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On September 23rd, you can support the WWF in making that a reality. WWF is hosting a webinar with WEAll’s Amanda Janoo, and Club of Rome member and WEAll Ambassador, Sandrine Dixson.

The ideals of a wellbeing economy were endorsed by the European Union (EU) in October 2019 and the European Economic and Social Committee (EESC) in January 2020, adding to the growing number of governments that are interested in the co-creation of a wellbeing economy in their areas.

The WWF is now calling for the European Commission, European Parliament, and the Member states to take direct actions to implement a wellbeing economy, which are in line with the Sustainable Development Goals.

In its 22- page report to be released on September 23rd, the WWF outlines it recommendations on which new measures of progress are needed to guide a wellbeing approach.

With the SDGs as the guiding tool, the recommended Wellbeing Economy strategy would:

  • Balance the social, environmental and economic dimensions of the recovery from the current health and economic crisis
  • Respond to calls from the EU Council for a common EU approach to the economy of wellbeing
  • Provide an EU strategy for implementing the 2030 Sustainable Development Goals, five years after their international adoption

Learn more about what it will take for the EU to adopt a wellbeing economy at WWF’s upcoming webinar on September 23rd. Register here.

Guest speakers include:

  • Amanda Janoo, Knowledge and Policy. Lead,  Wellbeing Economy Alliance
  • Estelle Goeger, Commissioner Gentiloni’s Cabinet, European Commission
  • Ester Asin, Director, WWF European Policy Office
  • Taru Koivisto, Director, Ministry of Social Affairs and Health of Finland

The European Economic and Social Committee (EESC) today overwhelmingly adopted an ‘own-initiative opinion’ on the sustainable and inclusive wellbeing economy that Europe needs. It calls on the EU ‘for a new vision of prosperity’, developed in close collaboration with WEAll Ambassador and CUSP director Tim Jackson as Expert to the Rapporteur.

See more from the Centre for Understanding Sustainable Prosperity (CUSP)

Wellbeing economy language and ideas are central to the opinion, which called for a ‘new vision of prosperity for people and planet based on the principles of environmental sustainability, the right to a decent life and the protection of social values’.

Professor  Tim Jackson has worked closely with the EESC over the last year to help craft the opinion. He was appointed by the Committee as expert to the rapporteur early last year and took a lead role on drafting (and re-drafting) the opinion in the intervening months.

“I’m absolutely delighted by today’s vote,” said Prof Jackson. “It lays the foundations for a far-reaching transformation of Europe’s economic vision for the future.”

The Committee highlighted that building the wellbeing economy must start by adopting ‘a precautionary approach in which macroeconomic stability does not depend on GDP growth’ and proposed the development of new indicators of economic performance and social progress.

Its detailed proposals include a review of the EU’s fiscal and monetary rules, an end to perverse subsidies and action ‘to address hyper-consumerism’ across Europe. It also proposed the adoption of a Living Standards Framework and the introduction of a Wellbeing Budget for the EU.

What does the ‘opinion’ call for?

