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Bob Willard is a member of WEAll who has just recently published his first white paper. You can learn more about Bob and his work by visiting his website here

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Here are the opening paragraphs of my first white paper, “7 Bold Strokes To Save Our World.”

“We are at a pivotal point in the course of human civilization. We need to acknowledge that the system that got us into this global quagmire is not fit for our future. Let’s capitalize on this rare opportunity to truly transform global systems.

“It’s easy to criticize the status quo. There have been glaringly obvious national and global failures to mitigate our current crises effectively, let alone prepare for them. But it’s time to challenge ourselves to propose what we would do if we were in charge of the world. If we had a magic wand, what are the actions that we would immediately take to transform our world to a more resilient, just, inclusive and safe socioeconomic system?”

A 16-page paper is too long to be a blog and too short to be a book, so I decided to make it a “white paper.” According to Wikipedia, a white paper “is an authoritative report or guide that informs readers concisely about a complex issue and presents the issuing body’s philosophy on the matter. It is meant to help readers understand an issue, solve a problem, or make a decision.” That summarizes my intent perfectly.

Donella Meadows’ famous advice is that we should work on the highest leverage points in the system that we want to change. Her most effective and highest leverage point is: “The mindset or paradigm out of which the system — its goals, power structure, rules, its culture — arises.” The seven bold strokes take direct aim at the mindset / paradigm of our current global system. They are:

  1. Replace the GDP with an SDG-based GPI for governments.
  2. Mandate a multi-stakeholder wellbeing purpose for all corporations
  3. Implement SDG-based sustainable procurement
  4. Implement a fair and consistent global tax system
  5. Ensure gender equality in public and private sector leadership positions
  6. Implement a Green New Deal
  7. Reform the banking and securities systems

There are 28 specific actions within the seven bold strokes. We can all work on whichever bold strokes and actions we are closest to, have the most energy for, or have the best possibility to influence. I expect that you are already working on a couple of them, as am I.

We do not have a deficiency of understanding; we have a deficiency of bold, paradigm-shifting action. The urgency of the self-inflicted global crises gives us the courage and duty to act. Collectively, we can accomplish the necessary transformation of our global systems, in time. Let’s get on with building back better.

What do you think? Are the actions too bold, or not bold enough? Are any missing? Please feel free to add your comments, suggestions and questions using the “Leave a reply” comment box. For email subscribers, please click here to visit my site and provide feedback.

New WEAll Members, European Health Futures Forum (EHFF) and Feasta, have teamed up to deliver the Bridging the Gaps podcast series, which covers topics like:

• How best to measure wellbeing
• The politics of land
• Wealth distribution
• Diversity, both biological and cultural
• Blame, shame and compassion
• The role of digital technology in society

…..all in the context of a biosphere which is critically ill and in need of urgent care.

They recently put out a podcast episode: ‘Towards Wellbeing’, featuring David Somekh of EHFF interviewing Stewart Wallis, Chair of WEAll

The episode covers a wide range of topics, including:

  • Reasons why a large majority of people consider the current economic system to be dysfunctional
  • Five basic things that people throughout the world say they need
  • Potential for Ireland to join the WEGo Partnership (which currently consists of Scotland, New Zealand, Wales and Iceland).

Watch the podcast episode (#6) and the rest of the EHFF & Feasta’s Bridging the Gaps podcast series, here.

Earlier this month, the WEGo partnership was featured in the 2020 edition of WWF’s Nature In All Goals publication, which outlines how we can restore our relationship with nature to realise the promise of the SDGs and Leave No One Behind.

Individually, the 17 SDGs define key areas of progress for humanity. Delivered together, they will transform the world and create prosperity for all on a healthy planet.

The publication gives inspirational examples of where each of the 17 SDGs have been put into practice – ranging from Supporting Conserved by Indigenous Peoples and Communities in Myanmar to Renewable energy solutions for better health and energy security in Karachi, Pakistan.

In WEAll’s article, we discussed how to shift toward a Sustainable and Just economy – one that promotes wellbeing for all. 

Action on the SDGs in the next ten years is not possible without a fundamental transformation of our economic system.

In order to do this, WEAll’s membership has developed the 5 priorities a wellbeing economy should deliver on.

‘We All Need’:

  1. Dignity: Everyone has enough to live in comfort, safety and happiness
  2. Nature: A restored and safe natural world for all life
  3. Connection: A sense of belonging and institutions that serve the common good
  4. Fairness: Justice in all its dimensions at the heart of economic systems, and the gap between the richest and poorest greatly reduced
  5. Participation: Citizens actively engaged in their communities and locally rooted economies.

These principles guide the work of the Wellbeing Economy Governments (WEGo) partnership.

WEGo member states have achieve great successes in mainstreaming social equity and ecological restoration – in line with the SDGs:

Read all of the inspiring examples of the shift toward a wellbeing economy in the WWF’s Nature In All Goals publication, here.

Do you instinctively support the principles of Wellbeing Economics, but don’t know how you can express that in your everyday life?

Over the next four months, the Grant Rule Trust is launching a  Build Back Better webinar series, which will discuss how we rebuild ourselves and our communities after the massive impact of COVID-19 on our health and wellbeing, our social cohesion and our economy.

The first two webinars are:

23rd July, 7.30 pm BST: How Is Your New Normal Looking?

Sue Rule will look at the political and economic landscape of the UK as we start to come out of lockdown, and some of the challenges and opportunities we face in the changing world, over the coming months.

27th August, 7.30 pm BST: How To Keep Going
Improving our resilience to stress and looking after our individual wellbeing.

Visit http://grantrule.org/events/ to sign up and to view past webinars, papers and slides.

The Repair Stop, a new community repair enterprise, is opening in Glasgow on 21 July. Sophie Unwin, founder and director of the Remade Network, shares her thoughts on how community repair enterprises such as The Repair Stop can provide a model on building a greener, fairer world.

As the Remade Network launches its new, collaborative community repair project in Glasgow, Katherine Trebeck’s words resonate with me:

“The economic model that has become so dominant is called all sorts of things: neoliberal, market fundamentalist, overly financialised, extractive, and toxic. What it is called doesn’t matter so much as how it has strangled our imaginations and our sense of possibility.”

We know the scale of the challenge that we face in our world is huge. Oppression, inequality, waste, and pollution are in every corner. Headed in one direction, it looks like an inevitable move to a certain dystopia – where we blindly consume and compete instead of sharing resources and showing empathy to each other.

As bad as things could get, it perhaps allows us to dream big of a better world that we would like to see. But for those of us – like me – who have reached our middle age, our hopes are inevitably tempered with a sense of realism. We have heard new ideas and slogans come and go, from sustainable development to the triple bottom line. And we know that real change can be hard won, as it speaks of shifts to the status quo.

Could a wellbeing economy offer us something new?

“As bad as things could get, it perhaps allows us to dream big of a better world that we would like to see.”

For me, building an economy based on repair skills – the work I’ve carried out over the last 12 years, which has grown from London to Edinburgh and now Glasgow – chimes closely with what the Wellbeing Economy Alliance advocates. This is a regenerative economy, one that prevents waste at its source rather than just recycling materials; a collaborative economy where we work with other community groups and Glasgow City Council; and a business model with purpose and shared values at its heart.

