Commons Finance Bill

Building A Wellbeing Economy Roadmap for Towns– Thriving Places Index

The collective efforts of citizens, communities, businesses and governments can be driving towards a much more ambitious and meaningful outcome – the growth of our capacity to thrive.

Building Creative Capacity For a Flourishing Future – Flourishing Fiction Co-Lab

“We posit the root causes of today’s existential crises will never be managed out of existence. That’s why we need to stretch and grow our imaginative capacities, so we might reliably conceive of and create the future we are capable of — individually and collectively.”

Safety in the Face of the Climate Crisis – Jamie Greenberger

Utilizing States at Risk’s data set, we narrowed down exactly which threats each state faces to determine the safest and most vulnerable locations. We also surveyed over 1,000 people to get a better idea of how the public approaches the climate crisis.

A Global MetaUniversity to Lead by Design to a Sustainable Well-Being Future – Robert Costanza, Ida Kubiszewski Tom Kompas & Paul C. Sutton

Building a global collaborative consortium of universities and other educational institutions can move this agenda forward. We describe how this “MetaUniversity” could be structured and how it would serve to advance this agenda and lead the way to a sustainable well-being future for humanity and the rest of nature.

The importance of resource security for poverty eradication – Mathis Wackernagel, Laurel Hanscom, Priyangi Jayasinghe, David Lin, Adeline Murthy, Evan Neill & Peter Raven 

We examine the implications for poverty eradication when overshoot (living off the depletion of biological capital) is no longer an option. In that era, humanity’s physical metabolism must stem entirely from Earth’s biological regeneration

Job Openings & Opportunities

What to Watch

Listen Up

Upcoming Events

WEAll Originals  

Blogs:

Publications:

From the Archives

Community Pantry; Credit: jilson.tiu on Instagram

The COVID-19 pandemic brought about many revelations that forced everyone to reassess. Amidst the challenges and difficulties, it showed that a holistic and unified approach trumped a profit-centred individualistic mindset. Rather than just striving to return to “normal”, we are seeing more countries promising to build back better. In fact, thanks to vaccinations, a transition to sustainability, and international aid, the World Bank already predicts a 4% expansion in the global economy this year. It must be noted that this growth will no doubt be fuelled by wealthier countries with stable healthcare sectors.

Meanwhile, economic recovery in developing countries will be slower. In 2020, the World Bank predicted that these emerging markets will likely shrink by 2.5%. While this might seem trivial on a global scale, an article on how the pandemic has caused a global recession by FXCM explains that with poverty affecting millions of people, a slight recession will have long-lasting repercussions on those in developing countries. The COVID-19 pandemic has brought about business closures, inflation spikes, and widespread unemployment. And these effects are all the more salient in developing countries like the Philippines.

In response to this, private citizens are coming together to bridge ever-present socio-economic gaps through community aid, particularly in the form of community pantries. Through these community pantries, lower-income families have received essentials in their time of need. As the Philippines’ COVID-19 cases begin to increase again, these compassion-driven efforts are helping mitigate the pandemic’s effect.

But before we dive into the details of this humble yet gracious gesture, let us look back at 2020 in the Philippines.

The Philippines During the COVID-19 Pandemic

After the first COVID-19 case hit the Philippines in January 2020, the government was quick to implement mandatory mask regulations. Soon, though, a nationwide lockdown was officially enacted on March 16, 2020. This would go on to be one of the longest and strictest lockdowns in the world.

Because of the strict lockdowns imposed over Metro Manila and other townships and regions, workers from all sectors were forced to stay home. While this didn’t really impact the middle-class and upper-class—many of whom simply transitioned to working remotely—for the majority of daily wage-earning Filipinos, this was a serious issue.

Vendors, cleaners, sales employees, and the like were essentially stripped of their source of income.

The quarantine also prohibited public utility vehicles (PUV) from operating for most of the lockdown, which impacted their operators, conductors, and commuters. According to a Senate House Bill passed in Congress in July 2019, 70% of all trips in Metro Manila are commuters. The few Filipinos who were allowed special passes (mostly medical professionals and other frontliners) then had to bike, walk, or wait for shuttles from local government units (LGU).

In response to this, President Rodrigo Duterte enacted Republic Act (RA) No. 11469. Also called the “Bayanihan to Heal as One Act”, it empowered the President to reallocate P200 billion to assist 18 million low-income households. Many private companies also took the initiative to send aid packages (which typically included some money, medicines, and pantry essentials), across the Philippines.