  • The EESC underlines that the European Union (EU) has fully committed itself to the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and its 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). To guarantee their proper implementation the EU urgently needs to develop the foundations for a sustainable and inclusive wellbeing economy that works for everyone.
  • The vision of social progress only relying on the pursuit of growth in the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) ignores important elements of individual and social wellbeing and fails to account properly for environmental and social considerations.
  • The EESC calls for the EU to propose a new vision of prosperity for people and planet based on the principles of environmental sustainability, the right to a decent life and the protection of social values. The economy is an enabler for this vision.
  • The wellbeing economy should protect ecosystems, conserve biodiversity and deliver a just transition to a climate neutral way of life across the EU and foster sustainable entrepreneurship. Educational systems across the EU will play a key role in promoting such concepts across society, thus inscribing in them the way of thinking of the decision-makers and leaders of tomorrow.
  • To achieve this goal, the EESC recognises the need to support the fundamental changes that have already begun to emerge in the nature of enterprise, the organisation of work, the role of investment and the structure of the money system.
  • The EESC highlights that building the wellbeing economy must start by adopting a precautionary approach in which macroeconomic stability does not depend on GDP growth. It proposes the development of new indicators of economic performance and social progress beyond GDP.
  • The EESC proposes the adoption of a Living Standards Framework and the introduction of a Wellbeing Budget for the EU, modelled on approaches already adopted elsewhere.
  • The EESC calls for an end to perverse subsidies and for the alignment of all public sector spending across the EU and its Member States with the goal of achieving climate neutrality.
  • The EESC calls for a European Green and Social Deal to deliver the large-scale investment needed for a just transition to a climate neutral economy and to provide quality jobs in every community.
  • The EESC calls on the Commission and the Member States to carry out green fiscal reform to help align taxation, subsidies and pre-distributive policies with the goal of achieving a just transition to a wellbeing economy, in particular by enforcing existing legislation.
  • The EESC proposes a review of the growth dependency of the EU Member States and a strategy to focus on sustainable and inclusive wellbeing in the EU economy. It also recommends a review of the EU’s fiscal and monetary rules to ensure they are fit for purpose in achieving the transition to a climate-neutral economy.
  • The EESC calls for all existing EU policy and budgetary/financial frameworks and tools (such as the Multi-Annual Financial Framework, the European Semester and Better Regulation) to be urgently aligned with a just transition to a wellbeing economy.
  • The EESC proposes the adaptation of the Stability and Growth Pact and the Annual Growth Survey to ensure that the wellbeing economy is fully consistent with the SDGs and the European Pillar of Social Rights.

See the full text and find out more here

Photo by eberhard grossgasteiger from Pexels

By Jussi Ahokas

Finland took over the Presidency of the Council of the European Union this autumn (from 1 July to 31 December). The timing of Finland’s third EU Presidency has been very interesting. The European Parliament election took place in May and during the autumn the construction of the new European Commission has been under way. The future choices of Europe and the next steps for policies of the European Union have been widely discussed. Hence, more room than usual has been opened for envisioning and reflection – what should be the desirable future path for the whole continent and the union of European nation states?

As the chair of the Council Finland has tried to seize the opportunity by bringing new initiatives to the European policy discussions. Most importantly, Finnish Ministry of Social affairs and Health introduced the Economy of Wellbeing policy approach that emphasises the fact that increasing the wellbeing of people creates positive outcomes for the economy. This in turn allows new investments to increase wellbeing, inclusion and participation. Thus, the Economy of Wellbeing presents the positive cumulative causation, or the virtuous circle, which will lead to the improving people’s capabilities to live good lives.

During the autumn many interesting events under the theme of Economy of Wellbeing have been organized. The high-level conference of Economy of Wellbeing in September in Helsinki brought together politicians, civil servants, researchers and civil society actors from different European countries. Economy of Wellbeing as a new policy approach was enthusiastically welcomed and almost all discussants seemed to be inspired by the concept. Later in October the EU council adopted conclusions on the Economy of Wellbeing which also portrayed the European wide interest on the new policy approach.

The civil society actors had important role in the high-level conference raising also somewhat critical voices on the current situation in Europe and the policy efforts of the EU. For example, the European Anti-Poverty Network (EAPN) and the Social Platform – European NGOs that organized their own events in Helsinki earlier in that week – reminded the participants that the guiding idea and policy goal of Economy of Wellbeing should be people’s wellbeing and that economy is only a tool for making this happen.

From the perspective of SOSTE Finnish Federation for Social Affairs and Health the message of EAPN and the Social Platform was of great importance. Indeed, in Finland SOSTE introduced the concept of Wellbeing Economy already in 2012 and slowly it has drawn more general attention in Finnish society. Before the EU presidency SOSTE was in close dialogue with the Ministry of Social Affairs and Health and it can be argued that the initiative of Economy of Wellbeing in Europe has its roots in civil society. This is a very good example of the power that NGOs and civil society can have in developing new visions and approaches that could change policies in the EU in the long-term.