In January this year, we started work in earnest with five other organisations: Govanhill Baths Community Trust, Repair Café Glasgow, Glasgow Tool Library, The Pram Project, and Glasgow City Council. Meeting each fortnight, we developed a collaborative business plan, for which the City Council granted us a social enterprise start-up grant.

Then came COVID-19.

With no social contact allowed, we started meeting online and had to pivot our plans. But we also had space to share ideas, discuss our values, and reflect on what was really important to us. From April, Remade Network has grown from three members of staff to seven, and this July we open our new project – The Repair Stop.

Based at Govanhill Baths’ Deep End on Nithsdale Street in Govanhill, The Repair Stop will offer affordable repairs, priced at £5 or £10, and accept donations of unwanted laptops, phones, tablets, and prams that we will fix, redistribute, and sell on.

And, thanks to contracts with both Glasgow City Council and the Scottish Government, we will be distributing 500 desktop computers to vulnerable people across the city. People like Mohamed from the Somali Association, who will ensure the computers help people find jobs, access basic services, and stay in touch with their families. And people like Elaine, a single mum whose son, Maxwell, has struggled to do his schoolwork since COVID, as they don’t have a working computer at home.

The C-40 Cities Climate Leadership Group have recently published some principles about a green recovery, and some of these speak to the project:

  • Excellent public services, public investment, and increased community resilience will form the most effective basis for the recovery
  • The recovery must address issues of equity that have been laid bare by the impact of the crisis
  • The recovery must improve the resilience of our cities and communities

Equity and resilience are so vital here. It is the people who consume the least who are most impacted by pollution and environmental problems. But it is also those people, and poorer communities, who often hold a wealth of creativity and ideas. Poorer communities are already used to being resourceful and resilient.

As the Aboriginal leader Lilla Watson says, “If you have come here to help me, you are wasting your time, but if you have come because your liberation is bound up with mine, then let us work together.”

Moving away from extractive to regenerative economies also means valuing indigenous knowledge, the skills and ideas that are already in place when we come to start work on a new project. Without this basic attitude of respect and curiosity, how can we achieve anything meaningful?

We firmly believe that repair can help us build a better world post-COVID and help regenerate forgotten places. It values and draws on people’s skills and creativity, as each repair is different, and it creates new jobs – repairing creates 10 times as many jobs as recycling. Finally, it brings people together and helps build community. Repair is not a new idea, but it is one whose time has come.

As the Wellbeing Economy Alliance reminds us, “Humanity defines economics, not the other way around.” In many ways, this could be a motto for social enterprise as a whole – business and profit is not the end in itself, but a means to harness our core values and create a better world.

You can visit the Repair Stop at 21 Nithsdale Street in Glasgow, open 12-2pm Monday to Saturday, from 21 July, for repairs of household items and to donate unwanted and broken laptops, phones, tablets and prams. For more information, email repair@remade.network, visit www.remade.network, or follow @remadenetwork on Twitter and Facebook.

(Photography credit: Hollin Jones)

Wellbeing Economy Alliance (WEAll) Scotland is seeking to recruit three or four trustees from a variety of backgrounds to join our board and drive forward our work to support positive change.

You will be passionate about the need for economic system change, and you will have a good understanding of the issues facing our economy, society, and natural environment. You should be confident that you can make a valuable contribution to our work and comfortable with working at board level.

The board plays a vital role setting WEAll Scotland’s strategy, overseeing a small core team and the projects that we deliver as well as acting as ambassadors of the charity. Trustees will be appointed for an initial period of up to 3 years with potential for extension. The commitment required is a minimum of one day per quarter (attending board meeting and preparation), but we would also expect trustees to take an active role and interest in the charity beyond attending meetings – for example, by attending public events on behalf of WEAll, providing some project oversight, and taking on pieces of work for and on behalf of the board.

We are particularly looking for trustees with fundraising, organisation building, legal expertise, and governance experience.

There is no remuneration; however, all necessary travel and accommodation expenses will be reimbursed. Previous board experience is not a requirement.

We aim at all times to recruit the person who is most suited to the job and welcome applications from people of all backgrounds – men and women, people of all ages, sexual orientations, nationalities, religions and beliefs.  However, we particularly encourage applications from women, disabled, and Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic (BAME) candidates, as these groups are underrepresented on boards in Scotland.

If you feel you have the passion, experience, and commitment, please send a cover letter setting out why you are interested in the role and your CV to scotland@wellbeingeconomy.org

The closing date for applications is 24th July 2020.

Background:

The Wellbeing Economy Alliance (WEAll) is a new global collaboration of organisations, alliances, movements, and individuals working together to change the economic system to create a wellbeing economy: one that delivers human and ecological wellbeing.  At a time when a global pandemic has caused deep social, economic, and environmental shocks, many people are radically rethinking the kind of future they want. There has never been a more important time to be part of the work to build an economy that works for people and planet, internationally and here in Scotland.

Scotland is a key player in the global movement for a wellbeing economy. Across Scotland, the purpose of the economy and the dominant model of growth is being reconsidered, with pioneering projects springing up within different sectors. WEAll Scotland will connect these initiatives, amplify narratives and create a safe space for government, businesses, and society to question the current economic model and champion bold new policies.

Visit https://wellbeingeconomy.org/scotland to learn more.

Our WEAll member, the Post Growth Institute, recently shared a fantastic article on how we can reprogram our economic operating system to ensure a sustainable future – by adopting an indigenous worldview.

The United Nations estimates that indigenous territories cover approximately 20 percent of the Earth’s landmass. This 20 percent landmass stewarded by indigenous peoples amazingly contains 80 percent of the world’s remaining biodiversity.

The indigenous worldview has been marginalised for generations because it was seen as antiquated and unscientific and its ethics of respect for Mother Earth were in conflict with the Industrial worldview … But now, in this time of climate change and massive loss of biodiversity we understand that the indigenous worldview is neither unscientific nor antiquated, but is, in fact, a source of wisdom that we urgently need.

As the article explains, we can adjust or un-choose. Read about the two adjustments in our worldview that can help us work toward a more sustainable economy – and world.

By: Lisa Boll, ZOE Institute for future-fit economies

ZOE, the Institute for Sustainable Economies, is a non-profit think & do tank. Together with politics, science and civil society, ZOE develops trend-setting impulses for the fundamental questions of a sustainable economy.

COVID-19 has revealed the deep-rooted vulnerabilities of our current socio-economic system. “Business as usual” cannot guarantee sustainable prosperity on a healthy planet for all citizens. Relaunching the economy with the usual tools and policies won’t create the just transition we need.

This is a crucial moment to steer economic transformation towards structural resilience: enabling economies to be in a stronger position to absorb and recover from future shocks. It’s time to implement new policies that are fit for a just future. This means a shift away from structural dependence on the ‘growth paradigm’ and the use of GDP as the ultimate measure of success for policy decisions.

To tackle this challenge, today, the ZOE Institute has launched a new interactive website that offers a toolbox for ‘future-fit’ policymaking – which leads towards a sustainable, wellbeing economy.

Background Information: in-depth knowledge on different growth dependencies & strategies to overcome GDP-reliant economic frameworks, based on Kate Raworth’s Doughnut Economics.