By the 4th quarter of 2020, COVID-19 cases had begun to plateau, and more non-essential businesses were allowed to operate. Though social distancing, masks, and face shields were still mandatory. By December 2020, the Philippines was seeing an e-commerce boom of 55% and the overall COVID-19 recovery rate was at 92.9%.

At the time of writing, the Philippines is back in lockdown. This was enacted after a spike in cases likely due to the loosened quarantine regulations.

Community Pantries as Means for Mutual Aid

While this response helped to control the spread of the virus, it soon became apparent that financial and food aid was necessary. As a developing country with 16.7% of the population living below the national poverty line, many Filipinos are daily wage earners who cannot afford to stay home. The government aid sporadically being handed out is also not enough to sustain most Filipinos. According to the 2020 Global Hunger Index, the Philippines ranked 69th out of 107 countries.

Ana Patricia Non, the inspiration of #maginhawacommunitypantry; Photo credit: AC Currency

And so, on April 14, a small bamboo cart in Maginhawa Street in Quezon City (the largest in Metro Manila) began what would be an inspiration for others and a notice to the government. Filled with canned goods, fresh vegetables, vitamins, and other pandemic needs, the “Maginhawa Community Pantry” soon took social media by storm.

This pantry, created by Ana Patricia Non, serves approximately 2,000 families a day. These include seniors and the disabled who have not been allowed much movement since the first lockdown. Since its genesis, roughly 350 other community pantries have cropped up in the country.

While these mutual aid efforts have been largely lauded, it has not been immune to “red-tagging”. The latter is a colloquial term for the practise of accusing others of communist collaboration. More often, there is little to no evidence of such ties. On April 18, social media showed police with high-powered rifles inspecting the Maginhawa Community Pantry.

“People will not stop giving as long as there is a venue for it,” Non said in an interview with The News Lens. “There are more people in need than those criticising.”

Since then, community pantries in the Philippines have gotten more structured. Recently actress and activist Angel Locsin celebrated her birthday by renting out a small venue and outfitting it with essentials. Non-profit animal welfare groups have also introduced “community paw-ntries” for pet owners in need.

Crowds at Community Pantry; Credit: jilson.tiu on Instagram

As the world begins to reopen, countries like Iceland and New Zealand have become the standard for prompt and mindful pandemic responses, with an emphasis on wellbeing indicators. In places like the Philippines, people are still waiting for their government to provide aid and sustainable solutions.

In the meantime, the fight for sustainable development is being led by every day Filipinos, who are inspiring millions daily.

If there was ever any need for a concrete example of a Wellbeing Economy in play, we can look at the Philippines’ community pantries, many of which say, “give according to your means, take according to your need”.

For more details on Philippine Community Pantries and how you can get involved, check this Rappler list.

Feature specially written for weall.org

Written by: JBrothwell

Wellbeing Economy Correspondents is a series highlighting the firsthand experiences of individuals who have witnessed Wellbeing Economy principles, practices, and policies being implemented in all different contexts around the world. Our correspondents support WEAll’s mission to establish that a Wellbeing Economy is not only a desirable goal, but also an entirely viable one.

As part of our work to amplify the important work in the Wellbeing Economy movement, these WEAll Weekly Update blogs will share some of the latest and greatest updates from our membership and beyond. Please use the comment box to share any relevant updates from this week and keep the conversation going!

Weekly Reads

NEW WEAll Publication: Health and the Environment

NEW WEAll Scotland Report: Business and a Wellbeing Economy

How to achieve a ‘health renaissance’ – Social Europe

“First and foremost, recognise the health-environment nexus as the core of planetary health and evolve from cost-benefit analysis to recognition of ‘co-benefits’”

Una politica ambientale-sanitaria per il Rinascimento della sanità globale

Rethinking Values and Well-being – Dirk Philipsen

“Today, we can retell the stories above in greater detail, and with more knowledge and understanding. Yet the debate remains the same: how to think about the benefits and costs of growth-based progress? Or, even more simply: what constitutes a good life?”

Well-Being Economics by Paul Dalzi and Trudi Cameron

“This article provides an overview of well-being economics, with particular attention to public health”

Data as asset? The measurement, governance, and valuation of digital personal data by Big Tech by Kean Birch, DT Cochrane, Callum Ward

We analyse the transformation of personal data into an asset in order to explore how personal data is accounted for, governed, and valued by Big Tech firms and other political-economic actors (e.g., investors). 