The critical stance of NGOs – that the wellbeing of the people should always be the primary policy goal – has much importance, because the Economy of Wellbeing approach presented by the Ministry is also concerned over the “wellbeing” of the economy. There is a risk of “business as usual” being legitimised by the argument that besides the wellbeing of the people, we also need economic growth and sustainable public finances to achieve our goals. Hence, in time of an economic crises even austerity measures could be legitimised with Economy of Wellbeing approach.

Another important critique is the lack of – or at least too small – role for ecological and environmental perspectives. It is impossible to deny that at the time of climate crisis (and other ecological crises) the wellbeing of our planet is the most important policy issue and by neglecting it, we are not able to secure the wellbeing of people in our societies.

Therefore, it is very important that civil society actors continue to battle over the concept of Economy of Wellbeing in Europe. In the best scenario the initiative will bring us more policy space to build an actual Wellbeing Economy. An economic and social model that puts the wellbeing of all people and our planet first.

Mr. Jussi Ahokas is Chief Economist for SOSTE Finnish Federation for Social Affairs and Health – SOSTE is a member of WEAll

This content is reposted from Corporate Europe 

“In preparation for the complicated process of hiring 27 new EU Commissioners, Corporate Europe Observatory joined forces with organisations defending women’s rights, democracy, public health and the environment, to outline the ideal profile of Commissioner candidates.

With the selection of Ursula von der Leyen as new President of the European Commission now behind us, EU Institutions are gearing up for the complicated process of hiring 27 new EU Commissioners.

Each EU Member State nominates a candidate to the Commission, who will then need to be vetted by the European Parliament. Those that followed this process in 2014 will surely remember the many problems that can appear during this recruitment – from Commissioners with severe conflicts of interest with the industry they are meant to regulate, to sexism.

To ensure we don’t see a repetition of this situation, Corporate Europe Observatory has joined forces with organisations defending women’s rights, democracy, public health and the environment, to outline and suggest the ideal profile of EU Commissioner candidates.

We also wrote directly to the EU Heads of State ahead of the May 2019 Sibiu Summitt. EU citizens now count on their governments to deliver a list of candidates that is gender balanced, conflict of interest free and who will put public interest first.

Job ad: European Commissioners
Primary Location: Brussels, Belgium
Job Function: European Commissioner

Mission of the role

The people of Europe are looking for European Commissioners for the 2019-2024 term to take strategic leadership in putting people at the center of EU policy-making and to champion a just transition towards a sustainable economy and society for all.

Every day, people across Europe struggle with growing poverty and inequality, deteriorating access to healthcare and worrying levels of youth unemployment. Urgent problems go unsolved – the climate crisis, air pollution killing hundreds of thousands of residents, refugees and migrants fleeing war treated inhumanely, to name a few. Causes the EU once championed, such as gender equality and guaranteeing civil rights and labour rights, have stagnated.

Many people in the EU feel frustrated, and have lost trust in the capacity of the EU institutions to respond to their aspirations, fueling Euroscepticism across the continent. The rise of nationalism and xenophobia across Europe is a worrying sign and a severe threat to the EU’s fundamental values, to our health and well-being, to our future, and to the European project itself.

As European Commissioner, you will have a unique opportunity to restore trust in the EU, provide a better life for all of us, and prosperity for future generations and the planet.

Role and Responsibilities

You will serve people in the EU and beyond, by developing and implementing public interest- driven policies and positively contributing to a vision of Europe that:

