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On 12th August 2020, the Office for National Statistics announced that the UK’s GDP had fallen 20.4% in the second quarter, putting the UK into its worst recession since records began. Following the UK’s prolonged lockdown, this drop in Gross Domestic Product is more severe than losses seen in the US and the Eurozone.

The impact of COVID-19 has been difficult for everyone, especially those who have become ill or lost loved ones. For many, it’s been a prompt to take stock of what really matters, placing a greater emphasis on individual and community wellbeing.

At WEAll, we’re passionate about advancing the wellbeing economy concept: an economic system purpose-built to deliver social justice on a healthy planet. Within a wellbeing economy, humanity determines economics, not the other way around.

So when we see figures like this—that GDP has fallen by 20.4%—it’s important to clarify what this data means and what it does (and doesn’t) tell us about the state of society.

No one should argue that these are not difficult times, with furloughs and redundancies widespread and social isolation still a reality for many people. In terms of the actual numbers we use to measure our country’s economic health, however, we propose that GDP is a skewed figure that reveals little about the wellbeing of the millions of people who keep the economy running, each and every day.

GDP doesn’t see the outpouring of community support, for example, and it neglects our country’s renewed focus on nature. It measures cash transactions, which include drug dealing, but ignores volunteer work and caring duties.

Find new oil? GDP goes up. Start a community garden? No impact.

Have to deal with flooding caused by global warming or medical treatment to cope with heatwaves? GDP will see that as a good thing. Spend more time with your family and friends? GDP isn’t interested.

Take your car into a congested city? GDP loves that. Jump on your bike and use one of the new cycle lanes? GDP doesn’t care.

The last few months have seen big hits to restaurants, education, the arts, public transport, and even healthcare—all sectors which are very important to the wellbeing economy, not to mention to their workers. However, even here the GDP statistics do not tell the full story. Childcare and education did not disappear. For better or for worse, it just happened at home. We are seeing our friends and family less than we would like to, but we still see them. It’s just that many of us now go for a walk in the park rather than for a meal in a restaurant. These activities still have value, but they are simply not captured by GDP.

We can all agree on the need to rebuild, but it’s imperative that we build back better instead of simply returning to the status quo, which works only for the few and often neglects the very key workers on whom we all rely. We are just not convinced that GDP is the most useful measure of how Scotland builds back better, renews, or recovers. See our recent response to comments made by Benny Higgins, the chairman of Nicola Sturgeon’s advisory group on economic recovery, to learn more about the myth of “green growth”.

Katherine Trebeck, Advocacy and Influencing Lead at WEAll and co-founder of WEAll Scotland, has long campaigned for alternative measures of progress to GDP. One such alternative to GDP she points to is to focus on things like the number of girls riding bikes to school. It might sound radical at first, says Katherine, but just think of the contextual factors that need to be in place in order for higher numbers of girls on bikes (and in education) to improve.

There are tough times behind us, and no doubt there will be tough times ahead. So moving forward, let’s build a stronger economy that works for all of us, not just those who benefit from outdated measures of success like GDP.

WEAll Scotland has joined over 70 other Scottish organisations calling on First Minister Nicola Sturgeon and the government to commit to a “just and green recovery” after covid-19.

The #BuildBackBetterScot campaign, coordinated by Friends of the Earth Scotland, has written today to the First Minister setting out five principles for recovery and offering to support the process as Scotland moves forward.

The full text of the letter is below:

“Dear First Minister,

Scotland’s Just and Green Recovery from COVID-19

Representing a broad range of Scotland’s civil society, our organisations wish to meet with you to discuss our emerging vision of how Scotland can lead a radical response to the double crises of climate change and Coronavirus.

Across the world, communities, institutions and governments are engaged in an unprecedented global effort to save lives and protect the most vulnerable.

As Coronavirus and climate chaos tear apart people’s lives globally we are seeing pre- existing inequalities laid bare and exacerbated, as the poorest suffer worst.

Massive upheaval to people’s daily lives is our present reality and immediate future. Yet a simple return to business as usual is both unrealistic and undesirable.

As Scotland moves past a peak of infections our attention is turning to what comes next.

You have stated the need for a recovery that cuts climate emissions by “building a fairer, greener and more equal society”, an aim that we strongly agree with.

