The impacts of COVID19 on the economy show that the way we do business today is economically unsustainable. Business owners and decision makers are in crucial need of alternatives to business-as-usual in order to create resilience for crises to come and to become part of the solution rather than the problem.

WEAll, Sistema BWorld Fair Trade Organisation and SenseTribe therefore invite business owners, decision makers and other stakeholders to commit to seeking out ways to contribute to an economy that is not only economically viable but also socially and environmentally resilient:

  • Business resilience: We commit to give as much importance to resilience as to efficiency in our business model and value proposition. We commit to building resilient business structures, allowing us to respond to a changing environment and to build capacity to deal with crises effectively.
  • Human wellbeing: We commit to building balanced stakeholder relationships, so there is trust and commitment to one another. An important basis for building capacity for effective collaboration in moments of crisis.
  • Environmental wellbeing: We commit to re-evaluating how our business can make a positive contribution to our current  environmental crisis, making our business part of the environmental solution, not the problem.

Download the full Pledge

 

Sign the Pledge Now

Business owners and decision makers can also find out more and get involved in the Build Business Back Better community through events on 26 May and 25 June. The sessions will delve into the rich resources available in the Business of Wellbeing Guide and will highlight which options can help you navigate the alternatives and will give you inspiration on how to build businesses back better.

Join us on 26 May (6.30pm UK time)

The covid-19 pandemic has made the inequalities and absurdities of our current economic systems clearer than ever. Economic policies are oriented towards emergency response and meeting basic needs, and there is no longer an economic status quo available to us.

This provides an opportunity to advance the vision of a wellbeing economy, with even more urgency than before the crisis. It has never been more crucial that we focus our systems on delivering wellbeing for all.

Ten Principles to Build Back Better

The COVID-19 pandemic is having devastating effects on vulnerable communities around the world but we are also seeing glimpses of hope, where societies are working to “build back better” by ensuring basic needs and protecting our natural environment.

In a new WEAll briefing paper published today, we outline a set of ten principles for “building back better” toward a wellbeing economy. “Wellbeing economics for the covid-19 recovery”, by Milena Buchs et al, showcases examples of inspiring actions around the world that are moving us towards a wellbeing economy, along with examples of actions that are moving us away from this vision.

 

1. New goals: ecologically safe and environmentally just

Prioritise long-term human wellbeing and ecological stability in all decision-making; degrow and divest from economic sectors that do not contribute to ecological and wellbeing goals; invest in those that do; facilitate a just transition for all that creates jobs in and reskills for environmentally friendly and wellbeing focused sectors.

2. Protecting environmental standards

Protect all existing climate policy and emission reduction targets, environmental regulations and other environmental policies in all COVID-19 responses.

3. Green infrastructure and provisioning

Develop new green infrastructure and provisioning, and sustainable social practices as part of the COVID-19 recovery. For instance, transform urban space towards active travel and away from car use; scale up public transport, green energy, environmentally sustainable food production, low carbon housing; attach environmental conditionality to bailouts of high carbon industries.

4. Universal basic services

Guarantee needs satisfaction for everyone, including through health care coverage for the whole population free of charge at point of access; universal free provision or vouchers for basic levels of water, electricity, gas, housing, food, mobility, education.

5. Guaranteed livelihoods

Ensure everyone has the means for decent living, for instance through income and/or job guarantees, redistribution of employment through working-time reduction.

6. Fair distribution

Create more equal societies nationally and globally through a fair distribution of resources and opportunities. E.g. more progressive and environmentally orientated income and wealth taxation; public/common ownership of key resources and infrastructure.

7. Better democracy

Ensure effective, transparent and inclusive democratic processes at all levels; end regulatory capture from corporate interests and corruption.

8. Wellbeing economics organisations

Prioritise in all businesses and organisations social and ecological goals; implement circular economy principles to minimise resource use and waste; ensure economic and organisational democracy.

9. Cooperation

Ensure cooperation and solidarity at all levels, including in international politics and the global economy; across industrial sectors and government ministries; across scales (global, national, regional, local).

10. Public control of money

Introduce public and democratic control of money creation. Spend newly created money on investments that promote social and environmental goals and avoid post-recovery austerity.

What does building back better look like in practice?

There are already great examples around the world of governments starting to employ these principles.

The city of Amsterdam has sped up the adoption of a doughnut economics framework in response to COVID-19 to guide decision making.

New Zealand, Iceland and Scotland are already implementing wellbeing economics principles, through the formation of the Wellbeing Economy Government group, and wellbeing budgets and decision-making frameworks. These countries have also achieved better outcomes in dealing with the COVID-19 crisis.

Of course, other decision makers are opting for business-as-usual, what the WEAll Briefing paper calls a “back to worse” approach. Notably, several governments, including in the US, UK, Australia, Sweden and Denmark have bailed out airlines, without environmental conditions in response to COVID-19.

Download and read the paper for more examples under each of the ten principles of Build Back Better and Back To Worse approaches.

“Building back better” will require great creativity and coordination. Concerted effort is needed to truly value wellbeing and ecological sustainability simultaneously and for all.

New ideas are a crucial ingredient for such an endeavour. We’ve suggested the ten principles above for responding to COVID-19 – and we recognise that this is a unique moment of change. So, we invite you to engage in this discussion as we work to build back better together. Comment below with further suggestions of principles and examples for what this means where you are.

The Wellbeing Economy Alliance and the Poverty Alliance have today written to Scotland’s First Minister Nicola Sturgeon, urging her to task the recently appointed Advisory Group on Economic Recovery with putting social justice at the heart of their work.

The full text of the letter is below:

 

Dear First Minister,

Economic Recovery and Covid-19

Since the start of the Covid-19 crisis, we have witnessed in action the values that we all share. We have seen the compassion, kindness and solidarity that will be required to make it through this crisis.