  • Puts public interest first
  • Achieves the 2030 agenda for sustainable development
  • Respects the universal values of freedom, equality, democracy, the rule of law and human rights
  • Delivers a strong social pillar in Europe
  • Delivers decent, sustainable jobs for all
  • Ensures the freedom of expression, association and assembly, including free media across Europe
  • Takes urgent climate action to limit warming to 1.5°C and phases out fossil fuels quickly, showing global leadership
  • Promotes just and sustainable transition to a 100% renewable energy supply, which is clean, affordable and supports community ownership and does not lead to energy poverty
  • Promotes sustainable and healthy food systems, more environmental and nature protection, increased food sovereignty and regional farmers’ markets
  • Ensures fair taxation
  • Pursues a sustainable trade agenda that is designed to advance well-being and the public interest, instead of cost and burden reduction for companies, and that end existing VIP rights for investors
  • Supports legally binding European and international human rights obligations for its businesses that operate overseas, including push for a UN Treaty on Business and Human Rights
  • Puts human rights at the centre of the response to migration
  • Contributes to a people-centred and gender-sensitive EU budget
  • Develops a needs-driven and responsible research and innovation policy
  • Ensures a high level of protection of human health and well-being in all EU policies
  • Ensures Europe cracks down on corruption both within and outside Europe and promotes greater transparency in member state and EU policy-making
  • Ensures meaningful public participation in EU policy-making processes
  • Ensures the corporate and the financial sector deliver for people and planet, not for profit

Essential Requirements

Candidates are expected prioritise the interests of people over those of economic and financial actors; by, among other things, limiting meetings with corporate lobbyists and ensuring that those meetings that take place are transparent.

Only candidates without conflicts of interest will be considered for this role. Such conflicts of interest can arise from candidates’ – or their spouses, partners or family members – financial investments or professional roles. Cases of this nature can not only impair the ability of these commissioners to act with impartiality, but they also taint the image of the EU institutions.

Additional Information

The EU is now striving to be an equal opportunities employer hence we particularly welcome applications from women; people of different ethnic, religious, and educational backgrounds; migrants; people with disabilities and LGBTI+ people.

Compensation Packages and Benefits

  • A generous compensation package, according to EU standards;
  • Transitional allowance at the end of the term to prevent any conflicts of interests with regard to the candidate’s prospective employment after leaving public office.

With this compensation package, paid by taxpayers money, we only expect the candidate to defend people’s interests above all.

To find out more and apply contact your national government as they will be responsible for nominating the candidates.”

This Europe Day, the Wellbeing Economy Alliance is proud to support a pan-European campaign for a Sustainability and Wellbeing Pact, led by our member the European Environmental Bureau (EEB).

An open letter (click to download PDF – full text also below), demanding that the EU prioritises wellbeing over growth, has been signed by over 200 experts across the continent and received media coverage in 16 countries today.

WEAll members and Ambassadors are amongst the signatories, including WEAll co-founder and Ambassador Professor Kate Pickett, who says: “Nothing is more important for Europe than system change to make sustainable wellbeing our number one priority – it’s time to act and make the transition we all so badly need.”

Coverage in: The Ecologist, The National

The full text of the open letter:

What Europe needs is a Sustainability and Wellbeing Pact

The echo from the streets of Europe and beyond is ‘system change, not climate change’. When climate activist Greta Thunberg met European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker, she told him to talk to the experts, but what should they say?

We, system change experts from academia, civil society and cities, have some answers. Last autumn, a group of 238 scientists and 90.000 citizens asked for an end to Europe’s growth dependency and at a Growth in Transition conference in Vienna we made this more concrete. We look beyond increasing GDP towards a positive plan for a post-growth economy.

Our three key leverage points on HOW to launch a transition towards a thriving society within planetary boundaries advise policy-makers at European, national, regional and municipal levels on ways to confront the still worsening triple crisis of climate change, mass extinction and inequality.

Let’s be honest. Neither the Paris Agreement nor the Aichi Biodiversity Targets nor the current tax regimes are capable of dealing with these existential threats. As a group of scientists just wrote in Science: “The current measures for protecting the climate and biosphere are deeply inadequate”.

Deep changes are not only needed, but also wanted. A recent and massive poll taken all over Europe showed that a majority of Europeans now consider that the environment should be a priority even at the expense of growth.

Broad agreement was found on three major systemic changes. These three leaps are not excluding other solutions, but they all three are urgent, possible, needed, wanted and game-changing. They do require a visionary mindset and a can-do attitude. They require a mindshift away from incremental thinking, the mindset that has brought us to this point of crisis.