House of Commons Finance Bill

Building A Wellbeing Economy Roadmap for Towns– Thriving Places Index

The collective efforts of citizens, communities, businesses and governments can be driving towards a much more ambitious and meaningful outcome – the growth of our capacity to thrive.

Building Creative Capacity For a Flourishing Future – Flourishing Fiction Co-Lab

“We posit the root causes of today’s existential crises will never be managed out of existence. That’s why we need to stretch and grow our imaginative capacities, so we might reliably conceive of and create the future we are capable of — individually and collectively.”

Safety in the Face of the Climate Crisis – Jamie Greenberger

Utilizing States at Risk’s data set, we narrowed down exactly which threats each state faces to determine the safest and most vulnerable locations. We also surveyed over 1,000 people to get a better idea of how the public approaches the climate crisis.

A Global MetaUniversity to Lead by Design to a Sustainable Well-Being Future – Robert Costanza, Ida Kubiszewski Tom Kompas & Paul C. Sutton

Building a global collaborative consortium of universities and other educational institutions can move this agenda forward. We describe how this “MetaUniversity” could be structured and how it would serve to advance this agenda and lead the way to a sustainable well-being future for humanity and the rest of nature.

The importance of resource security for poverty eradication – Mathis Wackernagel, Laurel Hanscom, Priyangi Jayasinghe, David Lin, Adeline Murthy, Evan Neill & Peter Raven 

We examine the implications for poverty eradication when overshoot (living off the depletion of biological capital) is no longer an option. In that era, humanity’s physical metabolism must stem entirely from Earth’s biological regeneration

Community Building for Systems Change – Finance Innovation Lab

This paper explores the role of community in building in systems change, the potential for community building to contribute to creating system-level impact, and how we can build communities that have high potential for achieving systemic change.

A Just(ice) transition is a post-extractive transition War on Want

This failure to take inequality and injustice seriously can be seen in even the most ambitious models of climate mitigation.

Our Homes, Our Communities: How Housing Acquisition Strategies Can Create Affordable Housing, Stabilize Neighborhoods, and Prevent Displacement

This report details strategies that cities can lead to creating equitable housing outcomes for residents by moving privately owned rental housing into tenant or nonprofit ownership to avoid speculation, promote community control, and create permanently affordable housing. 

Towards a wellbeing economy that serves people and nature European Environmental Bureau

This report, “provides a blueprint for the transition to a wellbeing economy which is built on three main pillars which can be referred to as the three Ds: the dismantling of exploitative structures, democratising economic governance and degrowing the economy.”

Job Openings & Opportunities

What to Watch

Listen Up

Upcoming Events

WEAll Originals  

Blogs:

Publications:

From the Archives

Guest blog by Elle Adams – Programme Manager, Scotland CAN B

As we begin the recovery from the Covid-19 pandemic, a collective global awakening to ecological breakdown and social injustices, and with the inflection point of COP26 and looming on the horizon this November, we face an unprecedented moment to choose how we move forward, #buildbackbetter, and what kind of story we want to be able to tell about what’s going on in Scotland on the global stage.

Scotland is home to both the first Wellbeing Economy Alliance hub and the first national business-for-good programme of its kind, Scotland CAN B (a groundbreaking partnership between the Scottish Government and B Lab). Founded around a similar time in 2018, these pioneering initiatives have been established with a backdrop of Scotland’s long-term heritage of a strong social business ethics, and progressive and courageous national political and entrepreneurial ambitions.

The initiative was launched to explore what happens when you combine the entrepreneurial, innovative and business-for-good ambitions of one country, with the aim of catalysing a fundamental shift in the nation’s approach to business. The initiative draws on B Lab’s experience, standards, and the power of business accountability provided by impact assessment tools, and examples of best practice from certified B Corps, to ask: 

“How might an entire nation learn to think, be and behave like a B Corp?” 

or as the question has evolved over time:

“What might it take to build a nationwide culture of business as a force for good?”

In true Scottish “can do” attitude, we wholeheartedly embraced this challenge, and Scotland CAN B’s work since can be broadly divided into two strands, which we believe to be equally essential, interdependent elements towards leveraging the role of business towards catalying place-based economic systems change in Scotland.