Interactive Policy Database: The website features a state of the art, open-access policy database for sustainable prosperity, with over 200 transformative policies in the realm of employment & income, the environment, money & finance, and many more.

Users simply selected specific goals and objectives, and the interactive database displays relevant policy strategies for each topic, giving users concrete tools to work for a just and sustainable future for all.

Evidence-based Argumentation Strategy: Along with the policy database, the website features an interactive reflection game, which helps policymakers enhance arguments in favour of progressive policymaking, based on insights from scientific studies.

Visit www.sustainable-prosperity.eu to explore the vast interactive, open-access policy database and join a network of progressive thinkers across Europe.

By Lisa Hough-Stewart

The surge of the Black Lives Matter movement in the aftermath of George Floyd’s murder is calling the conduct of police forces into focus around the world.

What is the purpose of policing – and what should it be in a wellbeing economy? Fundamentally, policing should be about serving the communities to ensure every resident feels safe. As with so many other sectors of society, our economic and political systems tend to position policing as cleaning up or dealing with problems rather than proactively creating the type of environment where we can all thrive (check out the WEAll Old Way to New Way resource for more examples like this).

This is the principle of failure demand – and when it is culturally endemic within institutions like police forces, the worst ramifications are rampant discrimination and brutality, as we’ve seen far too often in recent years.

As communities across the US and beyond contemplate meaningful police reform, one successful case study is gaining prominence. In Camden, New Jersey, a historically violent city, Camden, New Jersey,  the police force has been rebuilt from the ground up with community cohesion and de-escalation as its priorities. According to this PBS report (watch below), “the new procedures aim to bring police into closer face-to-face interactions with the people they serve in order to foster good relationships.”

From my vantage point in Glasgow, Scotland, this case study makes me think of the success in recent years of reducing violent crime in my city by treating it holistically as a public health issue. Once the “murder capital of Europe”, the work of the Violence Reduction Unit has seen homicides and violence rates drop drastically since 2005.

The Scottish Government states upfront that it works to “tackle the causes of violence, not just the symptoms“. This is the approach to policing needed in building wellbeing economies – as set out by the Defund the Police movement in the US.

The police abolition movement has a long history, but for many it is coming to prominence only this year in light of current events in America. Fundamentally, it calls for funds and resources to be reallocated from policing in its current form to other services including public health, youth work and community support.

The example of Camden, New Jersey shows that “defunding the police” and building back better can really work. Centring wellbeing in any new police strategy has to involve a systemic approach to reform. Unless any new approach is deliberately, proactively, anti-racist the old problems are bound to continue.

 

By Denisha Killoh, WEAll Scotland

This piece was originally published by The Herald on 9 June 2020

The barbaric murder of George Floyd has sparked a surge in global outrage at the violence and racism people of colour are forced to endure. What began as an aversion to an untimely death has rapidly spread to become a mass movement across country boundaries.

As the whole world navigates the repercussions of a pandemic together, the sense of community amongst local citizens has been invigorated. The extrajudicial killing of George Floyd has contextual significance as citizens everywhere are beginning to scrutinise their own establishments to demand a systemic revolution.

This fight against the injustice inflicted on black communities resonates deeply with me as a woman of colour in Glasgow. My family emigrated to Scotland as part of the ‘Windrush generation’. At first the diversity this generation of immigrants brought was celebrated as their talents were deployed to fill the shortages in the post-war labour market. People of colour played a crucial role in reviving the British economy and restoring harmony to society. Yet, the 2018 Windrush scandal unearthed rife systemic racism. The introduction of the UK government’s hostile environment policy led to an abundance of BAME British citizens being wrongly deported disregarding their lifelong contribution to society.

I spoke to family members living in Scotland and a friend who lives in England about their direct experiences of racism. Although there is a generation gap, they voiced harrowingly similar stories about the impact of racism on their aspirations and self-esteem.

My friend told me that for as long as she can remember, she’s felt inferior due to her race. She spoke of repeatedly suffering at the hands of strangers who hold negative views towards “people like her” stating, “my whole life people have said to me that as a black woman, I have to work twice as hard as my white friends just to show I have the same abilities”.

One of my family members spoke of a time where she had been made to feel unwelcome at work. A colleague said to her, “you come here to take our jobs and what’s worse is that you are black”. They discussed the constant struggle to be heard and respected because of the inherent assumption that they were “dumb and incapable” due to their skin colour.

The world faces an ultimatum; we can either #BuildBackBetter or go #BacktoWorse in the recovery from COVID-19. The pandemic and the symbolic case of George Floyd have revealed how entrenched our current systems are with inequality as they breed injustice and exist in conflict with the interests of BAME communities.

We have the opportunity to create wellbeing economies that prioritise long-term human health and ecological sustainability. It’s no coincidence that the #BlackLivesMatter movement is gaining such momentum in the wake of the pandemic: it is a unique moment to ensure that those who have historically been marginalised can have a leading role in rebuilding our economy and wider society.

In repurposing our systems to have compassion at their core, we must proactively confront systemic racism by radically transforming institutional practice to be in service of black lives, not at war with them.

I’d like to thank my Grandma Carmina and my friend Marta for bravely sharing their invaluable experiences of systemic racism. The way in which they have maintained their determination and strength in spite of lifelong discrimination is my biggest inspiration.

We must #SayTheirNames and honour the legacy of those taken from us too soon and create a world that is radically different, truly valuing black life.

Ahmaud Arbery

Belly Mujinga

Breonna Taylor

Eric Garner

George Floyd

Mark Duggan

Michael Brown

Rashan Charles

Sandra Bland

Sarah Reed

Sheku Bayoh

Shukri Abdi

Stephen Lawrence

Tamir Rice

Trayvon Martin

 

Header image: Photo by Kelly Lacy from Pexels

Blog by Kristin Vala Ragnarsdottir, WEAll Ambassador and Professor of Sustainability Science at the University of Iceland

June 2, 2020

A few years ago a  guy called me up in Iceland and asked: “Why do the leftists own the environment?“  My answer was: “They do not but they have taken environmental issues to the forefront of their politics.  All parties should do that.“ He went on to found the Right Green Party which never took foothold in Icelandic politics.  But it was a step in the right direction.   Healthy environment and sustainability is tantamount for everyone’s wellbeing.

I was party to a similar discussion in an international WhatsApp group recently:  “Why is it that left-wing governments are promoting the wellbeing agenda?  In doing so it will be rejected by those to the right in politics.“

My response was: “In Iceland there is a broad political base behind the new wellbeing policy which has a focus on prosperity and quality of life and is aligned with the UN Sustainable Development goals.“

Our Prime Minister is from the Left Green Movement, but her coalition government encompasses the whole political spectrum – with the Independence Party (conservative right wing) led by Bjarni Benediktsson who is Minister of Finance and and Economic Affairs, and  the Progressive Party led by Sigurður Ingi Jóhannesson and is Minister of Transport and Local Government.

This broad based coalition government agreed the Wellbeing policy agenda in April 2020.  It has 39 wellbeing indicators that are to be collected and followed by Statistics Iceland.  This is very important when considering what may happen in the next election – when the Left Greens may no longer lead the government.  Then the wellbeing agenda is already engrained in policy with civil servants and public institutional support.