The COVID-19 crisis has laid bare how inequality is lethal to human life, but it has also shone a light on acts of solidarity and cooperation and centred the vital role of public services, key workers and unpaid carers. Amidst a global threat to human rights and democracy, this crisis has also brought forward the possibility of an economic revival that ensures resilience to future crises, including the climate emergency.

The recovery from Coronavirus is a rare chance to markedly accelerate the repurposing of government away from the prioritisation of economic growth and towards goals of wellbeing and sustainability, ending inequality and environmental destruction. This is a time for system change.

These are the steps we believe must be followed to deliver a just and green recovery:

1. Provide essential public services for people, not profit. Expand public ownership of public services and boost investment, including in social care, strengthen the NHS and cradle-to-grave education, and create zero-carbon social and cooperative housing instead of buy-to-let.

The First Minister The Scottish Government St Andrew’s House Regent Road Edinburgh EH1 3DG

Friday 29th May 2020

  1. Protect marginalised people and those on low incomes by redistributing wealth. Provide adequate incomes for all instead of bailouts for shareholders, significantly raise taxes on the wealthy, ensure all public workers receive at least the real Living Wage and strengthen health, safety and workers’ rights, including access to flexible home working. Investigate and mitigate the disproportionate impacts of COVID-19 and social distancing on women, children and young people, disabled people, LGBTI people, people of colour, key workers, unpaid carers, private renters, and those on lower incomes.
  2. Provide new funds to transform our society and economy to meet Scotland’s Fair Share of climate emissions cuts and greatly enhance biodiversity. Create and protect jobs in sustainable travel, renewable heat, affordable local food and energy efficiency, with ambitious green employment opportunities for young people and support for retraining where whole industries are affected. Put measures in place to ensure all government programmes tackle inequality, public health and the just transition away from fossil fuels, excluding rogue employers, tax avoiders, major polluters and arms manufacturers from bailouts.
  3. Strengthen democracy and human rights during these crises. Withdraw new police powers, surveillance measures and restrictions on protest as soon as possible. Enable full scrutiny of planning and policy decisions. Create an independent Recovery Commission founded on participatory democracy to engage and empower communities, trade unions and civil society. Introduce fundamental human rights into Scots law so that safety nets are always in place for the most vulnerable.
  4. Offer solidarity across borders by proactively supporting an international Coronavirus and climate emergency response that challenges the scapegoating of migrants, centres on the worst affected, bolsters global public health, development and environmental bodies, and ensures equitable access to COVID-19 treatment. Use the UN climate talks in Glasgow to push for robust implementation of the Paris deal, platforming the voices of indigenous and frontline communities and advancing climate finance and global debt cancellation. Ensure coherence between all domestic policy and global sustainable development outcomes.

Decisions made in times of crisis have long-lasting consequences. After the 2008 financial crisis, inequality grew and climate emissions spiralled. We want to see this moment seized for the common good, not repeat the mistakes of the past.

Civil society has a central role to play in helping to shape Scotland’s future in this unprecedented time. We look forward to meeting with you to address how we can realise a truly just and green recovery.”

Members of the public can support the call by signing this petition.

Organisations can add their support via this form.

Reposted from CUSP website

WEAll member CUSP (Centre for Understanding Sustainable Prosperity) recently hosted an event for British policy makers on how to build back better post-covid.

Setting out to engage MPs across the political spectrum, this online discussion was chaired by Krishnan Guru-Murthy (Channel 4), and expertly deliberated on the prospects for a socially and environmentally just economic recovery—which takes into account not only the need to prevent the worst of climate breakdown, but does so in a way that sustainably strengthens the wellbeing of people. Discussants were CUSP director Prof Tim Jackson, Prof Mariana Mazzucato (UCL), Sir Prof Michael Marmot (UCL) and Sir David King (former Government Chief Scientist).

The interactive panel was hosted by the APPGs on Climate Change, on Compassion in Politics and on Renewable & Sustainable Energy, and joined by Bim Afolami MP (Conservative) and Debbie Abrahams MP (Labour). Introductory remarks were provided by Green MP Caroline Lucas.

Watch the full discussion below or find it on YouTube here.

Reposted from Open Democracy

By Luca Coscieme, Katherine Trebeck and Lorenzo Fioramonte

The Covid crisis seems to confirm what policy analysts have argued for some time: female leadership may be more engaged on issues of social equality, sustainability and innovation, making societies more resilient to external shocks. We have run some statistical analyses on available data on the Coronavirus pandemic and a series of dimensions of public health, social progress, basic human needs and economic resilience, with stunning correlations.