These dual strands of work are:

  1. Fostering a national Impact Culturecultivating coherence and alignment in the mindsets, language, tools and frameworks used about impact in Scotland’s business ecosystem
  1. Developing and delivering Impact Trainings – supporting businesses to learn to measure and manage their social, environmental, and governance performance with as much rigor as their profits

Scotland CAN B’s dual approach Theory of Change mirrors and supports the Wellbeing Economy Alliance’s own broader strategic approach of creating a new economic power base through building coherent knowledge and providing new narratives. We see Scotland CAN B’s work as equipping, enabling, and galvanising Scottish businesses and Scotland’s exceptional business support ecosystem to play their vital role as key agents in this process of economic systems change towards a wellbeing economy.

In short, the work of Scotland CAN B is to provide the mechanisms which realise WEAll’s vision, within the business sector.

Around the world today we are witnessing an inflection point for the redefinition of the purpose of the economy and role of business in society. Indications of this comes in different flavours; whether it’s investors and market forces demanding higher standards of environmental, social, and governance accountability, or momentum behind the campaign currently underway to reform corporate governance in UK – the ‘Better Business Act’ – which would align the interests of shareholders with those of wider society and the environment.  We’re witnessing a new generation prioritising their values in their career and consumer choices, and calls across sectors for the repurposing of the economy from growth at any cost, towards the wellbeing of people, planet, and future generations. 

It’s increasingly clear that business for good is simply better business; no matter how big or small, and whether you are people-, planet-, or profit- motivated; we’re all headed in the same direction. The question has changed from “why should we care?” to “what could we be doing better?” and “how do we not get left behind?

“It’s increasingly clear that business for good is simply better business…”

In Scotland, WEAll Scotland and Scotland CAN B are both committed to ground these market demands, global imperatives, and this political rhetoric in reality. We’ve been working hard to develop and provide the inspiration, support and mechanisms to equip businesses to embody a wellbeing economy through their actions and accountability. 


At Scotland CAN B, we’ve developed the Impact Journey – a cyclical, six module learning journey designed to support businesses in fostering impact awareness and accountability comprehensively across all areas of their business; from their core governance arrangements, through to how they interact with their employees, customers, the environment, and their local community. 

But to catalyse the change we want to see at scale and pace across the nation, commensurate with the converging global challenges at hand, we soon realised we’d need to mobilise some extra support, and turned our attention to leveraging Scotland’s extensive business support ecosystem to join us on this mission. 

Cue our flagship programme – the Impact Economy Advisors training, designed to train business support professionals in the latest frameworks, tools and perspectives to be able to help the businesses they support to better understand, measure and manage their impact. This year we will be ramping up delivery of the training, with participants joining us from across the spectrum of entrepreneurial support organisations in Scotland.

As more and more businesses and business-support organisations engage with the task of embracing their vital role in contributing towards the global Sustainable Development Goals, Scotland’s National Performance Framework, and embodying a wellbeing economy, we increasingly have proof of concept, and a sense that the change we seek is picking up steam – a nationwide operating system upgrade is underway, shifting the culture of business from a sole focus on profit, towards prioritising purpose and accountability for people and planet. 

This is the moment, the intersection point, where humanity has more understanding than ever before of the complex and interdependent nature of the challenges we all face, yet also, crucially, a small window of opportunity and agency to take the rapid, proportionate action required to do something about it.

At this transformative moment in history, as the tide turns globally towards an emphasis on ESG accountability, the race to Net Zero, and with COP26 hosted in Glasgow on the horizon, it’s an exciting moment for Scotland to be poised to provide global leadership and a tangible example of what a nation of businesses embracing their vital role in the transition towards a wellbeing economy looks like in practice at a national level.

With the Wellbeing Economy Alliance Scotland, Scotland CAN B, and many others working together, we have an inspiring and galvanising story here to tell.

By Hannah Ormston, Ben Thurman and Jen Wallace from the Carnegie UK Trust

In 2019, New Zealand made headlines around the world when their government signalled a genuine commitment to improving New Zealanders collective wellbeing through their annual budget. Applauded for being “transformational” and a “world first”, the NZ Treasury outlined their ambitions to measure progress beyond economic indicators such as Gross Domestic Product. These indicators failed to capture the complexity of individual lives and, as NZ Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said, “do not guarantee improvement to living standards” or “take into account who benefits and who is left out”.