What about the other countries in the Wellbeing Economy Governments partnership?

In Scotland, the wellbeing economy agenda is being supported and followed by the National Performance Framework (NPF) which was presented to the Scottish Parliament by the First Minister Nicola Sturgeon. Sturgeon is from the Scottish National Party (SNP) – which is considered to be a centre-left party and wants Scotland to become independent and and have closer ties with Europe and the EU.

Importantly, the NPF was passed unanimously with support from all five political parties in the Scottish Parliament.  Again, with this broad base of support in parliament the wellbeing economy agenda has a chance to survive if the next elections do not return the SNP as the leading party.

In New Zealand, the Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern set the first wellbeing budget world-wide in May 2019 with a central question – how well are our people? The focus is on five priority areas where evidence indicates greatest opportunities to improve the lives of New Zealanders.  The PM´s political party is Labour (left).  Labour is in a coalition government with the New Zealand First Party (right wing) and the Green Party (left wing).  This again, is a broad-based political coalition, giving strength to the wellbeing agenda.

Scotland, Iceland and New Zealand are all members of WEGo – the Wellbeing Economy Governments partnership – which is an offspring of WEAll.  A new member has just joined WEGo – Wales.  The First Minister of Wales is Mark Drakeford and he leads the Labour (left wing) government in Wales.  Wales has had the Wellbeing of Future Generations Act since 2015 that has seven wellbeing goals.  Therefore the wellbeing agenda is firmly in Welsh policy – and has been set in law for five years.

The Wellbeing Economy agenda is therefore neither left wing nor right wing.  It is for us all, so that all people and our planet can prosper.  Now that governments across the globe are finding their feet to lead their nations out of the COVOD-19 health and economic crisis – let us remember that pandemics hit us all, wherever we stand in politics. We also know that we cannot go back to business as usual.

In the worlds of professor Frank Snowden, a historian:  “By creating the myth that we could grow our economy exponentially and infinitely, by almost 8 billion people living on earth, excessive travel, environmental pollution, by pushing back nature more and more, we created almost ideal conditions for the coronavirus to emerge, spread and hit us especially hard.“

Let us join hands across political spectrums and make the Wellbeing Economy the new economy for the 21st century.  Would you like to learn more? Then see the WEAll ten principles of Building Back Better.

By Robert Costanza

First published by Solutions

The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic has focused attention on human health in the short term. How do we slow the spread of the virus and contain the damage? It has also revealed the dependence of the global economy on long supply chains and high demand for services.  The likelihood of a global economic crisis caused by the virus is high.  Governments around the world are putting in place emergency stimulus packages aimed at preventing this, but we may be missing the real lessons the crisis has to teach.

The first is that human health and sustainable wellbeing should be the real goals of our increasingly interlinked and interdependent economic, social, and natural systems. The headlong pursuit of GDP growth at all costs has blinded many countries to the other factors that contribute to sustainable wellbeing and the hidden costs of GDP addiction.  Countries are investing massive amounts to keep GDP from falling in the short run, while ignoring the fact that GDP was never designed to measure societal wellbeing and is an increasingly poor guide to real progress. The vast majority of GDP growth is now going to the top 1% of the population and growing inequality is having severe negative effects on community wellbeing.  People who are just scraping by cannot afford health care and cannot afford to miss work, even when they are sick. This is a major issue during the current COVID-19 crisis.  It should be obvious that a more equitable distribution of income and wealth and a stronger social safety net would help control future pandemics and would also improve sustainable human wellbeing at all times.

The other major problem with our blind pursuit of GDP growth is that it ignores the damages to our ecological life support system that our current approach to growth causes.  Climate disruption is only the best known of these.  Natural ecosystems provide non-marketed benefits that support sustainable human wellbeing in a complex variety of ways, including flood and storm protection, water supply, recreation, carbon sequestration, and many others.  The value of these services globally has been estimated to total $US 125 trillion in 2011, significantly larger than global GDP at the time.  In addition, we are losing $US 20 trillion a year of ecosystem services due to changes in land use and mismanagement, including desertification, loss of wetlands and coral reefs, deforestation, flooding, and bushfires.

To address these problems, we need a fundamental shift in our economic paradigm and our approach to development.  We need an economy and society based achieving sustainable wellbeing with dignity and fairness for humans and the rest of nature. This is in stark contrast to current economies that are wedded to a very narrow vision of development – indiscriminate growth of GDP that is not shared and has severe negative side effects.

A wellbeing economy on the other hand is embedded in society and the rest of nature. It must be understood and managed as an integrated, interdependent system of social relations that pursues balance and prosperity, rather than the maximization of production and consumption. It is an economy that values both social and natural dimensions as fundamental components of national wealth and as critical factors in determining wellbeing.

Wellbeing is the outcome of a convergence of factors, including good human mental and physical health, equitable access to government and community institutions, racial and social justice, good social relationships and a flourishing natural environment. Only a holistic approach to prosperity can achieve and sustain wellbeing. A system of economic governance aimed at promoting wellbeing will therefore account for all the impacts (both positive and negative) of economic activity. This includes valuing goods and services derived from a healthy society (social capital) and a thriving biosphere (natural capital). Social and natural capital are part of the commons. They are not (and should not be) owned by anyone in particular, but instead belong to everyone and make significant contributions to sustainable wellbeing.

Transformative change often happens when a crisis opens the door. Can we use the COVID-19 crisis to confront the questions now being asked of the current system, which has caused ongoing economic, financial, social, and ecological problems?  To make this transformation we need to galvanize a critical mass and promote tested alternatives that can achieve our common goals. In order to achieve the transformation to the new economy and society we all want, we need to work together as a unified front. The new Wellbeing Economy Alliance (WEAll) is designed to help facilitate that transformation.

WEAll is a global movement of individuals and organizations coalescing around the need to shift economies away from a narrow focus on marketed goods and services (i.e. GDP) to one more broadly focused on sustainable wellbeing. These include activists, NGOs, academics, governments, and entrepreneurs of various types from around the world. There are many espoused versions of these basic ideas using different approaches and languages, but sharing a common goal.  The United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) are an important step in articulating this common goal. The challenge is to acknowledge, harmonize, and amplify these many initiatives, while allowing a diversity of language to communicate with a variety of audiences.

The ongoing COVID-19 crisis may have a silver lining if it opens the door for the long overdue transition to a world focused on the sustainable wellbeing of humans and the rest of nature – the world we all want.

Robert Costanza is a WEAll Ambassador, and Chair of Public Policy at the Crawford School of Public Policy, Australian National University. He has authored or coauthored over 350 scientific papers, and reports on his work have appeared in Newsweek, U.S. News and World Report, The Economist, The New York Times, Science, Nature, National Geographic, and National Public Radio.

[vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text] By Katherine Trebeck (WEAll) and Peter Kelly (The Poverty Alliance)

First published by Bella Caledonia

 

 

This year started with masks and it is likely to end with masks.

As Scottish people woke up on Hogmanay morning, Australians were going to bed to the latest news of the bushfires spreading across the east coast of the country, taking people’s homes, wildlife and acres and acres of native vegetation with them.

In Australia’s capital city, Canberra, the rolling hills surrounding it meant smoke from nearby blazes settled in the city streets, endangering the lungs of locals. Many went out to buy masks and the ones of apparently high enough spec to filter out the carcinogenetic particles quickly sold out.