First of all, current data shows that countries with women in a leadership position have suffered six times fewer confirmed deaths from Covid-19 than countries with governments led by men. Moreover, female-led governments were more effective and rapid at flattening the epidemic’s curve, with peaks in daily deaths roughly six times lower than in countries ruled by men. Finally, the average number of days with confirmed deaths was 34 in countries ruled by women and 48 in countries with male-dominated governments.

Of course, correlation is not causation, but when we look at most female-led governments’ approach to the crisis, we find similar policies that may have made a difference vis-à-vis their male counterparts: they did not underestimate the risks, focused on preventative measures and prioritized long-term social wellbeing over short-term economic considerations.

Taiwan is a case in point, where the government of Prime Minister Tsai Ing-wen built on its previous experience with SARS to immediately introduce targeted measures and medical checks, which massively reduced the risk of an outbreak and therefore made a lockdown unnecessary, unlike in most other East Asian countries, including the equally small Singapore, which instead suffered several waves of contagion. New Zealand’s government of Jacinda Ardern was also prompt in implementing restrictive measures early on, resulting in limited contagion and a much shorter lockdown than neighbouring countries in the Pacific. A similar pattern occurred in Denmark, Norway and Finland, all ruled by women, as opposed to Sweden, where economic considerations trumped health concerns, resulting in the highest death toll per capita in Europe.

Over the past few years, most women-led governments have also placed a stronger emphasis on social and environmental wellbeing, investing more in public health and reducing air pollution (which seems to be closely associated with Covid deaths). Our analysis shows that countries with higher female representation in national parliaments perform better in terms of greenhouse gas emission reduction, air pollution containment and biodiversity conservation. Some of these governments have also launched an international alliance to promote ‘social and ecological wellbeing’ as the cornerstone of their economic policies. These are all important features that make societies more resilient vis-à-vis external shocks.

Confirmed deaths

Confirmed deaths of Covid-19 (left) – Number of days with at least one reported death of Covid-19 (centre) – Peak in daily deaths (right). Source: European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control.

Basic Needs

Basic Human Needs 2019 score (Nutrition and Basic Medical Care, Water and Sanitation, Shelter, Personal Safety), Source: Social Progress Imperative (left) – Gini coefficient of income distribution, Source: The World Bank (centre) – GDP growth rate per cent reduction forecasts for 2020, Source: European Commission and national central banks.

Against this backdrop, it is perhaps unsurprising that women-led countries are also likely to suffer the least from the ensuing economic recession: GDP growth forecasts for 2020 indicate that they will experience a decline lower than 5.5 percent, while countries with male leaders will shrink by over 7 percent.

There is probably not enough hard evidence yet to demonstrate that there is a clear ‘female factor’ at play, but we cannot simply dismiss such stark differences as casual. Some women leaders have understood that placing social and environmental wellbeing at the core of national policymaking has positive effects on society’s resilience and benefits the economy too. It’d be wise for their men colleagues to take note.

Notes: countries with female leaders include Belgium, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, Germany, Greece (President), Iceland, New Zealand, Norway, Slovakia and Taiwan. Countries with male leaders include Austria, Bulgaria, Brazil, Croatia, Cyprus, Czech Republic, France, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, UK and USA.

Thanks go to Kristin Vala Ragnarsdottir, Jacqueline McGlade, Ida Kubiszewski, Kate Pickett, Richard Wilkinson, Enrico Giovannini and Robert Costanza for their contributions to this article.

Reposted from Open Democracy

Photo: New Zealand’s Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern speaks in Wellington, New Zealand, April 20, 2020. | Xinhua/Pa. All rights reserved.

Scotland’s Cabinet Secretary for Culture, Tourism and External Affairs Fiona Hyslop declared in Parliament yesterday that “the time of a wellbeing economy has well and truly arrived.”

Speaking about plans to get the Scottish economy moving again after the covid-19 lockdown, Hyslop was clear that business as usual should not be the default:

“We must be brave and bold and rethink the world of work,” she said as she outlines the three steps required to restart Scotland’s economy in 14 separate sectors, stressing that it must be done safely and will involve…

  • Measures to suppress the virus
  • Guidance that supports fair and safe workplaces
  • The right structures for workplace regulation

Encouragingly, she went on to say that we “need a revolution in economic thinking that stimulates and values cooperative sharing of risk and reward, to rethink what value is”.