Yet, as New Zealand announces its spending priorities for the next year, some have expressed disappointment, criticising the government’s lack of progress as well as a diminishing focus on wellbeing for which the NZ budget has become so well known.  But are these claims missing the point: that in New Zealand the concept of wellbeing has shifted from something novel, to an approach that’s now embedded within the day- to-day decision making of government?

What makes a ‘wellbeing’ budget?

In his pre-budget speech, Finance Minister Grant Robertson outlined the three main goals for this term of government: continuing to keep New Zealand safe from Covid-19, accelerating recovery, and taking on the generational challenges with the economy and society: in particular focusing on housing affordability, climate change, and children’s wellbeing. These are undoubtedly wellbeing goals. 

Sitting within a wider financial strategy, the ‘wellbeing’ specific component of the NZ budget consists of an allocated sum of money set aside to focus on prevention and improving collective wellbeing outcomes; policies and projects that better meet the needs of generations today, whilst also considering the long-term impact on generations to come. Spending from this ‘wellbeing pot’ is informed by a range of data that’s collected in a purpose built framework: the Living Standards Framework. It includes 12 areas of life that the government believe are critical for wellbeing, such as health; housing; social connections; and cultural identity.

Each year, the NZ Treasury uses the data in the Living Standards Framework to understand the issues that pose the biggest threat to wellbeing and inform decisions about where they should spend these funds. A wellbeing government understands that social, environmental, economic and democratic wellbeing have equal importance, and responds flexibly, by directing spending to the most urgent issues. In 2019, they chose to focus on improving mental health, child poverty, and family violence, while in 2020, their focus pivoted to the rapidly changing impact of COVID-19, and its immediate impact on people and communities. 

This year, the NZ government’s continued commitment to a wellbeing approach can be seen through the recent amendment to their Public Finance Act.  The Act now makes provision for the Minister of Finance to set wellbeing objectives to guide budget decisions. For the 2021 budget, the NZ Treasury has decided to focus its attention on the following objectives:

1. Securing a Just Transition to shift to a lower emission economy;

2. Enhancing productivity and enabling New Zealanders to benefit from the future of work;

3. Improving social and economic outcomes within Maori and pacific incomes, skills and opportunities;

4.  Reducing child poverty and improving child wellbeing; and

5.  Supporting physical and mental wellbeing for all, including keeping COVID-19 out of communities.

When assessing new policy and project proposals, their contribution to each of the above priorities is considered alongside their value for money, which is based on an assessment of their contribution to the wellbeing domains in the Living Standards Framework.

The priorities outlined in the 2021 recovery and wellbeing budget far from suggest a ‘move away’ from wellbeing. Rather, they show that their approach is holistic, and balances the health, wealth, and wellbeing of current and future generations in equal measure. It demonstrates a sophisticated understanding of the complexity of individual and collective lives, and that recovery from COVID-19 and collective wellbeing are not mutually exclusive.

What are the lessons from the NZ approach?

But what can other countries learn from New Zealand’s approach, and what are the opportunities to build on, wherever you are? New Zealand is one of several Wellbeing Economy Governments who have a shared understanding – and ambition – to build sustainable wellbeing economies which include Scotland and Wales. The National Performance Framework in Scotland, and the Wellbeing of Future Generations (Wales) Act 2015 each place a strong emphasis on prevention, intervention, integration and localism, similar to the NZ model. 

And while 20 May marks the next wellbeing budget announcement in New Zealand, in the UK, exciting new legislation, which shares the ambition to embed wellbeing in policymaking for current and future generations, will receive its first reading in the new parliamentary session in the House of Lords. At the Carnegie UK Trust, we work to improve the wellbeing of people in the UK and Ireland, recently publishing ‘Gross Domestic Wellbeing’ as an alternative measure of social progress in England: so we’re clear that ensuring we all have what we need to live well now, and in the future, should be the ambition of any government. This could be an important moment as the UK takes its first steps towards doing just that. 

References: 

Wallace, Ormston, Thurman et. al 2020. Gross Domestic Wellbeing: an alternative measure of social progress. 

Photo by Gigin Krishnan on Unsplash

Today, we’re publishing our latest report, “Business and a Wellbeing Economy: Creating Thriving Businesses and a Thriving Scotland”, in partnership with Scottish Enterprise and Co-operative Development Scotland.