1) Dethrone King GDP, crown Queen WELLBEING

People want to thrive in a living world. Policies catering to GDP growth often sacrifice people and planet alike, while policies towards well-being help us heal.

Prosperity without growth is possible. Growth by over-exploitation of resources, safety shortcuts and pollution drive both people and planet to burnouts. Examples from Bhutan to New Zealand and Barcelona show that putting social and environmental progress before GDP really works.

Demands to the European Commission:

  • Turn the Stability and Growth Pact (SGP) into a Sustainability and Wellbeing Pact (SWP).
  •  Change from “Jobs, growth and investment“ to “Wellbeing, jobs and sustainability“
  •  Establish a DG for Wellbeing and Future Generations led by the first vice-president

    Demands to countries, regions and municipalities:

  • Create a wellbeing and future generations portfolio at the heart of governance

2) From TAX HAVENS for the few to REDISTRIBUTION for the many

  • Tax wealth more and labour less. Tax pollution progressively and stop subsidizing it.
  • Two post-war decades of +-90% top income tax rates in US & UK became a rate (far) under 50% now. Most EU countries followed, leaving the rich off the hook. As a result, inequality has been rising steadily and a growing feeling of (tax) injustice has spilled into social unrest and populism. The Gilets Jaunes uprising in France showed that you can’t tax pollution without a fair taxation system. Subsidies supporting pollution and resource overuse need to end immediately and pollution/carbon taxes must be used to promote welfare for the poorest.

Demands:

  • Set top income tax rates above 80% for redistribution to low- & middle-income families.
  • Tax air travel for redistribution to better and low to zero-cost public transport1.
  • Launch progressive carbon and resource taxes at the source and redistribute.
  • Provide tax incentives for the use of recycled materials.

 

3) EFFICIENT products are good, SUFFICIENT solutions are great

Efficiency gains are important, but only the beginning of the solution

Social and cultural exclusion can undo efficiency gains. We don’t need to sell more products, we need sufficient solutions that are long-lasting. Some companies already sell the service of having light, instead of the product of a light bulb, reversing the incentive from planned obsolescence to long lasting products. Barcelona’s zero-waste strategy includes advanced separate waste collection systems with smart waste containers to identify users and reduce residual waste as well as boost biowaste catchment – going much further than awareness raising, prevention, and support for reuse.

Demands:

  • Support the development of better business models like the product-service economy.
  • Implement zero waste strategies at all governance levels following the waste management

    hierarchy for operations and extended producers’ responsibility schemes.

  • Decrease the VAT on labour-intensive services such as repairing.
  • Leap from efficiency to sufficiency policies to make sustainable lifestyles the default.

This elections year, it is hard to imagine that European citizens will be satisfied with shallow political promises: they are furiously standing up against business as usual.

All over Europe, youth climate strikers are hitting the streets of cities and pushing to exit our brown, fossil fuel-based economy, which is supported by financial investors because it is (still) more profitable. In France, ordinary working people put on their yellow jackets and staged roadblocks for the whole of winter to protest against the government’s pro-finance, pro-business economic programme. In Greece, pensioners have held countless demonstrations against austerity policies, which led to cuts in their pensions, medicines, health insurance and to social exclusion in order to repay large amounts of borrowed money that mainly bailed-out German and French banks.

In actual fact, all these protests are linked because our environmental and social crises are consequences of the politics of financialisation that have transformed our entire economies and lives over the last thirty years.

Finance Watch has a clear vision how we can reform our financial system, but how ambitious are EU policymakers to make finance serve society?

We have checked the financial reform proposals of all EU Political Groups ahead of the European elections against a set of policy demands we think are key. Find out how the parties scored in our Finance Watch Guide to the #EUelections2019

We have analysed and rated the commitments separately in four areas of policy changes needed to make finance serve society:

  1. Stabilize the financial system,
  2. Democratise the financial institutions as well as financial policy making,
  3. Re-direct capital to a sustainable economy and
  4. Prepare for a future financial crisis.