While touching on workers’ rights, remote working and a green recovery, Ms Hyslop added that “collective endeavour” should replace “old thinking on battling over wealth distribution, which has never properly delivered”.

See more coverage on BBC News.

Scotland is one of four members of the Wellbeing Economy Governments partnership, alongside New Zealand, Iceland and Wales. Find out more about this initiative here and about WEAll Scotland – the dedicated Scottish hub of the Wellbeing Economy Alliance – here.

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.

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

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

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

Download the full Pledge

 

Sign the Pledge Now

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

Join us on 26 May (6.30pm UK time)

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

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

Ten Principles to Build Back Better

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

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

 

1. New goals: ecologically safe and environmentally just

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

2. Protecting environmental standards

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

3. Green infrastructure and provisioning

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

4. Universal basic services

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

5. Guaranteed livelihoods

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

6. Fair distribution

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

7. Better democracy

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

8. Wellbeing economics organisations

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

9. Cooperation

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

10. Public control of money

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

What does building back better look like in practice?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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.

 

 

 

WEAll’s Executive Chair Stewart Wallis OBE took part in a spirited and hugely popular online dialogue last week, organised by EcoCiv, on “The Next Economy“.

Stewart was joined on the impressive panel by: Kate Raworth (Doughnut Economics and WEAll Ambassador), Marjorie Kelly (The Democracy Collaborative), David Korten (Living Economies Forum)  and Gunna Jung (Economic Advisor to Seoul Metropolitan Government)

They discussed the following questions:

“As the socio-economic effects of coronavirus worsen, the deep failures of our global economic order are being revealed. Is this the end of the neoliberal era? What will the economy look like after COVID-19? Can our next economy promote the overall well-being of people and the planet?”

Watch the event below or find it on YouTube here.

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

Our friends at Cities CAN B have launched a kickstarter campaign to fund the creation of five Extreme Collaboration guidebooks, sharing their rich experiences with a view to helping businesses and communities everywhere build back better after the pandemic.

Message from Cities CAN B:

“When we imagine  the end of this global quarantine, we are flooded with dreams of us emerging on the other side more empathetic, sustainable and supportive, connected with our interdependence and with the urge to care for our planet and our society.

Our experience, over the past 10 years, in building different collaborative ecosystems in multiple countries has shown us  how collaborating with those we see as “our peers” is easy but  this becomes increasingly difficult with those who are more distant to us – “the others”. If our goal is to be radically collaborative and accelerate the process of change in our communities, we must learn to transform ourselves.

It is for this reason we have embarked on the great adventure to initiate a global movement called CITIES CAN B, in which we strive to attract entire communities  (people, institutions and companies) to collaborate with each other, to take charge of the 17 Great Challenges of Humanity as set out in the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG).

It is this goal of collaborating with everyone, no matter how distant we might feel to them, that we call “Extreme Collaboration”.

These five notebooks are the notes on everything we have learned  to date on “Extreme Collaboration” in CITIES CAN B, including sister projects in which we have participated, supported or simply admired.

We are hopeful these notes will be useful for citizens, mayors or foundations, who are mobilizing the changes these great challenges of humanity require. Additionally, these notes are designed for those entrepreneurs or large corporations that are committed to leading the changes the market and society are beginning to demand.

We are going to need help to finish them, translate them and print them!

And, to ensure anyone who needs them has access to them, the digital version of these notebooks will be distributed, free of charge, with a Creative Commons license in Spanish, English and Portuguese.

In the first notebook, we address why we believe it is better to work on these issues at the city-scale, while the remaining 4 focus on strategies we have developed to mobilize all participants to collaborate with each other, thus accelerating  the changes our society and our planet.

We set a fundraising goal to finish the books, translate and print them, but we want to triple that goal in order to expand the CITIES CAN B Global movement.

CITIES CAN B is a global movement co-led by Sistema B and Gulliver with the support of the BMW Foundation and B Lab Europe.

 Brief summary of CITIES CAN B:

In August 2015, Rio+B (RIO CAN B) the first city of the movement was officially launched, in November 2017, Santiago+B (STGO CAN B) and Mendoza+B (MZA CAN B) joined the movement, making it international. In August 2019 Cities CAN B launched a global call for proposals for new cities to join the movement, 14 cities from 10 countries sent proposals, demonstrating the potentiality of expansion of the project. At the end of 2019 an international executive committee selected the four most qualified proposals.