But we have also seen that our economy is failing to live up to these values. Our social security system and labour market have failed to protect too many of us: particularly women, disabled people and people from black and minority ethnic communities.

It is clear that as we move through and beyond the current phase of the crisis, we must commit to redesigning our economy and systems to better reflect our shared values of compassion and justice. Instead of returning to the economy we had going into the Covid-19 crisis, we must build back better by creating a wellbeing economy that puts our collective wellbeing first.

We therefore welcome that the Scottish Government’s Covid-19: framework for decision making recognises the need to look at the “social and economic reforms necessary to achieve the best future for Scotland” and commits not to repeat the mistakes of austerity. This commitment is most welcome but must be made real. In the months ahead we urge you to maintain your ambitious climate agenda to ensure the post-Covid-19 economy is a sustainable one, and to ensure it is socially just we urge you to prioritise:

  • Building a labour market that works for everyone: Too many people, particularly women and younger people, are trapped in poverty by low-paid and insecure work. Fair Work has been central to the Scottish Government’s approach to labour market policy, but more must be done to make it a reality for workers in Scotland.
  • Designing a more just taxation system: While this crisis is impacting every person across the country, the disproportionate impact on people on low incomes has highlighted the very real consequences of our deeply unequal society. It cannot be right that the wealthiest 1% of households in Scotland own more wealth than the poorest 50% at a time when almost 1 in 4 children are living in poverty. We must inject justice and fairness into our taxation system.
  • Securing adequate incomes for all: We have seen positive steps taken by the Scottish Government as it has started to deliver social security assistance. However, Covid-19 has highlighted that this support must not only be dignified, but should help deliver an adequate income too. The Scottish Government must use its powers creatively and to their fullest extent to ensure that our social security system can keep any one of us afloat during difficult times.

Even at this moment of crisis we must begin the task of investing in a better future, to ‘build back better’, with every policy decision we make helping us move towards a just society that’s in step with our values.

We must not return to the pre-Covid 19 economy that locked so many people into poverty.

The Advisory Group on Economic Recovery must not, therefore, simply seek to replicate the unsustainable and unjust economy that went before. Instead, it must focus on the steps we can take to create an environmentally sustainable economy that ensures a just distribution of income and wealth. We urge you to task the recently appointed Advisory Group on Economic Recovery with putting social justice at the heart of their work. In doing so the Advisory Group should liaise with the Poverty and Inequality Commission and the Just Transition Commission and collaborate with existing Wellbeing Economy Governments (WEGo) partners to show leadership in creating a wellbeing economy.

This time calls on us to reflect on the kind of country we want to live in. We believe in a Scotland in which wealth is justly distributed, our life chances are not determined by how much we earn, where our labour market guarantees Fair Work for every worker, and where everyone has enough money to get by. We hope you share this vision and will take the decisions in the weeks and months ahead to make it a reality.

We would welcome an early discussion with you regarding the role of the Advisory Group, as well as the broader concerns of our members regarding the long-term social and economic reforms we require.

Yours sincerely,

Peter Kelly, The Poverty Alliance
Dr Katherine Trebeck, Wellbeing Economy Alliance

‘If we share what we already have more fairly, we can improve people’s lives right now without having to plunder the Earth for more. Fairness is an antidote to the growth imperative.’   Jon Hicks[1]

Most consumers have heard of the term ‘Fair Trade’ even if they don’t fully understand what it means[2].During the noughties the Fairtrade label became increasing prominent on our supermarket shelves, with brands such as Café Direct and Divine Chocolate– companies founded on fair trade principles – offering a range of premium, ethical hot beverages and confectionery. At the same time big global corporations such as Mondolez (Cadburys) adopted the Fairtrade certification scheme, whilst major high street retailers – Sainsbury’s, Tesco’s, M&S and even low costs names such as Lidl and Aldi – also joined the independently audited labelling initiative. It seemed that the consumer had easy access to and was choosing to make ethical purchasing decisions that put people and planet before profit margin.

Then things seemed to change. Alongside ‘ethical consumerism’ came low cost price wars between food brands and retailers as margins were squeezed. In this environment, the Fairtrade certification scheme was ditched by several significant brands and retailers in favour of cheaper ‘ethical labelling’ initiatives, including in-house labels such as Cadbury’s ‘Cocoa Life’.  Whilst arguably better than nothing, many such schemes are not independently or as vigorously audited, particularly in relation to human rights issues. In 2017 several large chains withdrew from licensing their own brands as Fairtrade due to the costs of the scheme. Overall, Fairtrade sales in the UK do (still) continue to grow and at the end of 2019 the UK household groceries sales of Fairtrade labelled products stood at nearly £798 million[3]. However, this figure represents a 5% decrease since 2017, whilst in Scotland the decrease on shopping basket sales of Fairtrade goods was 9%.  Consumer choice and visibility of ethical brands has been significantly diminished.

Meanwhile B Corps like Divine Chocolate, which turns over £16 million in sales and is 45% owned by a Ghanian farmers’ co-operative, now find the majority of its sales come from the non-UK market. Such Fair Trade Organisations have found it hard to maintain their UK market share, with major retailers ‘choice editing’ to reduce the premium offers on shelf, in anticipation of consumer demand for lower pricesAnd whilst it is commendable that low cost retailers have maintained the Fairtrade label on own brand coffee and chocolate, it’s worrying that these same companies score abysmally in independent reviews of their human rights and environmental practices, as revealed by Oxfam’s latest findings[4] .

How is this relevant to the Wellbeing Economy movement?

