Wellbeing economy ideas are making a splash around the world. Global and national media outlets are giving them more and more attention.

This week, the Wellbeing Economy Governments partnership of Scotland, Iceland and New Zealand had positive coverage from Australia to the US.

And our own Katherine Trebeck went down a storm as a panellist on BBC Debate Night in the UK.

Check out all of the coverage from the past week here:

Image: SBS World News

No founder will ever forget the day their business legally came to life. The birth of this new entity comes with a great sense of responsibility. Many business owners feel a great deal of emotional attachment to their creation as it unfolds, develops and grows. 

Ownership and governance play a crucial role in business as we attempt to transition towards a wellbeing economy. Holding on to what is most important can require reimagining what it means to own something. Here are 3 important elements to consider: 

  1. Decision making
  2. Growing pains
  3. The Social and the Environmental

How can ownership support effective decision making?

Recent research has shown that more than two thirds of employees are not fully engaged in their work, affecting motivation, commitment and ultimately also productivity.

James Priest, Co-developer of Sociocracy 3.0, LearnS3

“Collaborative endeavours will be more effective if people affected by decisions are involved in making them, or at least that they are able to influence decisions that affect them, on the basis of sound reasons for doing so.”
 James Priest, Co-developer of Sociocracy 3.0, LearnS3


According to a recent McKinsey survey, we spend about 37% of our work time on decision making.

Decision making, made in the absence of an understanding of the full picture, can affect the level of agility to respond to a changing environment (changing market demands, risk factors, regulations etc.). 

In commonly used ownership structures, influence and business information are mostly centralised to a few decision-makers. As a result, employees, customers, and affected communities and the planet are often left out of decision-making processes.

“Management hierarchies centralize decision making. While this is effective in some contexts, collaborative endeavours are more likely to succeed if you shift responsibility for significant elements of decision making close to where value is created.”
 James Priest, Co-developer of Sociocracy 3.0, LearnS3


Ultimately, ownership should not be a roadblock to productivity. It should enable it by delegating governance to those affected.

How can ownership affect our trajectory?

Many companies started out life in response to a social need – sometimes influenced by their founders’ religious beliefs. The UK confectionery Cadbury’s was begun by a Quaker. The Spanish cooperative Mondragon by a Catholic priest. The UK retailer Marks and Spencer by an impoverished Jewish boy from Belarussia. These organizations, like many others, have struggled through organisational growth and change of ownership to stay true to, and serve, their initial purpose. 

An ownership and governance structure that supports affected key stakeholders to have a voice in decision-making can help organisations to stay true to their mission. 

Katherine Trebeck, author of The Economics of Arrival

“Investor demands on business can take away from a business’s original mission. Without ownership and governance models designed to protect the interests of all stakeholders, there is a risk that actions focussing on the short-term will prevail.”
says Dr. Katherine Trebeck, author of ‘The Economics of Arrival’


As companies grow, they often start to be viewed as commodities, controllable by the highest bidder. Business-as-usual governance models are designed to maximise shareholder influence and often ignore stakeholder interests.


Martin Rich, FutureFit

“Listed companies are owned by nobody because they’re ostensibly owned by everybody, the result is a lack of responsibility.”
Martin Rich, FutureFit


This means economic interests and short-term profit gains can often overrule organisational values and principles, social and environmental concerns and even the long-term success of the business.

Even Patagonia, often held up as the poster child of sustainability, is wrestling with these questions as they head north of the $1bn mark in annual sales. They are beginning to question whether their scale is a hindrance to being truly regenerative.

Hunter Lovins, President of Natural Capitalism Solutions

“Scale is a real problem for change.”
Hunter Lovins, President, Natural Capital Solutions


As a business grows and occupies a new role in the market, there is a need to evolve to a model of stewardship. This means influence is delegated to a range of stakeholders to ensure informed decisions can be made by those affected.


Who’s responsible for the social and the environmental?

Traditionally, consideration of social and the environmental impacts was an afterthought for businesses, once the business of the economic i.e. financial had been taken care of. That has begun to change with statements from various business groupings that profit maximisation will no longer be the sole focus for their business.

Patrick Andrews, Co-Founder of Human Organising Co.

As a general rule, ownership brings responsibility. So it’s something of an anomaly that the owners of companies have no legal responsibility for their actions. If you own a share in a company that breaks the law, pollutes the environment or even kills someone, you can’t be touched. Is this not strange? 
Comments Patrick Andrews, Co-Founder of Human Organising Co.


However, saying it and actually doing it are two very different things. One way to help ensure we move from words to action is by bringing other voices into the governance model. Check out our first case study – Riversimple for such an example. Another is employee ownership, a model discussed in our second case study, that of Auchrannie Resort.