As of 2020 the project became global, with the four new selected cities now under development: Asunción+B (Paraguay), Edinburgh CAN B (Scotland), Córdoba+B (Argentina), and Barcelona+B (Spain). We hope more and more people and organizations around the world participate collaboratively in their local sustainable development, we count on your support to make it happen. We need to recognize personal and collective responsibility about our interdependence.

Reposted from the OECD Forum Network

By WEAll Ambassadors Kate Pickett and Richard Wilkinson on behalf of WEAll and the Equality Trust

The coronavirus pandemic is changing the lives of children across the world, with both predictable and unforeseeable short- and long-term effects on children’s development and lifelong well-being. Children are experiencing massive changes in daily routines and education, many in families that are experiencing losses of work, income and loved ones, and fear and anxiety about infection and life beyond the crisis.

In the past, child well-being policies almost inevitably focused on the most vulnerable children – those living in poverty, or in deprived neighbourhoods, those who were refugees, abused or neglected.  In the United Kingdom in recent years, we have had epidemics of knife crime, self-harm and mental illness but these were not accompanied by any policies focused on the underlying root causes of poverty – inequality and austerity. Instead, we saw an emphasis on parenting interventions, as if the wider context were too difficult to tackle. Now, the coronavirus crisis is shifting our perspective, bringing into sharp focus the pre-existing vulnerability of too many children to the politics, policies and practices that perpetuate inequality. We can see that some children are more vulnerable to the impacts of lockdown – school and nursery closures, sheltering in place and physical distancing. But children in some of the more unequal rich countries hardest hit by the pandemic, the United States and United Kingdom, were already less resilient than children in more equal countries, with worse health, well-being and educational attainment. By comparing children in more and less equal societies, we might be able to learn the lessons of how to look after all our children better.

The key to a holistic understanding of how we create population-wide child well-being is grasping the fact that economic inequality – disparities in wealth and income – affects all children within a society. Yes, the poor suffer more, and children living in poverty and deprivation experience a double detriment, and even more so in the current crisis. But there is growing evidence that the effects of living in a more unequal society are felt even among the children of the affluent, well-educated middle and upper classes.

Figure from: Bird P, Pickett KE, Graham H, et al.

“Income inequality and social gradients in children’s height: a comparison of cohort studies from five high-income countries”. BMJ Paediatrics Open 2019; 0:e000568. doi:10.1136/ bmjpo-2019-000568

In our books The Spirit Level (2009) and The Inner Level (2018), we present and interpret the robust and broad evidence of the effects of income inequality on the health and well-being of whole populations. For children, inequality leads to lower child well-being when measured by Unicef indices, as well as worse infant mortality, child obesity, bullying, child maltreatment, teenage pregnancies, educational attainment and social mobility. Indirectly, children are affected by the impact of inequality on parents’ mental and physical health, long working hours, high levels of debt, drug and alcohol abuse and problem gambling.

All of these problems stem from the way in which greater economic inequality increases the importance of social status, class and rank within a society; the way in which material differences create social distances between us. In less equal societies people trust one another less, participate less in civic and cultural life, feel less solidarity with others and suffer more from the day-to-day social comparisons as we experience ourselves through other people’s eyes. There is more anxiety about status, more depression and, on the flip side, more narcissism and self-enhancement as well.  Relationships within wider society and the public realm, in workplaces and schools, and within families are all corrupted by the invidious psychosocial damage caused by inequality. This picture is supported by a wealth of both quantitative and qualitative academic research, across many decades and many disciplines. Brought together, the data tell a coherent story about how desperately we need to reorient our societal goals towards well-being. Politicians tend to think that’s what they’re doing but so often they are clearly not.