In an independent review of Fair Trade in Scotland carried out for the Scottish Government’s International Development division in 2019, we found  compelling arguments for closer alignment of the Fair Trade movement with WEAll’s goals. Just as the Wellbeing Economy Alliance advocates transitioning to economic models where ‘humanity defines economics not the other way round[5], so fairness and equity in trade aims to address the inequality of the world’s most marginalised communities directly suffering the consequences of richer countries’ consumption.  Fair Trade argues for an equitable trading model where social impacts take precedence over economic indicators such as GDP growth.   It is a “a multifaceted political and economic phenomenon, driving and catalysing change in the way business is done, how consumers consume and how producers produce’[6].

For those seeking to influence the conversation on more equitable economic models, efforts to achieve sustainable livelihoods for the world’s most marginalised producers, often women, cannot take second place to domestic concerns. It means advocating for wellbeing policies and fair business practices at national level and informing the way we relate to our trading neighbours internationally. Wellbeing in relation to trade has to impact on much more than governments’  international aid efforts and rather focus on the manner in which our public and private agencies procure, the rules of engagement for doing business with social enterprise (such as B Corporations and FTOs) and the prioritisation of dignified  and equitable trading relationships through EU and global trade rules.  It is not enough to use the Global Goals to interrogate a country’s domestic approach to inclusive economy, though this is a good start.

Scotland’s National Performance Framework

Scotland’s National Performance Framework[7] (NPF), has developed wellbeing indicators alongside more traditional GDP based growth measures, but it needs to view each indicator through a global lens in order to achieve real economic change. The Scottish Government’s Fair Work policy, for example, is reflected in the NPF and incorporated within a ‘Scottish Business Pledge’ to which Scottish business can subscribe.  It could be reflecting a global perspective in the way Scottish business interact with international labour markets, if it were to incorporate Fair Trade principles such as fair payment, good working conditions, no discrimination, gender equity and freedom of association into the way business is done internationally. All of these are Fair Trade principles, as can be seen in the figure below.

Graphic from International Fair Trade Charter, 2018

Using Fair Trade Principles as their ‘SDG+’ benchmark, governments aspiring to the Wellbeing Economy vision, including Scotland, can be more ambitious in challenging how their own statements about wellbeing translate into practice globally; it is not enough to speak of putting wellbeing first domestically, whilst championing business growth predicated on export and import practices which perpetrate environmental and human rights abuses.   Disrupting the status quo on the way we do business as nations requires a multi-pronged approach across education and upskilling of our workforce in public, private and third sectors; it requires serious support for ethical business models, and a recognition that as electorates we are increasingly aware of the complexities and ethical challenges of our purchasing choices and those which our Governments make on our behalf.

Pauline Radcliffe was the lead author of the Independent Review on the Future of Fair Trade in Scotland for the Scottish Government International Development division, published February 2020. This review included an interview with WEAll Scotland trustee Sarah Deas.

Header image: Comfort Kumeah, a Ghanian cocoa farmer from the Kuapa Kokoo co-operative which owns 44% share of Divine Chocolate and is led by women.  Credit to: Olivier Asselin on behalf of Divine Chocolate Ltd

 

 

[1] Hicks,J; Should we pursue boundless economic growth? Prospect magazine, 12.06.19.

[2] In Scotland 90% of those surveyed in 2016 had heard of Fair Trade; across the UK, 83% consumers stated that they would trust the Fairtrade Mark; .

[3] Kantar Worldpanel: consumer Fairtrade sales in UK and Scotland 2017 and 2019, week beginning 05.11.

[4] https://oxfamapps.org/behindthebarcodes/

[5]WEAll Scotland home page

[6] Tiffen, P. Who cares about Fair Trade? Journal of Fair Trade 1:1, 2018.

[7] Scotland’s Wellbeing – Delivering the National Outcome: Scottish Government, May 19. P.14

The Wellbeing Economy Alliance is recruiting for a freelance communications professional to join the team on a part-time, temporary basis as Communications Lead. This position is a maternity cover post, for seven months from 22 June 2020.

Click to download a PDF of the job description with full details of how to apply:

More about WEAll

WEAll is the leading global collaboration of organisations, alliances, movements and individuals working together to transform the economic system into one that delivers human and ecological wellbeing.

It is vital that collaboration and togetherness define our destination and also how we get there. The transformation required calls for an entirely different way of being within human society: a shift from “us vs. them” to “WE All”

A crucial role for WEAll is providing the connective tissue between the different elements of the movement for a wellbeing economy.

WEAll is driving forward and coordinating ambitious work to:

• Shift popular narratives around the purpose of the economy
• Synthesise and disseminate knowledge and evidence about what a wellbeing economy looks like and how we get there
• Galvanise a non-elite power base through place-based hubs and a global network of individuals and organisations.

Everything WEAll does, we do together with our members. WEAll was born out of a number of local and global movements, whose pioneering work formed the foundations of our theory of change. Now, with over 100 organisational members and over 50 renowned academics in our network, WEAll is the leading collaborative movement for economic system change.

Find out more by exploring the WEAll website. Potential candidates are encouraged to read the WEAll Vision brochure (click to download PDF).

More about the role

This is an opportunity to work with a highly motivated team committed to accelerating economic system change. A team with a set of dedicated values: Togetherness, Care, Honesty, Equality and Passion.  This is WEAll’s core ‘amplification’ (Amp) team.

The Communications Lead position offers the opportunity to lead on the management and enhancement of WEAll’s communications approach and the promotion of wellbeing economy ideas. Amplification of our vision and the work of our members around the world is critical to our theory of change.

The position is a fantastic opportunity for someone with skills and experience in strategic communications; and who wants to be part of building a better system for people and planet. You will be part of an exciting movement, working with people from all over the world who are collaborating to transform the economy.

Start date: Monday 22 June 2020

Contract type: 7-month self-employed contract with the potential to renew (maternity cover)

Fee: Up to £2,000 per month (dependent on experience) for a 0.6 FTE role (3 days per week equivalent). This figure is inclusive of all taxes for which the contractor will be responsible.

Hours of work: The nature of this role is that flexibility in hours is both required by the role (for example, there will be some evening and weekend work) but also offered by WEAll.