And now multiple governments are telling their citizens that wearing masks is part of the steps they need to take to control the transmission of covid-19, part of the so-called ‘new normal’ we’re all going to have to fall into step with.

And as lockdown measures are slowly, hesitantly wound back, attention is being turned to how economies can recover from one of the biggest kicks in the guts it is possible to imagine: workers and customers being told to stay home.

The stakes are high – people have lost jobs, businesses are no longer viable, and personal and government debts have stacked up. Emergency measures cannot continue indefinitely – in due course the direction is going to have to be set for the post-covid economy.

What covid-19 revealed was that the economy of pre-covid days was one that stood on the shoulders of an army of low paid workers eking out a livelihood in very precarious work. The early stages of lockdown revealed that what kept communities ticking over was the foundational economy, local supply chains, and the generosity and kindness of neighbours helping each other get by.

What will ensure Scotland builds back better? Certainly not reverting business as usual – in fact, that will be impossible, what is more likely is a more toxic economic model than the one of pre-covid days. So instead, what is necessary is a proactive, concerted effort to use all the levers the Scottish government has to create a wellbeing economy: one that delivers social justice on a healthy planet.

Scotland has already created of the mechanisms that can enable this – they’ve just been underutilised. Now is the time to breathe life into them, doubling down on the timid steps already being taken rather than ditching them with a misplaced deference to old way of doing things which didn’t require too much prodding to be revealed as inadequate.

Here are some examples:

  • Conditionality needs to be the name of the game in government support for businesses. Some businesses merit public funds because they are the sort of enterprises that can play a part in building a wellbeing economy. Some won’t and thus don’t. No business that is unable to demonstrate its relevance to the wellbeing economy agenda should be in line for public funds. But in making that real, fortunately the Scottish Government has a Business Pledge, sitting on the shelf quietly that could be bolstered and used as a lens through which to evaluate the requests for help. The work of Scottish Enterprise constitutes another nascent move that needs more oomph: nurturing more inclusive business models into existence and the 2019 shift in strategy to making ‘job-related grants contingent on fair work practices, including job security and payment of the real living wage’.
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  • But in contrast to businesses, all people merit public support when the chips are down. So reskilling is needed to help people reposition themselves in a profoundly changed economic landscape. But not just reskilling but providing a backstop so people don’t slip too far as they step into the new reality, via robust social protection. Making permanent the improved resources made available through the Scottish Welfare Fund would be positive, but significantly increasing Child Benefit using Scotland’s scope to top up reserved benefits would provide the cushion that many families have been lacking in recent weeks.
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  • Communities know what needs to be done: how their localities need to change and what sort of economy will be in service of that. So perhaps the best role of a post-covid state is to underwrite community-led solutions? Again, there are the glimmers of existing practice to build on – not least in the form of the Climate Challenge Fund. Ramping up such initiatives will ensure the activities that emerge as lockdown is lifted are those aligned with sustainability and community need.
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  • Jobs themselves need to be redesigned – to deliver decent pay (it beggars belief that two in five care workers did not earn the real Living Wage as the corona crisis set in) and to distribute the available paid work more fairly across people who want it. The Scottish Government can encourage this through support for those firms that embrace employing more people rather than working fewer staff harder. For example, business rates could be recalibrated, subsidies and procurement could be better aligned with certain business practices, and basic bread and butter encouragement of necessary practices all matter.
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  • Covid-19 and the economic disruption it has brought is no reason to put dealing with environmental breakdown on the backburner – in fact, it makes the need even more stark if the likes of Covid-32 and Covid-97 are to be kept at bay. Again, Scotland has the beginnings to build on: ambitious climate targets and the work of the Just Transition Commission to map a way to support communities while powering down those industries incompatible with a low carbon economy. The very existence of Zero Waste Scotland is something to celebrate – a post-covid economy needs to be a circular one. The just transition agenda needs to be at the heart of economic and social policy making as Scotland seeks ways to move into a new economic era without people being left on the wayside.
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  • Other mechanisms that offer the means to bring about the sort of changes needed, were they just to be drawn on with more vigour, include the Sustainable Procurement duty, the Community Empowerment Act, and the community wealth building efforts. Community wealth building in particular, when combined with the efforts to bolster the population of inclusive business models flagged above, constitutes an important way to ‘get the economy to do more of the heavy lifting’ – or predistribute – resources in a way that is fairer than current circumstances allow.
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  • The Citizens Assemblies – for example on Scotland’s future and on climate change – are examples of the sort of robust, deliberative mechanisms to distil and develop the views of people in Scotland. With the First Minister talking of having an ‘adult conversation’ about responding to covid-19, the test will be the extent to which they feed into policy decisions and become a core part of decision making strategy.

The goal of a wellbeing economy has been set in the National Performance Framework, the creation of WEGo, the First Minister’s TED talk, and the rhetoric about the February budget being a wellbeing budget (a dubious claim, but the sentiment counts for something).

If the NPF can be used more concertedly to guide the objectives of policy making and accountability of policy making, then the economy coming out of covid will begin to be one that could be described as a wellbeing economy.

If the learnings from others can be harnessed via WEGo and if the bold statements in the First Minister’s TED talk create space for civil servants wanting to be part of the transformation necessary, then the economy coming out of covid will begin to be one that could be described as a wellbeing economy.

And if next year’s budget truly is a wellbeing budget – featuring long term goals, cross-departmental collaboration, with an outcome focus and attending to root causes of wellbeing deficits – then the economy coming out of covid will begin to be one that could be described as a wellbeing economy.

And that brings us to the task force set up to guide the government on economic recovery post-covid. Others have raised an eyebrow at its composition and lack of unusual suspects (and, dare we point out, the lack of expertise on addressing poverty and ways to bolster Scotland’s renewable sector, let alone an economic system change expert). This is surely an own-goal – diversity will enable better ideas. But not wanting to judge it prematurely, its merit will depend on the extent to which it discards outdated recipes, recognises the dual goals of social justice and sustainability and that the best initiatives deliver on both fronts to deliver collective wellbeing for current and future generations.

Scotland has the talk and the templates for building a wellbeing economy. There are tentative moves in the direction of what is necessary. Now is not the time to turn away from them. Now is the time to breathe life into them, roll them out, scale them out and up in order to build back better.

Katherine photo credit: Martin Oetting

Peter photo credit: Maverick photo agency[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row]

By Aima Ahmed

People are the economy, so let’s put them at its heart

Increasing the wellbeing of people is a more worthwhile goal to pursue than economic growth. To truly move towards a wellbeing economy, we need to fundamentally change the way we think about people and the economy.

We live in a fast-paced, interconnected and sophisticated era with information available in real time at our fingertips, access to markets unbounded by geography and technology that has exponentially improved our lives.

This is the peak of civilisation and the productivity puzzle is indicative of that- we just don’t know what more to do to increase economic growth, so in a way, this is a success.

And yet the virus has brought everything to a halt and frenzy. Something that isn’t even visible to the eye has forced us to stay at home to reduce the spread of the virus.