Knowledge is the first step in creating change. The OECD’s recent report “Changing the Odds for Vulnerable Children” (2019) will be part of changing the discourse and creating a framework in which to make well-being the primary aim of cross-sector policy making. Intervening to improve child well-being is challenging but we need to step up to the challenges and opportunities for change offered by the coronavirus and demand that policies address root causes and systems so that this generation of children can grow up healthy and resilient. There are many examples of good practice to learn from but one we know well is the Born in Bradford programme. In Bradford, a city in the north of England with high levels of deprivation and ill health, 10 years of collaborative work has created a research-ready, people-powered and data-linked test bed to co-produce, implement and evaluate early life interventions to promote well-being and reduce inequalities. Just as the coronavirus hit, we were building the ActEarly City Collaboratory to provide a whole system environment where the public, scientists, policy leaders and practitioners can work with each other to develop upstream preventive solutions for a healthier, fairer future for children.  Now, the focus has shifted to help the city respond to the immediate crisis and prepare for an inclusive recovery.  We hope that readers of this article will engage with the projects, track our progress and share their own good practices.

Read the OECD’s COVID-19 Policy Responses on Learning Remotely when Schools Close

We are sometimes asked whether the rich and the powerful simply don’t care about children. The answer is, of course, they do – but too often only about their own. That would be less worrying if they used the same schools and health services, but it is dangerous when they don’t. Now, more than ever, we need to foster cultures where we care for each other’s children as for our own, so that we create the policy environment to support all children during and following the coronavirus pandemic.

Finally, we need to listen to children as they tell us about their experiences and their hopes and fears for the future, and be guided by them in setting our priorities. John F. Kennedy said that, “Children are the living messages we send to a time we will not see”. That is true, but we also need to be alive to the messages children, such as Greta Thunberg, are giving us – about how we have failed them in the past, in the time they could never see, how we are letting them down now as they live through this crisis. They can tell us what we need to do to build their opportunities and their resilience.

Photos: Shutterstock/Liderina and Photo: Shutterstock/Lolostock

WEAll Advocacy and Influencing lead was recently interviewed by Social Value UK for their series “Social Value Always Matters”.

Katherine spoke about the current coronavirus pandemic and the urgent need for emergency recovery efforts to deliberately build back better and create wellbeing economies.

Watch it below or find it on the Social Value UK YouTube channel here.

WEAll Knowledge and Policy lead Amanda Janoo appeared as this week’s guest on the Love Zero Waste podcast and video series.

Nudged by Earth Day Week and the COVID-19 crisis, which is revealing the cracks in our take-make-waste society like nothing we’ve ever seen before, the episode dived explored how we, you and I, can help build back better from the current crisis.

Watch the interview below or find it here.

During the pandemic, many people are finding themselves with more time on their hands – and many are also in pursuit of new economic ideas and understanding.

WEAll and our members have compiled some recommendations for ‘must-read’ books  to understand the case for, and path towards, a wellbeing economy.

Here’s the result – 20 important books that provide answers, inspiration and hope.

Of course, this list is not exhaustive – comment below with your own recommendations. Why not get involved with the WEAll Read book group, which is holding monthly meetings? Find out more here.

Alphabetically by author:

  1. An Economy of Wellbeing: Mark Anielski
  2. 23 Things They Don’t Tell You About Capitalism: Ha-Joon Chang
  3. Change Everything: Christian Felber
  4. Wellbeing Economy: Lorenzo Fioramonti
  5. The Divide: Jason Hickel
  6. New Economy Business: Margo Hoek
  7. The Age of Thrivability: Michelle Holliday
  8. Prosperity Without Growth: Tim Jackson
  9. The High Price of Materialism: Tim Kasser
  10. A Finer Future: Hunter Lovins, Stewart Wallis, John Fullerton and Anders Wijkman
  11. Economics Unmasked: Manfred Max-Neef
  12. Local Is Our Future: Helena Norberg-Hodge
  13. The Value of Nothing: Raj Patel
  14. The Spirit Level: Kate Pickett and Richard Wilkinson
  15. Doughnut Economics: Kate Raworth
  16. What Money Can’t Buy: Michael J. Sandel
  17. Small is Beautiful: E.F. Schumacher
  18. Local Dollars Local Sense: Michael Shuman
  19. How to Thrive in the Next Economy: John Thackara
  20. The Economics of Arrival: Katherine Trebeck and Jeremy Williams

 

 

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 Donnie Maclurcan of the Post Growth Institute 

The coronavirus outbreak makes one thing abundantly clear: we’re interconnected and in this together.

Yet our greatest vulnerability comes from a system in which money, resources, and power have accumulated for far too long.