Location: While we encourage and welcome applications from anywhere in the world (working from home), we understand and appreciate the value of human connection. As such, our preference is to recruit for a person to be based in Glasgow [Scotland] where we can provide access to a co-working space.

What we are looking for: We are looking for an organised, flexible and highly motivated individual with demonstrable strategic communications skills, and a passion for economic system change. The focus for the role is to take the lead on WEAll’s communications strategy and delivery to drive engagement with the wellbeing economy vision amongst the public and influencing targets. The post holder must be adaptable, creative and – due to the nature of our small start-up organisation – willing and able to turn their hand to a range of tasks and projects as required.

The deadline for applications is 23:59 BST Sunday 10 May, and interviews will be carried out on Tuesday 19 May. Full details of how to apply are found in the job description (click to download)

 

To coincide with the 10 year anniversary of the publication of the Report by the Commission on the Measurement of Economic Performance and Social Progress, the Carnegie UK Trust is publishing a series of blogs which outline the approach taken to measuring and improving wellbeing by different governments, organisations and initiatives around the world.

 

 


By Kate Forbes, Cabinet Secretary for Finance, Scottish Government

Delivering wellbeing to the people of Scotland is embedded at the centre of Scotland’s National Performance Framework (NPF) and is key to the Scottish Government’s approach to the economy, which seeks to deliver wellbeing through sustainable and inclusive economic growth.

The goal and objective of all economic policy should be collective wellbeing. This broader approach is at the very heart of our Economic Strategy, published in 2015, which gives equal importance to tackling inequality as economic competitiveness.

A key limitation of traditional measures of the economy, most notably GDP, is that they are limited in what they can tell us about the distribution of income and wealth across society, the components of economic growth and whether that growth is sustainable for future generations.  Traditional measures of economic performance do not capture many of the drivers of wellbeing and the things that matter to people – for example health, living standards, quality of environment, security of employment, civic engagement and so on.

Sustainable and inclusive economic growth enables us to look beyond simple headline measures to consider outcomes across a broader range of performance criteria to allow for a more rounded assessment of the quality of our economic system and the distribution of economic opportunities across Scotland’s people and places.

Scotland, by putting wellbeing at the heart of everything we do, is on a journey and we have significant roads still to travel. There are other countries taking a similar approach to tackling some of the big defining challenges that the world currently faces. We know we can learn from international organisations and countries across the world, and share with them our experiences, which is why in 2018 Scotland and partners established the Wellbeing Economy Governments group, or WEGo as it is known.

In WEGo, the Scottish Government is working alongside Iceland and New Zealand – and in the coming year we expect to be joined by one or two new members – to promote sharing of expertise and transferable policy practices among governments who have a shared ambition of deepening their understanding of delivering wellbeing through their economic approach. Our countries have a lot of similarities but also face lots of different challenges. WEGo provides a forum to exchange ideas on our shared priorities and aims to move the idea of wellbeing economy from theory into practice.

A key activity of the group is the Economic Policy Labs, and the first of these were held in Edinburgh in May 2019. One of the areas discussed there was wellbeing budgeting. New Zealand published their first wellbeing budget in that month and their experience, and what we have learnt through our group, has informed activities both here in Scotland and in Iceland. Prime Minister Katrín Jakobsdóttir has set out that a wellbeing budget is being developed in Iceland. Here in Scotland, the budget that I presented to Parliament in February 2020 put wellbeing and fairness at its heart, prioritising actions that have the greatest impact on improving lives across Scotland now, and creating the conditions that are required to ensure wellbeing for future generations.

As Cabinet Secretary for Finance, I am keen to continue, both to collaborate with like-minded countries and to develop our own wellbeing budgeting approach for Scotland. Delivering the outcomes set out in the NPF should be at the centre of how we allocate and spend resources.

But building a wellbeing economy is not the role of government alone. Whilst governments should show leadership – and I believe the Scottish Government is already doing that, see the TED talk given by First Minister Nicola Sturgeon in July 2019 – individuals, businesses and organisations across our society have a big role to play. We are committed to working with all those seeking to advance the concept and the reality of a wellbeing economy, both now and in the years ahead.

Finally, as we see the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic globally and how it is changing people’s lives, what they value, how they work and interact with each other, a wellbeing economy framing with strong public services seems so obvious. Out of this crisis we will hopefully see a greater emergence of this approach in economies across the world.

Reposted from Carnegie UK Trust website

The Wellbeing Economy Alliance Scotland (WEAll Scotland) is looking for a Communications Assistant to provide various communication functions for our small but dedicated team. This is an exciting opportunity to support the establishment of a newly formed NGO. While this is a voluntary position all reasonable expenses incurred will be reimbursed.

About WEAll Scotland

The Wellbeing Economy Alliance Scotland (WEAll Scotland) works with a cross-section of Scottish society to support Scotland to be a key player in the global movement for a wellbeing economy. Pioneering initiatives are springing up across Scotland which demonstrate an alternative economy is possible. We aim to connect and amplify these initiatives through events and communications, and by working with partner organisations who share our vision.

About the role

This voluntary role will provide communications support on an ongoing basis to the WEAll Scotland team. This will range from managing social media accounts, to working on engagement strategies, to developing a thriving virtual community. We would hope that the post-holder would bring their own ideas and energy to the team and help develop innovative ways to communicate the idea of and case for a wellbeing economy.

We welcome applications from people from a range of backgrounds who meet the criteria outlined below and the following conditions:

  • Commit to a minimum of 7 hours per week
  • Are resident in Scotland
  • Have access to a personal computer/laptop to work with colleagues via a range of electronic platforms

For full details of the role and how to apply (deadline 30 April) download this PDF.