It looks like the universe is trying to humble us and make us question our illusion of strength and blind reliance on current capitalist systems that increase inequality at unprecedented rates. Or maybe it’s just a reminder of the national and global socioeconomic inequalities that have exacerbated the way that people are able to cope with the consequences of the virus.

Why worry about the economy when people are dying?

Amidst this health crisis, people are worried about the economy and what its downturn means for them- it’s not an unfounded fear as interest rates are lower than they’ve been for a while (fiscal stimulus that predicts less public spending which is what happens during a recession), small businesses are at the brink of collapse (or have already) and a staggering number of people have applied for welfare in the UK compounded by the perils of being an indebted nation borrowing to consume.

So, fears of economic prospects aren’t much different in principal from fears of the pandemic effecting the health and wellbeing of people.

This is the case particularly for the socio-economically marginalised such as people belonging to Black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) communities, women and those that live in poverty as these are the people that are already disadvantaged by health, housing and labour market inequalities. Striking evidence of the disproportionate impact on BAME communities has called for the government in the UK to launch a review to investigate, which is welcome but it’s a shame that these inequalities have gotten to this point in the first place.

In developing countries, there is fear that hunger fuelled by poverty will cause further deaths as a result of social distancing and lockdown for example in Pakistan where the Prime Minister has called for support from global leaders to create a fiscal response.

This pandemic has brought the dark side of free markets to the forefront.

Now that the economy wheel has nearly stopped turning, we can see who actually keeps it moving- it’s the underpaid and undervalued ‘key workers’ that hold up society, not the workers in the finance sector that make up a greater proportion of GDP than the value they give to society.

This is the problem that emerges when we lose sight of what is important — in this case we’ve become obsessed with economic growth when we should be more focused on creating an economy that increases wellbeing.  After all, economic growth should only be seen as a means to achieve wellbeing. There has been an improvement in measuring wellbeing, but GDP is still the dominant measure of success, which can be misleading.

This misguided obsession has got us thinking of the economy as separate from people.

Now that austerity has been shamed and we know that Thatcherism was driven more by ideology than good economics, it’s time to shift the narrative from economic growth to an economy centred around the wellbeing of people as argued by Nobel prize winning economists Banerjee and Duflo in their book Good Economics for Hard Times.

We should aim for a wellbeing economy, no matter how messy and uncomfortable, as supported by the Wellbeing Economy Alliance. The Alliance defines it as an economy where ‘humanity should determine economics, not the other way around’ and calls for the economy to deliver ‘an equitable distribution of wealth, health and wellbeing, while protecting the planet’s resources for future generation and other species.’

Economic growth may have been a good short-term goal post war in terms of rebuilding damaged economies, but times are different now and goals should evolve and follow Iceland, Scotland and New Zealand in creating a wellbeing economy.

The economy is the people.

It is the doctors and nurses on the frontline, it is the delivery drivers that distribute resources to where they are needed (more tangible than the invisible hand), it is the teachers that educate the next generation and it is the carers that provide childcare and elderly care.

But thanking these people is not enough, we need to do right by people by paying people for their work in proportion to the value that they add in society and in doing so, acknowledging how much good they do for our wellbeing.

The economy is also the people who are not key workers and are sitting at home unable to work given the lockdown, likely causing an inevitable contraction in GDP to stop the spread of the virus – so, we can see clearly than ever before that the economy is the people and that population health cannot and should not be separated from that.

The economy is also global.

Global inequalities mean that developing countries are more likely to suffer the consequences of this pandemic, even though the epicentre of the outbreak is the developed world. According to Oxfam, ‘More than half a billion more people could be pushed into poverty unless urgent action is taken to bail out poor countries affected by the economic fallout from the Covid19 pandemic’.

This pandemic has revealed that we are interdependent as countries and institutions have come together to help each other mitigate the effects of this pandemic, which started in just one corner of the world.

The Home Office extending visas for medical staff  is an example that we as a human race are dependent on one another and that when one faction of society suffers, we all suffer.

Given the interconnection and interdependency, it is in the interest of the wellbeing of nations to work together to solve problems and this should not be forgotten when it is time to deal with the aftermath of this pandemic.

Now really isn’t the time for nationalistic responses to this global economic downturn, especially in terms of the support that poorer nations receive — global solidarity is needed to solve global problems. 

So, let this be a time of thinking and rethinking, learning and unlearning, designing and redesigning a society using economics that puts people at its heart.

An increased government role isn’t a bad thing, in fact it may be government failure to leave market forces to self-regulate through capitalism.

Current economic models facilitate inequality in ways that aren’t questioned enough in the mainstream. Government policy can build back better and nudge things in a better direction, one that includes people and questions the distribution of wealth and power through market forces, no matter how normalised they’ve become.

Build back better by calling greed what it is.

Financial services have been evolving over the decades and centuries with a profit maximising objective. A study shows, for example, that having a mortgage wasn’t always aspirational — it was seen as hanging a millstone around your neck with the debt being seen as a burden, regardless of the lifestyle that it facilitated.

The finance sector has facilitated private debt to sustain consumption even more today for example with car leasing and pay-day loans with interest rates that only feed the accumulation model of wealth generation.

Sure, this is a consumerism problem too. But making financial services more responsible through government intervention and rethinking the role of interest in the economy is a start to protecting people from the glorification of debt.

Build back better by adopting human centric business models.

Big businesses are talking more about social responsibility but according to Mariana Mazzucato, little seems to be changing in reality where only few companies put social responsibility at the core of the way they function.

Tick box exercises are not enough. Fundamental changes are needed in business models that aren’t afraid of an anti-accumulation of capital philosophy of business and an increased involvement of workers at every level.

Greater government control may actually be the answer, after all, corporate greed can’t be curtailed by mere good will.

Build back better by creating better narratives.

Underlining the failings of capitalism are the surrounding narratives that keep leaving people behind. For example, it is a government failure that people keep falling through the cracks of welfare so we should stop blaming people for being stuck in the poverty trap designed by giving too much power to market forces and arguably the welfare system itself.

A move towards a wellbeing economy should involve exploring a Universal Basic Income as is being done in Scotland. A study by the RSA shows that people receiving welfare are likely to benefit from a Basic Income by enabling them to have more power over their lives and to build a better and more self-reliant future for themselves.

Build back better globally, with compassion, responsibility and humility.

In the spirit of creating a wellbeing economy that puts people at its heart, there is hope that the fear, desperation and anxiety caused by this pandemic will make people understand what it’s like to live with economic insecurity, lack of opportunities and a constant feeling of uncertainty.

It is paramount to build back better through policy and narratives that are more compassionate towards refugees and economic migrants by acknowledging that people do not leave what they know for uncertainty without sufficient cause, desperation and hope of a better future in terms of wellbeing and finances.

If compassion is not enough to build back better globally then I hope that the studies that show that history matters in that countries are still suffering economic and political consequences of post-colonialism make a case for exercising humility in the global policy sphere along with the failing of the IMF.

So, let’s build back better by mitigating the socio-economic consequences of history in the face of colonial amnesia.

Capitalism can do better.

What does it really mean to reach the peak of civilisation when haven’t paid enough attention to how such progress for the few has left so many behind? And what are we building the economy for if it’s not for the people that actually make up the economy in the first place?

This pandemic is a chance for us to revaluate capitalism and rebuild a more inclusive world where we channel energy towards collaboration, socialism and understanding.