For those in positions of privilege, here are 10 steps you can take to restore the circulation that all living systems need in order to thrive:

  1. Be outstandingly generous to those disproportionately impacted. Consider your privilege and actively support communities that don’t generally have an accumulation of resources, are discriminated against, or are overlooked: the elderly, sick or infirmed; healthcare workers; single parents; undocumented, underemployed, self-employed, contract, gig, low-wage or laid-off workers; Black, Indigenous and People of Color; immigrants; the homeless and displaced; incarcerated or formerly incarcerated individuals; veterans; people with disability; and LGBTQ+ populations. This helps people understand who is most affected, helps us allocate resources more efficiently and helps to right systemic wrongs. (See here how the coronavirus outbreak affects Black people disproportionately)
  2. Reduce rents for tenants and small businesses. Don’t evict. Delay rental payments. Rent vacant properties. This allows everyone to maintain homes and businesses through challenging times. (See here how this landlord is offering financial relief)
  3. Freeze or cancel loan and bill repayments from individuals and small businesses. At a minimum, put a hold on accruing interest or penalties, and extend loan and bill repayment dates. Offer no-collateral, zero-interest or depreciating loans to individuals, small businesses, and nonprofit enterprises in need. This ensures that we don’t penalize people and businesses because of unforeseen circumstances. (See here how the U.S. administration has temporarily halted interest payments on federally-held student loans)
  4. Support your employees and teams. Provide or advocate for: remote working opportunities (where possible); childcare support; paid sick leave; flextime; early and unplanned bonuses; and an employment guarantee for the coming months. Reduce the top-to-bottom salary ratio. Reject racism and have extra patience with inefficiencies, mistakes, stress and tension with your employees and colleagues. This provides people with security and a better ability to cope with work and family demands. (See here how this company is shutting down its stores but continuing to pay all its employees)
  5. Keep your money local. Purchase from nearby businesses, especially those smaller in size. Tip generously. Purchase gift cards and pre-pay for future services. Support people whose activities and events are being cancelled — through online purchases, subscriptions and patronage. Decline refunds or donate refunded money to an associated cause. Move your personal and company’s money to a local credit union or community bank. This keeps money moving within our communities, and services operational. (See here for comprehensive data on why doing business locally matters)
  6. Increase your charitable giving. Offer before people ask. Provide support to individuals, families and frontline social services, as well as those working to create a more equitable and resilient economic system. If you benefit from investment fluctuations, use the gains to finance your generosity, and donate stock to nonprofits. This reduces the likelihood of people falling through the cracks. (See here how some leaders are ramping up their giving right now)
  7. Volunteer virtually and in-person (where safe). Offer online support to nonprofits and check in via phone or social media with people who might feel particularly alone. Where social distancing is possible, volunteer at your local food bank, shelter or other frontline service provider and pick up shopping, post mail, or offer childcare for people in need. Donate blood (if you’re healthy). This gives everyone an opportunity to take action. (See here for hundreds of virtual volunteering opportunities)
  8. Share spare resources. Make an inventory of your supplies and a timeline for distributing what you’re willing to share. Drop off food, essential items, high-end healthcare products, and gift cards to individuals, your local food bank, meal delivery groups and other supportive services. Share excess produce from your land and provide access to your yard or property for a community garden to emerge. This ensures there is enough for everyone, and that resources aren’t idle. (See here how hundreds of Mutual Aid Networks are mobilizing in response to the coronavirus)
  9. Support aligned programs and legislative proposals. Champion programs and laws that support tenants, small businesses, workers, and nonprofits, while prioritizing assistance for: the elderly, sick or infirmed; healthcare workers; single parents; undocumented, underemployed, self-employed, contract, gig, low-wage or laid-off workers; ; Black, Indigenous and People of Color; immigrants; the homeless and displaced; incarcerated or formerly incarcerated individuals; veterans; people with disability; and LGBTQ+ populations. This helps reinforce the structural changes our system needs. (See here how Twitter has banned hateful speech around age, disability and disease)
  10. Lead by example. Inspire others with privilege to follow you. This creates a snowball effect. (See here how this woman’s coronavirus campaign is inspiring #viralkindness)

With thanks to the following people, from around the world, who helped crowd-edit this article: Dien Vo, Natalie HolmesCrystal ArnoldKatia SolTía Laída Fé, Victoria Saint, Claire Sommer, J’aime Powell, Bonnie Cohen, and Kokayi Nosakhere.

This article has been reposted verbatim from Medium