 

New WEAll Briefing paper published today:

‘With your support we kept going, what else were we to do?’ Linwood as a microcosm of the beginnings of a wellbeing economy (click to download PDF)

By Katherine Trebeck, WEAll Advocacy and Influencing lead with Kirsty Flannigan and Jim Boyle

For any new idea to be supported, let alone adopted, it needs to be visualised.

Sometimes that is via story telling that offers a coherent and compelling narrative. Sometimes that will be by seeing the idea played out in practice and getting a sense of what it looks and feels like.

Ideally, it will be both.

This applies to the diverse movement working to build a wellbeing economy: we need to work upwards from practical experience and outwards from conversations that open up people’s sense of the possibility that the economy can operate for, rather than against, humanity.

Rarely though (under the current economic system), is it possible to see the richness of an idea embodied in so many dimensions in one place. Fortunately, in Linwood, a town of just over ten thousand people on the outskirts of Glasgow in the United Kingdom, efforts to build what can be described as a wellbeing economy can be seen in action.

The Linwood story encompasses not just what a wellbeing economy might entail, but also why such a new economic model needs to be built, in Linwood and beyond.

In many ways, the story of Linwood reflects the story of the global economy. It has powerful actors in the form of corporate and institutional protagonists. And it has those who suffer from an economic model misaligned with what people need: local families who just want to get on with their lives and buy produce locally, play football on local pitches, share a cup of coffee together in a local cafe, and feel that the economy with which they interact is working for them.

The characters in Linwood’s story include heroic women fighting against an impersonal bureaucracy. It has heartache and triumphs, and its long history is still ongoing with the possibility of another instalment just around the corner.

Rather than telling the story of Linwood in a chronological sense, its story of the last few decades is set out here via challenges and objectives that will be familiar to those in the wellbeing economy movement around the world:

  • Deep systemic causes beyond the manifest symptoms
  • Local perseverance in resisting an imposed and inappropriate agenda, but so often coming up against power and system intransigence
  • The cultivation of business models that are designed for social benefit
  • Bottom up economic development; and
  • A bold new vision for how the economy can operate.

Together, the story of Linwood provides hope that a wellbeing economy can be built in the face of system resistance, by a few determined people with their eyes set on an economy that works for them.

Download the full paper here.

Image: Linwood CDT

This blog was originally published on the Wellbeing Economies Film website. Read it there – and find out more about the forthcoming Wellbeing Economies documentary.

By Martin Oetting

A few days ago, I had the chance to catch up with Katherine – one of the two key protagonists in our film – about her thoughts regarding our current crisis, and what it means for changing our economies. This is a summary of the things she mentioned in our call.

Corona is revealing to the wider community that its miserably paid armies of people in precarious work, hitherto dismissed as ‘low skill’, who really keep our societies going: the couriers, the nurses, the supermarket checkout staff, the care workers, the refuse collectors. They are now the ones who keep the shop open, who keep our streets clean, who deliver books and groceries to our door to help us get through lockdown. They are the ones who ensure our wellbeing these days.

Whereas the highly paid top managers are nowhere to be seen in such a terrain.

This should make us take a renewed interest in rather boring seeming and less glamorous aspects of our economy: schools, hospitals, the food industry (the so-called ‘foundational economy’). We should hold on to a new recognition of the importance of local supply chains.

And also ask ourselves new questions: what is the Care Economy really worth to us? How much do we value the “gift economy” — i.e. all the services that are provided in everyday life without payment (child supervision among neighbours, care for the elderly in the family, help here and there in the neighbourhood), which keep so much of our lives as individuals and as communities together.

And we should note that despite the vital role these things play, so many of them are not calculated anywhere in the GDP of a country.

That is why now is the time to think new thoughts and imagine a better economy post-corona than the one we had going into it. This phase of crisis enables us to ask questions and give answers that were unthinkable only a short while ago. For example, the current UK Chancellor of the Exchequer seems to be thinking — or at least there were hints of this in some of his press conferences – in terms of the rich having to carry some of the burden of the mammoth income support programmes the government is having to bring in. We’ll see where that ends up, but it would have been hard to have imagined just a few weeks ago.

The risk is that this window of possibility will close again very quickly – that a “rollback” will come as people rush to return to how things were — forgetting or ignoring how grim that was for so many and for our planet. 

There is a similar diversity in the corporate world — the wheat separating from the chaff: some companies are now putting profits aside and trying to live up to their responsibilities. One example that has caught my eye is the supermarket chain Morrisons which has promised all its suppliers that from now on they will pay all deliveries immediately, to help them with their cash flow. This is significant because supermarkets are notorious for slow payment. Another example is whisky distilleries reconfiguring their operations to produce hand sanitisers — and making it available at cost or for free to front line workers. But there are others going in the opposite direction: Amazon has fired people who didn’t dare to come to work because of Corona, a chain of pubs forcing its staff to work when the government was advising against it.

This is exactly why we must do everything we can to start creating a better world now. The opportunity is to build back better as my former colleagues working in humanitarian situations would say. 

A lot of folks have been thinking long and hard for many years — decades even — about how our economy should be. Covid-19 may have just transformed the economic and political landscape so much that these ideas get the hearing they so urgently deserve.

Dr Katherine Trebeck is Advocacy and Influencing lead for WEAll

Images: Martin Oetting

First published on Bella Caledonia

By Katherine Trebeck

History is being made by the hour. The current crisis is era-defining to that extent that we are soon likely to talk in terms of “pre-covid” and “post-covid”. The decisions being made now by those in power will ripple through the years and determine what kind of society we go on to live in.

The spread of covid-19 shines a light on our economy – its inequalities, power structures and absurdities. The opportunity is to address some of the cleavages between parts of our society by building a wellbeing economy instead of reverting to the same old structures: building back better rather than returning to business as usual.