By Katherine Trebeck, WEAll Knowledge and Policy lead

Ideas can change the world. And misplaced ones can hold back progress. Myths and half truths about economics influence decision making across government and in business, and there are fundamental flaws in how economics is invariably taught.

To build an alternative and underpin the transition to a wellbeing economy, we need a strong and coherent knowledge and evidence base. Much is already known about what policies and ways of doing things need to change to change the world. But the theoretical base is disparate and would-be practitioners lack useful guidelines for implementation. The knowledge is scattered and often inaccessible.

So, what’s WEAll doing?

WEAll – via the Knowledge and Policy cluster – is helping bring together and promote wellbeing economy theory and practice.

We’ve been producing a diverse suite of knowledge products accessible to all sorts of practitioners, policy makers, and interested individuals.

We’ve gathered some of the most exciting and well-regarded thinkers on aspects of a wellbeing economy in a WEAll Research Fellows Network. Their work explores all corners of a wellbeing economy. They will contribute to the various publications WEAll is curating. Their expertise will be drawn on to help practitioners and politicians seeking to create a wellbeing economy.

We’re developing plans for an online interactive library. Interested people will be able to find their way to the most useful material for their interests, needs, and level of awareness.

We’re commissioning synthesis of the current state of the knowledge base in various areas of a wellbeing economy in our series ‘WEAll Ideas: Little Summaries of Big Issues’.

We’ve outlined how the wellbeing economy would deal with and respond to a range of issues, topics and challenges (and how this differs to the response of the current system). This provides an ‘at a glance’ insight into a wellbeing economy (see

We’ve published dozens of blogs, authored papers and articles for a range of outlets and even some books. We’ve also given media interviews; recorded many podcasts; and given presentations in many different countries to a range of audiences. You can see these featured in the WEAll news updates.

We’ve been active in policy influencing – speaking at All Party Parliamentary Groups and holding meetings with civil servants and members of parliament.

Leadership built on ideas

And of course WEAll instigated the Wellbeing Economy Governments partnership that was the ‘big idea’ at the centre of Nicola Sturgeon, the First Minister of Scotland’s 2019 TED talk. We have ongoing liaison with the civil servants leading this work and are supporting the engagement of additional members.

Without the ideas, energy, guidance, expertise of our members, this work would be slow going. Instead it has momentum and ambitious plans.

With your help, we can build on our strong start and sustain this work to build solid roots for the wellbeing economy movement.


Right now, WEAll is running our #WEAllGive fundraising drive so we can keep broadening the movement and developing the knowledge required to drive change.

Donate today to help make it happen.

During her recent book tour around Australia, WEAll Knowledge and Policy lead Katherine Trebeck participated in a panel event in Perth.

The discussion was recorded and recently released as a podcast by Perth-based RegenNarration.

The episode – ‘Arriving at a Wellbeing Economy’ – is described as follows:

“Recorded live in conversation with a full room at The Platform in Perth, a few days after the global climate strike and as the UN Climate Action Summit began. This event launched Katherine’s book, as part of a national tour around Australia in collaboration with the New Economy Network Australia.

While everyday economics has assumed all growth is good, the richest countries already have plenty of wealth and resources — they have ‘arrived’. The Economics of Arrival urges us to move from enlarging the economy to improving it, exploring the benefits this could bring for all, and how it can be done.

Importantly in this context, Aboriginal people in this country might well ask when they’ll have the opportunity to ‘arrive’. And with all we continue to learn about the sophistication of Aboriginal culture in Australia throughout millennia, what other narratives of ‘progress’ and development are available for us to share in?

Hot on the heels of the Wellbeing Budget in New Zealand, just the latest in a raft of key developments around the world, we explore how we change systems, stories and measures, to transition to an economy geared towards shared quality of life, rather than sheer quantity of stuff.”

Listen below and check out the original podcast page here.

In August, WEAll Ambassador Kristin Vala Ragnarsdottir brought together the WEAll Knowledge and Policy cluster with the PhD students close to finishing the pioneering AdaptEcon programme.

Following an intensive weekend of workshops, and training in media and public speaking, all participants had the opportunity to deliver and record a “TEDx-style” talk at the University of Iceland.

Below you can see all of the talks, which cover a range of topics from phosphorous to fish; from new stories to addiction. Each one is relevant to building a wellbeing economy and brings a unique perspective.

In addition to the PhD students, talks were delivered by members of the “WEAll family”: Amp team members Katherine Trebeck and Lisa Hough-Stewart, Ambassadors Bob Costanza and Vala Ragnarsdottir, Knowledge and Policy team members Ida Kubiszewski and Luca Coscieme, and Research Fellow Jennifer Hinton.

You can also visit the AdaptEcon YouTube channel which includes all the talks here.