What you can do

238 leading academics wrote an open letter to the EU this weekend, calling for the prioritisation of stability and wellbeing over GDP.

The experts, including WEAll Ambassador Kate Pickett, mention the vital role of WEAll in connecting the existing and  emerging wellbeing economy movement.

Read the full letter below or on the Guardian website here, where you can also see all the signatories.

If you agree with their call, you can add your voice by signing this petition to the EU.

The open letter

“This week, scientists, politicians, and policymakers are gathering in Brussels for a landmark conference. The aim of this event, organised by members of the European parliament from five different political groups, alongside trade unions and NGOs, is to explore possibilities for a “post-growth economy” in Europe.

For the past seven decades, GDP growth has stood as the primary economic objective of European nations. But as our economies have grown, so has our negative impact on the environment. We are now exceeding the safe operating space for humanity on this planet, and there is no sign that economic activity is being decoupled from resource use or pollution at anything like the scale required. Today, solving social problems within European nations does not require more growth. It requires a fairer distribution of the income and wealth that we already have.

 

Growth is also becoming harder to achieve due to declining productivity gains, market saturation, and ecological degradation. If current trends continue, there may be no growth at all in Europe within a decade. Right now the response is to try to fuel growth by issuing more debt, shredding environmental regulations, extending working hours, and cutting social protections. This aggressive pursuit of growth at all costs divides society, creates economic instability, and undermines democracy.

Those in power have not been willing to engage with these issues, at least not until now. The European commission’s Beyond GDP project became GDP and Beyond. The official mantra remains growth — redressed as “sustainable”, “green”, or “inclusive” – but first and foremost, growth. Even the new UN sustainable development goalsinclude the pursuit of economic growth as a policy goal for all countries, despite the fundamental contradiction between growth and sustainability.

The good news is that within civil society and academia, a post-growth movement has been emerging. It goes by different names in different places:décroissance, Postwachstumsteady-state or doughnut economicsprosperity without growth, to name a few. Since 2008, regular degrowth conferenceshave gathered thousands of participants. A new global initiative, the Wellbeing Economies Alliance (or WE-All), is making connections between these movements, while a European research network has been developing new “ecological macroeconomic models”. Such work suggests that it’s possible to improve quality of life, restore the living world, reduce inequality, and provide meaningful jobs – all without the need for economic growth, provided we enact policies to overcome our current growth dependence.

Some of the changes that have been proposed include limits on resource use, progressive taxation to stem the tide of rising inequality, and a gradual reduction in working time. Resource use could be curbed by introducing a carbon tax, and the revenue could be returned as a dividend for everyone or used to finance social programmes. Introducing both a basic and a maximum income would reduce inequality further, while helping to redistribute care work and reducing the power imbalances that undermine democracy. New technologies could be used to reduce working time and improve quality of life, instead of being used to lay off masses of workers and increase the profits of the privileged few.

Given the risks at stake, it would be irresponsible for politicians and policymakers not to explore possibilities for a post-growth future. The conference happening in Brussels is a promising start, but much stronger commitments are needed. As a group of concerned social and natural scientists representing all Europe, we call on the European Union, its institutions, and member states to:

1. Constitute a special commission on post-growth futures in the EU parliament. This commission should actively debate the future of growth, devise policy alternatives for post-growth futures, and reconsider the pursuit of growth as an overarching policy goal.

2. Incorporate alternative indicators into the macroeconomic framework of the EU and its member states. Economic policies should be evaluated in terms of their impact on human wellbeing, resource use, inequality, and the provision of decent work. These indicators should be given higher priority than GDP in decision-making.

3. Turn the stability and growth pact (SGP) into a stability and wellbeing pact. The SGP is a set of rules aimed at limiting government deficits and national debt. It should be revised to ensure member states meet the basic needs of their citizens, while reducing resource use and waste emissions to a sustainable level.

4. Establish a ministry for economic transition in each member state. A new economy that focuses directly on human and ecological wellbeing could offer a much better future than one that is structurally dependent on economic growth.”