Covid-19 means that the reality is setting in that ours is an economic system which depends on an army of low paid workers. These are the workers Guy Standing described as the ‘precariat’: without decent security in their work, let alone sufficient pay. Those on zero hour contracts in the gig economy or eking out a living as self-employed, but with little command over the rates or regularity of that work. These are the front-line staff of our hyper-flexible economy where humans are treated as just-in-time inventory just as much as oat milk for the salariat’s flat whites is. The precariat are already the first losing their hours and their jobs as business dwindles – as bars close, as people delay haircuts and as events are cancelled. Without savings, they will be amongst the hardest hit and thus compelled to go into work if the work is there – a form of economic conscription if there ever was one.

It is the precariat who drive the delivery vans keeping the salariat stocked with avocados and hand wipes, who keep the Amazon-orders flowing in, and the Uber-Eats sushi on the table. It is the precariat tending to the frail in nursing homes or stocking the shelves in supermarkets so the rest of society can fill up on necessities while self-isolating.

In contrast, many of the ‘salariat’ (or the ‘proficians’ in Standing’s lexicon) have the relative luxury of moving their work from pot-plant filled offices to online conference calls at home. Lonely? Perhaps, but without the risk of bailiffs chasing unpaid bills so long as salaries are still paid.

Covid-19 is putting into sharp relief the contrast between those with sufficient resources and ‘human capital’ to command a toe-hold in the economy and those who are simply knocked about by taps on an app and the ‘Free Next Day Delivery’ obsession.

Precarious work shouldn’t exist – work should be a route to economic security and sense of purpose. Workers shouldn’t be compelled by economic necessity to work when sick and possibly contagious. Government should do all it can to ensure workers don’t face the choice between spreading covid-19 and being kicked out of their house because they can’t pay the monthly rent or mortgage.

There is a serious risk that, with eyes firmly fixed on a return to ‘business as usual’ beyond the current situation, the first queuing up for bailouts are the very entities which should be powered down in the face of the climate emergency. Meanwhile, those that most need it are left to make do with the already frayed social safety net that masquerades as social protection in the UK these days. Around the world governments are recognising the needs of vulnerable workers – not just the vulnerable elderly. For example, Ireland is paying 203 euros a week to those who lose their job or income or who are self-employed and losing contracts for the next six weeks. The Swedish government is also paying sick pay, rather than putting it at the feet of employers and increasing the amount of cover it provides to short-time workers. Even in Australia – one of the toughest welfare regimes in the OECD – the government is paying $AUD750 tax free to those on benefits and to all pensioners.

Yet these are the sort of measures that are short term amelioration – they help take the edge off an economy that doesn’t do enough to support everyone.

They are also a sign of how far away the current scenario is from a wellbeing economy – one purposed for and hence designed in a way to deliver good lives for people first time around.

Fortunately, just as covid-19 is showing us the stark divides in our economy – between those who can readily work from their kitchen tables and those forced to deliver to them – it also is showing us the outline of a better economy – a wellbeing economy.

The economic activities most needed at times like these are not the glittering cocktail bars and massive concert venues. They are the unglamorous but necessary pillars of the foundational economy – the schools, supermarkets and hospitals that can’t threaten to up and run at the lightest change in the tax system, entities which require considerable labour input and hence offer local jobs. The places prioritising those who need them most, profit or no profit (the supermarket Morrisons’ recent effort being a good example).

Local supply chains are coming into their own as global ones are disrupted by border closures and plane groundings.

And, perhaps most beautifully, covid-19 is showing the importance of community ties and informal support – none of which will do much to boost the usual measures of economic ‘success’ in the form of Gross Domestic Product, but which undeniably will be vital in helping individuals and families survive.

Local supply chains, the foundational economy, and community support in the care economy are three of the pillars we’ll all need to get through it. They are also three pieces of the jigsaw of a wellbeing economy weall need beyond covid-19.

Communities and individuals are stepping up to the challenges presented by covid-19, recognising that we all need each other and prioritising togetherness even as we are forced to be physically apart. As the inequalities in our economic system are laid bare by this crisis, rather than returning to business as usual, countries such as the UK would be well-served to instead build back better by creating a wellbeing economy.

 

WEAll was honoured to be part of the All Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on Limits to Growth at the UK Parliament this week.

Chaired by Green MP Caroline Lucas, and convened by the Centre for Understanding Sustainable Prosperity, the APPG provides a platform for cross-party dialogue on shared and lasting prosperity in a world of environmental, social and economic limits.

This session was the group’s AGM and it had a special focus on Wellbeing Economics. Professor Tim Jackson, a WEAll Ambassador, had prepared this briefing paper on tackling growth dependency.

The paper sets out a three-fold strategy for moving beyond GDP by: changing the way we measure success; building a consistent policy framework for a ‘wellbeing economy’; and addressing the ‘growth dependency’ of the economy.

In particular, the briefing recommends:

  • a determined effort to develop new measures of societal wellbeing and sustainable prosperity;
  • the full integration of these measures into central and local government decision-making processes;
  • the alignment of regulatory, fiscal and monetary policy with the aims of achieving a sustainable and inclusive wellbeing economy;
  • the establishment of a formal inquiry into reducing the ‘growth dependency’ of the UK economy;
  • the development of a long-term, precautionary ‘post-growth’ strategy for the UK.

A packed room of MPs and peers from all political parties was addressed first by Peter Schmidt, rapporteur to the European Economic and Social Committee’s (EESC) recent ‘own initiative opinion’ on The sustainable economy we need, then by Lisa Hough-Stewart, Communications and Mobilisation lead at WEAll.

Lisa focused her remarks on the need for new economic narratives, and the role of policy makers in helping shape those narratives. Explaining the work of WEAll and its members, she also gave details of the Wellbeing Economy Governments initiative (WEGo) which has Scotland, Iceland and New Zealand collaborating towards their shared goal of promoting economies based on wellbeing.