Keep reading to see what Jimmy Paul, Director of WEAll Scotland, had to say about this report, business’s role in a wellbeing economy, and the exciting opportunities ahead of Scotland:

“The Wellbeing Economy Alliance (WEAll) was created from a belief in the power of collaboration. This report gave WEAll Scotland the opportunity to work with Co-operative Development Scotland (CDS), the arm of Scottish Enterprise that supports employee ownership and co-operative business models. CDS believes these inclusive business models are a fairer, stronger and more democratic way of doing business that helps create a wellbeing economy.

“My biggest drive, both personally and professionally, is to see a world where all people flourish. The Wellbeing Economy Alliance works alongside a beautifully diverse group of organisations to ensure people are at the forefront of change. This is what attracted me to apply for the role of director of WEAll Scotland, earlier this year.

“As I settle into this new role, I look forward to meeting bold businesses who are making strides to realise social justice on a healthy planet. Businesses play a vital role in building a thriving Scotland: a Scotland where all people flourish and which cherishes our natural home.

“The assumptions upon which our current economic system rests no longer hold true. Economic growth cannot be assumed to automatically deliver a decent standard of living for enough people. With scientists warning of the sixth mass extinction and catastrophic climate change, 20th century systems of production and consumption need to be transformed, and we must be impatient for change.

“In the past, greed at an individual level was the predominant motivator shaping economic policies. However, the way communities across Scotland responded to Covid-19 is one of many recent examples of societal cooperation, empathy, and solidarity.

“Back in 1942, William Beveridge wrote that ‘A revolutionary moment in the world’s history is time for revolutions, not for patching’. Covid-19 has clearly presented us with a revolutionary moment. The question is, will we harness it to work together and build an economy that better meets the needs of people and planet than the one we had going into the pandemic? We hope that this partnership will be the first of many more.”



As part of our work to amplify the important work in the Wellbeing Economy movement, these WEAll Weekly Update blogs will share some of the latest and greatest updates from our membership and beyond. Please use the comment box to share any relevant updates from this week and keep the conversation going!

Weekly Reads

A Global MetaUniversity to Lead by Design to a Sustainable Well-Being Future – Robert Costanza, Ida Kubiszewski Tom Kompas & Paul C. Sutton

Building a global collaborative consortium of universities and other educational institutions can move this agenda forward. We describe how this “MetaUniversity” could be structured and how it would serve to advance this agenda and lead the way to a sustainable well-being future for humanity and the rest of nature.

The importance of resource security for poverty eradication – Mathis Wackernagel, Laurel Hanscom, Priyangi Jayasinghe, David Lin, Adeline Murthy, Evan Neill & Peter Raven 

We examine the implications for poverty eradication when overshoot (living off the depletion of biological capital) is no longer an option. In that era, humanity’s physical metabolism must stem entirely from Earth’s biological regeneration

Community Building for Systems Change – Finance Innovation Lab

This paper explores the role of community in building in systems change, the potential for community building to contribute to creating system-level impact, and how we can build communities that have high potential for achieving systemic change.

A Just(ice) transition is a post-extractive transition War on Want

This failure to take inequality and injustice seriously can be seen in even the most ambitious models of climate mitigation.

Our Homes, Our Communities: How Housing Acquisition Strategies Can Create Affordable Housing, Stabilize Neighborhoods, and Prevent Displacement

This report details strategies that cities can lead to creating equitable housing outcomes for residents by moving privately owned rental housing into tenant or nonprofit ownership to avoid speculation, promote community control, and create permanently affordable housing. 

Towards a wellbeing economy that serves people and nature European Environmental Bureau

This report, “provides a blueprint for the transition to a wellbeing economy which is built on three main pillars which can be referred to as the three Ds: the dismantling of exploitative structures, democratising economic governance and degrowing the economy.”

A review of the evidence on developing and supporting policy and practice networksCarnegie UK

“There are many reasons that people choose to develop networks as an approach to achieving a goal. We were interested in building our understanding of the evidence on the effectiveness of networks as a vehicle for policy and practice change.”

A counterintuitive response to the environmental crisis Systems Innovation Paris Hub

“To successfully change a system, we first need to understand its functioning. And to understand a system’s functioning we need to be able to observe its structure”

Let’s not get back to normal – it wasn’t so niceScope NI

“Katherine Trebeck, Senior Strategic Advisor for the Wellbeing Economy Alliance argues the case for radical, lasting change.”

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