Let’s build back better.

 

 

 

By Dirk Philipsen

Adam Smith had an elegant idea when addressing the notorious difficulty that humans face in trying to be smart, efficient and moral. In The Wealth of Nations (1776), he maintained that the baker bakes bread not out of benevolence, but out of self-interest. No doubt, public benefits can result when people pursue what comes easiest: self-interest.

And yet: the logic of private interest – the notion that we should just ‘let the market handle it’ – has serious limitations. Particularly in the United States, the lack of an effective health and social policy in response to the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak has brought the contradictions into high relief.

Around the world, the free market rewards competing, positioning and elbowing, so these have become the most desirable qualifications people can have. Empathy, solidarity or concern for the public good are relegated to the family, houses of worship or activism. Meanwhile, the market and private gain don’t account for social stability, health or happiness. As a result, from Cape Town to Washington, the market system has depleted and ravaged the public sphere – public health, public education, public access to a healthy environment – in favour of private gain.

COVID-19 reveals a further irrational component: the people who do essential work – taking care of the sick; picking up our garbage; bringing us food; guaranteeing that we have access to water, electricity and WiFi – are often the very people who earn the least, without benefits or secure contracts. On the other hand, those who often have few identifiably useful skills – the pontificators and chief elbowing officers – continue to be the winners. Think about it: what’s the harm if the executive suites of private equity, corporate law and marketing firms closed down during quarantine? Unless your stock portfolio directly profits from their activities, the answer is likely: none. But it is those people who make millions – sometimes as much in an hour as healthcare workers or delivery personnel make in an entire year.

Simply put, a market system driven by private interests never has protected and never will protect public health, essential kinds of freedom and communal wellbeing.

Many have pointed out the immorality of our system of greed and self-centred gain, its inefficiency, its cruelty, its shortsightedness and its danger to planet and people. But, above all, the logic of self-interest is superficial in that it fails to recognise the obvious: every private accomplishment is possible only on the basis of a thriving commons – a stable society and a healthy environment. How did I become a professor at an elite university? Some wit and hard work, one hopes. But mostly I credit my choice of good parents; being born at the right time and the right place; excellent public schools; fresh air, good food, fabulous friends; lots of people who continuously and reliably provide all the things that I can’t: healthcare, sanitation, electricity, free access to quality information. And, of course, as the scholar Robert H Frank at Cornell University so clearly demonstrated in his 2016 book on the myth of the meritocracy: pure and simple luck.

Commenting on how we track performance in modern economies – counting output not outcome, quantity not quality, prices not possibilities – the US senator Robert F Kennedy said in 1968 that we measure ‘everything, in short, except that which makes life worthwhile’. His larger point: freedom, happiness, resilience – all are premised on a healthy public. They rely on our collective ability to benefit from things such as clean air, free speech, good public education. In short: we all rely on a healthy commons. And yet, the world’s most powerful metric, gross domestic product (GDP), counts none of it.

The term ‘commons’ came into widespread use, and is still studied by most college students today, thanks to an essay by a previously little-known American academic, Garrett Hardin, called ‘The Tragedy of the Commons’ (1968). His basic claim: common property such as public land or waterways will be spoiled if left to the use of individuals motivated by self-interest. One problem with his theory, as he later admitted himself: it was mostly wrong.

Our real problem, instead, might be called ‘the tragedy of the private’. From dust bowls in the 1930s to the escalating climate crisis today, from online misinformation to a failing public health infrastructure, it is the insatiable private that often despoils the common goods necessary for our collective survival and prosperity. Who, in this system based on the private, holds accountable the fossil fuel industry for pushing us to the brink of extinction? What happens to the land and mountaintops and oceans forever ravaged by violent extraction for private gain? What will we do when private wealth has finally destroyed our democracy?

The privately controlled corporate market has, in the precise words of the late economics writer Jonathan Rowe, ‘a fatal character flaw – namely, an incapacity to stop growing. No matter how much it grew yesterday it must continue to do so tomorrow, and then some; or else the machinery will collapse.’

To top off the items we rarely discuss: without massive public assistance, late-stage extractive capitalism, turbocharged by private interest and greed, would long be dead. The narrow kind of macroeconomic thinking currently dominating the halls of government and academia invokes a simpleminded teenager who variously berates and denounces his parents, only to come home, time and again, when he is out of ideas, money or support. Boeing, Goldman Sachs, Bank of America, Exxon – all would be bust without public bailouts and tax breaks and subsidies. Every time the private system works itself into a crisis, public funds bail it out – in the current crisis, to the tune of trillions of dollars. As others have noted, for more than a century, it’s a clever machine that privatises gains and socialises costs.

When private companies are back up and running, they don’t hold themselves accountable to the public who rescued them. As witnessed by activities since the 2008 bailouts at Wells Fargo, American Airlines and AIG, companies that have been rescued often go right back to milking the public.

By focusing on private market exchanges at the expense of the social good, policymakers and economists have taken an idea that is good under clearly defined and very limited circumstances and expanded it into a poisonous and blind ideology. Now is the time to assert the obvious: without a strong public, there can be no private. My health depends on public health. My freedom depends on social freedom. The economy is embedded in a healthy society with functional public services, not the other way around.

This moment of pain and collapse can serve as a wakeup call; a realisation that the public is our greatest good, not the private. Look outside the window to see: without a vibrant and stable public, life can quickly get poor, nasty, brutish and short.Aeon counter – do not remove

Dirk Philipsen is an economic historian and wellbeing economics advocate who teaches public policy and history at Duke University in North Carolina. He is also a senior fellow at the Kenan Institute for Ethics. His most recent book is The Little Big Number: How GDP Came to Rule the World and What to Do About It (2015).

This article was originally published at Aeon and has been republished under Creative Commons.
Aeon counter – do not remove

Image: Firefighters applaud medical workers in Manhattan, New York, on 7 April 2020. Photo B A Van Sise/NurPhoto via Getty

‘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

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

[vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]By Kristin Vala Ragnarsdottir

March 25, 2020

This week a friend and colleague sent this written dialogue to me: 

World: “There´s no way we can shut everything down in order to lower emissions, slow climate change and protect the environment.“

Mother Nature: “Here´s a virus. Practice.“

 

For decades, nations have taken up and practiced a globalised, neoliberal, market-driven economic system with focus on exponential economic growth through natural resource extraction, production with energy use and consumption.

Global natural systems are similarly in exponential decline and the climate is warming exponentially. Despite the 2015 UN Climate Agreement, global emissions were still rising exponentially in 2019.  Few people appear to have listened to physics professor Al Bartlett who often stated that „the biggest imperfection of mankind is that it does not understand the consequences of exponential growth.“  Interestingly, the late economist Kenneth Bolding stated: “anyone who thinks that endless growth in a limited world is possible, is either a madman or an economist.“  For the past decade I have asked university student groups and the public whether they can tell me the doubling time if they know the percent rate of increase, and in my memory only one engineering student knew the answer.

Enter the Covid-19 virus. A global pandemic is declared and in only a few weeks the world has ground to a halt, literally.  Varied civil protection measures for emergency management have been taken across the world, including closing borders.  Testing, isolating, quarantining, treating is the message from WHO. Some nations stepped in with social restrictions early, others later.  It appears that the aim of “flattening the curve“ of peak diagnosis per day so that the health care system will not be overwhelmed, appears to be working in some countries.