A robust and positive discussion followed the presentations, with clear interest in wellbeing economy ideas from all attendees and encouraging suggestions for driving the agenda forward at UK level.

Caroline Lucas has raised an Early Day Motion in Parliament in support of the findings on the EESC opinion, and the principles of a wellbeing economy. It is garnering support with more MPs across the political spectrum – you can view the motion here, and if you live in the UK, share it with your MP asking them to support it.

WEAll Advocacy and Influencing lead Katherine Trebeck was recently invited to be a featured guest speaker at the latest session of the Citizens’ Assembly of Scotland, on Saturday 18 January.

The Citizens’ Assembly of Scotland (the Assembly) is a group of 100 citizens from across Scotland that are broadly representative of the country and are coming together to address the following three questions:

  • What kind of country are we seeking to build?
  • How best can we overcome the challenges Scotland and the world face in the 21st century, including those arising from Brexit?
  • What further work should be carried out to give us the information we need to make informed choices about the future of the country?

Katherine has now adapted her contribution to the Assembly into a new WEAll Ideas paper entitled “A wellbeing economy for Scotland”. You can download it here.

You can also watch the whole session on the Assembly’s Facebook page here (or below) – Katherine’s contribution starts at 30:53.

From NHS Health Scotland website

NHS Health Scotland welcomes the First Minister’s move to prioritise a wellbeing approach to Scotland’s economy.

The economy plays an important role in our health and wellbeing because we know that poverty and income inequalities are major causes of health inequalities. Redesigning the economy with equality of outcomes for all, to ensure everyone is able to participate fully in society, is fundamental to improving health and wellbeing and reducing inequalities.

NHS Health Scotland therefore supports the new Public Health Priorities, including the development of a sustainable and inclusive economy which puts the health and welfare of people and communities first. This work will continue in Scotland’s new lead agency for improving and protecting health and wellbeing, Public Health Scotland, from the 1st of April.

Gerry McCartney, Head of the Scottish Public Health Observatory, NHS Health Scotland said:

“Public health isn’t often the first thing you thing you think of when talking about the economy. But, public health in Scotland is changing and we must do things differently across all the factors that have an influence on our health.

“Living in poverty is hard and damaging to our health. Having sufficient money is one of the many things that matters to health, along with being socially connected, feeling safe and secure, living comfortably and access to sustainable services. All of these are at the centre of a wellbeing economy and are part of the inclusive right to health.

“Moving towards a wellbeing economy where health, wellbeing and people-led outcomes are the drivers for all policies is a needed shift for everyone to have a fair chance to thrive. It’s a welcome change that puts the wellbeing of people in Scotland first and GDP second. When people are well and thriving, so will the economy. ”

Sarah Deas, Trustee, Wellbeing Economy Alliance (Scotland) said:

“A wellbeing economy is one that delivers for people and planet. Our current economic system is not doing this – it is creating physical and mental health issues. We have designed the economy this way, so we can redesign it with a different purpose; that of collective wellbeing.  We welcome NHS Health Scotland’s support for systems change such that the economy delivers good lives for people first-time around, rather than requiring so much effort to patch things up.”

WEAll Advocacy and Influencing lead Dr Katherine Trebeck recently gave a powerful new talk at TEDx Munich on why the future economy has to be a wellbeing economy

Watch her talk below or on YouTube here – and share far and wide to spread the message of why we need a wellbeing economy

Image from TEDx Munchen

WEAll Scotland’s Wealth of Nations 2.0 event, held in Edinburgh last week, didn’t just energise the packed out room – it generated buzz across Scotland and beyond about wellbeing economy ideas.

Scotland’s First Minister Nicola Sturgeon delivered a groundbreaking speech where she declared that Scotland must “redefine what success means as a nation”, and endorsed the approach of the Wellbeing Economy Alliance. Along with Iceland and New Zealand, Scotland is leading the pioneering Wellbeing Economy Governments initiative. You can read the full text of her speech here.

Sturgeon’s words, and the messages of the conference, generated extensive media interest. Here’s a roundup of the coverage so far:

Have we missed some coverage? Share links in the comments below!

Photo by brotiN biswaS from Pexels

 

WEAll Scotland hosts its second large scale event – Wealth of Nations 2.0 – in Edinburgh today.

The conference will be addressed by Scotland’s First Minister Nicola Sturgeon and attended by experts and practitioners working to transform the economic system from across Scotland.

Ahead of her speech, Nicola Sturgeon has issued a clear statement that “wellbeing is as important as economic growth” and that Scotland must “redefine what success means”. Read about her commitment to building a wellbeing economy in this BBC coverage.

WEAll’s Katherine Trebeck has written in today’s Herald newspaper about the significance of the conference and the urgent need for governments and all of us to take action in order to transform the economic system. She says that “Scotland also has a role to play on the world stage, demonstrating that humanity can determine economics instead of the other way around.”

In The Times, Head of Oxfam Scotland Jamie Livingstone writes about the injustice of unpaid care, and why valuing caregivers should be a litmus test of whether we are succeeding in building a wellbeing economy. Oxfam Scotland is one of the key partners and sponsors of the Wealth of Nations 2.0 event. Earlier this week they launched important new research into the value of unpaid care in Scotland.

Keep up with the Wealth of Nations 2.0 event as it happens by following @WEAllScotland on Twitter. This page will be updated with further media coverage as it emerges.

 

What exactly is a wellbeing economy and how can we put it into practice?

What are the options and what is the path that makes sense in each particular business context?

‘The Business of Wellbeing: a guide to the alternatives to business as usual’ is a new publication launched today by WEAll. It aims to answer these questions, and to inspire decision makers at small- to mid-sized organisations to explore the wellbeing economy space.

It includes:

  • Analysis of the dimensions businesses need to deal with when trying to contribute to building a wellbeing economy, from leadership to accounting for impact;
  • Case studies of pioneering businesses to inspire what’s possible;
  • Expert views on how to navigate transformation;
  • A self-assessment tool to help decision makers plan their next steps.

The guide was created through a participatory process, with a steering group of business and wellbeing economy experts.

Ten stakeholder interviews were carried out to gather input from different solutions providers and to give us insights on challenges facing decision makers.

The guide doesn’t aim to give a complete overview of solutions – but it does shine a spotlight on a selection of those we believe could be useful on your journey.

The guide was facilitated and co-designed with SenseTribe Consulting.

Download the PDF guide here – or explore extracts in our dedicated Business of Wellbeing web portal.

Following discussions with WEAll Scotland, Sue Rule of Dunoon was motivated to write and share this beautiful new poem.

By Anna Murphy

Where does money come from? What’s the purpose of economics? What is economics? Is growth the means to an end or an end in itself? Why are there people still homeless and hungry when the world has so much wealth? Why have we developed economic and political systems which disregard nature’s power and beauty? Can we fix the system with the very tools that built it? What does ‘the system’ even mean? 

What can I, as an individual, do to create positive change? 

Welcome to WEAll Read. WEAll Read is WEAll’s new book club, a community reading and discussing books relevant to the wellbeing economy: in essence, the goal is to answer the questions above…and the many more that crop up with each new book! It’s about making economics everyone’s business, because it is too important to be left just to the experts. 

A core premise of the wellbeing economy is that economic growth must not be an end in itself: but rather a possible means to the ultimate goal of creating human and ecological health, wealth and fulfilment. This challenges a deeply embedded assumption of traditional economics: that it is a science, devoid of values. At WEAll read, we believe in the need to bring values back to economic thought, knowledge, theory and practice.

Where did it come from? 

As a recent graduate starting out with a sustainable finance project, my 2019 New Year’s resolution was to learn about sustainability and economics (and ideally to build a community with whom to chat about this slightly niche topic). It all started with a LinkedIn post. I promised wine. The Impact Economy Book Club kicked off in Edinburgh and 8 months later, we welcomed Katherine Trebeck to the local bookshop. We were so inspired by her ideas and organisation, the Wellbeing Economy Alliance, that we joined forces! It was immensely exciting to discover an organisation turning the things we were reading about into action. 

‘Together we are greater than the sum of our parts’ goes the WEAll mantra, and this collaboration felt like exactly that. 

Where is it going? 

Think hundreds of local book clubs, far and wide, with people from diverse backgrounds and disciplines coming together to learn and take action with the wellbeing economy. 

We’re up and running in Edinburgh (join this Whatsapp Group to get involved), and start in Glasgow this month. Beth Cloughton, the Glasgow organiser, is also planning a book swap and online dial-in, already showing the power of creativity! You can join their Facebook Group here

We’d love for you to get in touch if you’d like to set up either a place-based or online club, and also have a Goodreads Group for anyone to join (you can find the books we read in 2019 there).

How we are at WEAll Read

  • Brave and respectful: we listen attentively and respectfully, and challenge bravely
  • Curious and skeptical: we are open to new ideas whilst also rigorously challenging them
  • Grounded in knowledge and action: each month, we conclude our conversations by making personal intentions to take action, based on what we’ve learnt

Where we could do with some help

Challenging conversation isn’t always comfortable. A few months ago, in Edinburgh, a book club attendee criticised it for being a feminist echo-chamber: we had apparently been read too many books by females. After establishing robust argument against this critique, the whiteness and Western-ness of all the authors whose books we had read was obvious, and problematic. This is why we believe brave conversations are necessary: uncomfortable moments produce stronger arguments and reveal important blind spots.

If anyone from the wellbeing economy community has books to recommend from perspectives we might have inadvertently missed, please reach out, we would love to hear from you. 

Join us on Monday 27th in Glasgow to discuss Kate Pickett and Richard Wilkinson’s ‘The Spirit Level’ or Tuesday 28th in Edinburgh, for Naomi Klein’s ‘On Fire.’ Looking forward to some new faces!

Books we read last year: 

  • Winners Take All, Anand Giridharadas
  • Lean Impact, Ann Mei Chang
  • The Purpose of Capital, Jed Emerson
  • A World of Three Zeros, Muhammad Yunus
  • Doughnut Economics, Kate Raworth
  • The Value of Everything, Mariana Mazzucato 
  • There is No Planet B, Mike Berners Lee 
  • The Economics of Arrival, Katherine Trebeck and Jeremy Williams

Discussions so far in Edinburgh

Katherine Trebeck comes to the book club in Edinburgh 

Summary notes of The Economics of Arrival 

Summary of Discussion, The Value of Everything, by Mariana Mazzucato

Summary of Discussion: There is No Planet B 

 

WEAll’s Katherine Trebeck was a featured guest speaker at the latest session of the Citizens’ Assembly of Scotland, on Saturday 18 January.

The Citizens’ Assembly of Scotland (the Assembly) is a group of 100 citizens from across Scotland that are broadly representative of the country and are coming together to address the following three questions:

  • What kind of country are we seeking to build?
  • How best can we overcome the challenges Scotland and the world face in the 21st century, including those arising from Brexit?
  • What further work should be carried out to give us the information we need to make informed choices about the future of the country?

The session on Saturday was the Assembly’s fourth meeting, and it focused on sustainability – applying economic, social and environmental lenses to Scotland’s sustainability challenges.

Katherine was invited to address the Assembly and outline the vision of a wellbeing economy, the role of growth and WEAll’s ideas for Scotland’s future.

You can watch the whole session on the Assembly’s Facebook page here (or below) – Katherine’s contribution starts at 30:53.

Session four of weekend 3 – Sustainability: environmental, economic and social lenses. We're LIVE at 14:45.

Posted by Citizens' Assembly of Scotland on Saturday, January 18, 2020