Meanwhile, in parallel, the economy has slowed down dramatically across the world.  World GDP growth is unlikely for 2020 and at the same time total levels of pollution and emissions are likely to decrease.

Like all of us, I am deeply saddened by the world health pandemic and feel for those who have already and will lose their loved ones. Since the beginning of this crisis I have, however, observed several positive outcomes for science, the environment and the economy – which we can all benefit from in the future:

  1. More and more people now understand the terms „exponential growth“ and „doubling times“. National government representatives report daily increase in diagnosed Covid-19 cases and how many days it will take the cases to double.  This understanding can in due time be used by address issues relating to both the environment and the economy.
  2. The importance of trust in scientific knowledge has increased. Even populist politicians are now listening to scientists. Dismissal of scientific evidence is thus out, science is in. Even my 8 year old nephew has come up with a Covid-19 virus treatment proposal, which he discussed with my son today who is a medical doctor and research scientist. It is likely that many children will aim to be scientists in the future, filling the current and imminent gaps of lack of scientists and engineers.
  3. Wellbeing of people is the top priority of many government and industry responses. Hi-tech firms from race-car producers to vacuum cleaner manufacturers are being asked to step in to develop and produce in record time ventilators for the overwhelmed health care authorities. Governments are also stepping in to ask companies to produce soaps and other sanitary products and pharmaceutical companies are working with government scientists to develop corona virus vaccines.
  4. Since I am in Iceland I would like to outline the government of Iceland‘s economic rescue package which was introduced last weekend. Before I do that I would like to emphasise that my government is a partner in WEGo (Wellbeing Economies Governments) in partnership with Scotland and New Zealand – all three nations lead by women.

The Icelandic stimulus package is in 10 parts and is a total of 230 billion Icelandic krona, 7.8% of national income. The focus is on Prevention – three actions to prevent job losses and business bankruptcies; Protection – three actions to support individuals and and families due to difficult circumstances; Economic push back – four actions to increase economic activity, goods exchange and investment.  These are further outlined below – and where appropriate are linked with the newly established wellbeing indicators (WBI) that are being implemented in Iceland. These are 39 indicators, 17 related to society, 7 related to the environment and 15 related to the economy.

Prevention:

1) Part time pathway – unemployment benefits for those who have reduced employment percentage.  This supports economic WBIs on employment rates, unemployment and low income rates

2) Bridging loans to businesses – support for businesses that have operational difficulties to take extra loans as well as reduction in banking taxes. This can be related to economic WBI on debt of business

3) Deadline for business tax payments delayed – delay in tax due date, as well as insurance due date, and delay in due date for prepayment of business income tax. This relates to economic WBI on government debt.

Protection:

4) Salary during quarantine – employers are compensated for the salaries of people who are in quarantine and cannot work remotely from home. This relates to economic WBIs on buying power and individual debt

5) Increase in child support payments – single extra child support payments to families of every child under 18 because of changed circumstances. This relates to economic WBI on lack of social of economic quality

6) Withdrawal of private pension savings – allowance to withdraw private pension savings for unrestricted use. This relates to economic WBI of purchasing power.

Economic push back:

7) Strengthening tourism – internal injection for tourism (electronic vouchers for every citizen to travel in Iceland), abolition of overnight hotel taxes, and international promotion of Iceland as a tourism destination as soon as the crisis is over. This relates to national income which is one of the economic WBIs.

8) Extension of „everyone works“, refund of value added tax for home improvement and that of NGO facilities. This relates to the WBI of percentage in employment and unemployment.

9) Easier import/export – cancellation of import tax and delay in deadlines for paying customs fees. This relates to economic WBI of purchasing power.

10) Investment efforts – increase jobs in building and maintaining infrastructure, support business innovation, and accelerating planned investment for the future. This relates to economic WBI of percent employed and unemployment.

This quick analysis of the economic stimulus package of the Icelandic government can be directly related to 8 out of 15 economic WBIs.  None of the social or environmental WBIs can be directly related to the package. For the environment WBI a focus on accelerating land reclamation and tree planting and increasing nature protection would both create jobs and improve wellbeing for people and nature.  A focus on supporting remote education and would affect social WBI pertaining to education level and continuing education.

The Icelandic government has already started to think about the long term even as it deals with this short term crisis, thanks to its wellbeing indicator framework: but there‘s much more work ahead. It is my hope that many of the lessons we learn during this Covid-19 pandemic will bring us closer together and that we can use lessons learned to both protect the environment and build economies with focus on wellbeing for people and nature.

Dr. Kristín Vala Ragnarsdóttir is Professor of Sustainability Science, Faculty of Earth Sciences at the University of Iceland. She is also a WEAll Ambassador and a member of the WEAll Global Council.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row]

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.

 

By Michael Weatherhead

I cannot remember the last time I saw a Ken Loach film. His latest offering is a timely reminder of the power of this film maker. The story makes you want to grab hold of the family it features and hug them close…and it also makes you angry as hell.

Fairness and dignity – two of a wellbeing economy’s key five needs – have been important to me all my life.  I remember learning about them early when I learned about fair trade – selling dried apricots on my Dad’s traidcraft stall at church. But you don’t need to apply Christian guilt to selling apricots to know these needs are important. They are part of our DNA and all children intrinsically understand the concept of fairness.

Ken Loach’s ‘Sorry We Missed You’ is sword-like in its depiction of the precariousness and unfairness of the world of zero hours contracts. The film’s protagonists – a family, with mum a care worker on agency piece work and dad an enforced self-employed ‘warrior of the road’ delivering parcels with only enough time to piss in a bottle in the back of his van between deliveries.

It is impossible not to feel empathy when viewing a family lacking any form of economic security. A degree of certainty and security is something we all need but less and less of us get from our work. New analysis by the TUC shows that at least 3.7 million workers in the UK, around one in nine of the workforce, are in insecure work. In every region of England and in Wales and Scotland, insecure workers make up at least 10 per cent of the workforce’ (see more stats from the TUC here).

What went wrong with the economic system meaning that the majority of users of foodbanks are ‘employed’? What went wrong when the hours you have to work mean you cannot spend any time with your family? What went wrong that so many have so little control over their economic lives?

The film perfectly encapsulates the systemic effects and the false economy of a business model that extracts profits to shareholders at the expense of the workers of a firm. Of course, the invention of zero hours contracts is a rational and logical next step for businesses on the treadmill of continuous cost cutting/profit maximising. And it is a winner as it ‘offshores’ all the negative social effects of that model to the state.

An immediate reaction to the realities laid bare by this film must be an elimination of employment approaches such as zero-hour contracts. A second would be an increase in the minimum wage. However, these will not address the systemic effects of a system that looks to extract profits from areas of life that were once key sources of wellbeing – an affordable roof over one’s head, a job that gives meaning and purpose and provides for your family.

In the world of work, nothing short of a mass expansion of business models that have wellbeing at their heart will eradicate this virus of in-work poverty.

Find out more about Sorry We Missed You here, with details of how you can see the film and opportunities to get involved with campaigns for change.

Image from Sorry We Missed You Facebook page