The OECD has convening power. It has influencing power. And it has the power of its policy advice. It can prescribe changes that are listened to the same way a patient listens to their doctors advice.

So when the OECD’s regular gatherings on measuring wellbeing and shaping policy show signs of moving away from the cosy ‘GDP and beyond’ mantra and the non-system-challenging focus on treatment, then it is worth taking notice.

There’s a new regime in town.

In Paris over one hundred people spent two days hearing from the governments leading the effort to embed a focus on wellbeing into policy agenda. By the end, people were joking that the audience must have ‘framework fatigue’.

Diverse governments, from the UAE to Iceland, from Scotland to Jersey, from France to New Zealand, from Finland to Paraguay set out their efforts to shape policy-making – and, crucially – budgeting, in accordance with promotion and enabling of wellbeing. Discussion was about taking this seriously, changing planning and spending accordingly: the OECD Secretary-General told the audience that: “if it ain’t in the budget, it ain’t really a priority”.

Tensions between different conceptions of wellbeing were, thank goodness, not swept under the carpet as they often are in such discussions. People recognised that a focus on multidimensional wellbeing and the drivers of wellbeing was not the same as rallying around a single number measuring subjective self-reported wellbeing.

But what is done with any measure matters: Professor Jeff Sachs warned that looking at narrow measures means narrow perspective: “the stock market rising”, he said “but US life expectancy is falling, [the US has a] suicide and opioid epidemic – our country is in crisis, but we don’t know it’s a crisis because we don’t look at the right data; this question is not even asked”.

Speaking of drugs, Sachs (channelling WEAll Ambassador Robert Costanza) likened the prevailing money and growth focus to an addiction: “making money is addictive and we have an addiction”. This was reinforced by Martine Durand, OECD Chief Statistician and Director of the Statistics and Data Directorate who said “GDP was never meant to measure wellbeing; it’s been abused and now we’re addicted to it – need to go to a clinic to stop this addiction”. Fortunately, the doctors on duty are willing to look the patient in the eye and tell them some hard truths.

One of these is grappling with the need for both of the ‘two S.C.s’ as I described them. This first is a focus survival and coping – treating people whose wellbeing is low. This is, of course a humane response. It is also not enough in the face of an inhumane economy that is the root cause of so much anxiety and stress, to both people and to planet.

Hence the need for the second ‘S.C.’: system change that asks why people’s wellbeing is low and what changes in the economic set up need to be undertaken in response? Gabriela Ramos, OECD Chief of Staff challenged delegates to think beyond celebration of amelioration: “Even the existence of social safety nets tells us people are falling and we need to catch them. But how do we keep them from falling?”

In terms of system change, there was also a frank discussion about the relevance of a growth orientated agenda in the richest countries. Of course ecological economists and others have been questioning this for years, but to have senior members of the policy making establishment state that growth doesn’t matter for quality of life in GDP-rich countries (asserting it is “irrelevant for rich country’s wellbeing”) and to even question why the OECD would maintain a programme under the heading of ‘Inclusive Growth’ seemed to be a new high point for the post-growth conversation.

Finally, an impatience with the disconnect between what the wellbeing community has been measuring and saying for years and slow progress in shifting the economic agenda was apparent. Angel Gurría, OECD Secretary-General, opened the conference by saying the world is “well past the point when a lack of data is an excuse – [now the] need is to rationalise and choose and targets which are the relevant indicators”.

If these two days were a heartening stock-take on the state of the debate on wellbeing measures and policy agendas, their timing was just as useful: Finland is currently President of the EU and has made the ‘economy of wellbeing’ it’s flagship agenda. At times, the Finnish contribution seemed a little out of place, better suited to a gathering 5 years ago in that it emphasised the business case for wellbeing and asserting that if governments boost wellbeing that will boost growth. Fortunately, if the rest of the OECD conference was anything to go by, the thinking has moved on and the question is now “what can growth do for wellbeing?”. Not the other way around.

By Katherine Trebeck, WEAll Knowledge and Policy lead

WEAll Knowledge and Policy Lead Katherine Trebeck features in the latest episode of Policy Forum Pod, created by the Asia and Pacific Policy Society. She discusses the need for a wellbeing economy, her latest book ‘The Economics of Arrival’ (co-authored with Jeremy Williams), and what could be done differently by governments and society as a whole to deliver good lives.

Listen here:

Original link to podcast 

This piece was first published on the Wellbeing Economies film blog

Since early 2018, we have spent a lot of time with our protagonist Katherine Trebeck. In the summer of last year, we also traveled to Costa Rica together, to film her while she was speaking at a conference about sustainable fashion, and while she met the Costa Rican First Lady.

On that trip, she told us about an idea that I forgot about later, and that I was again reminded of recently. It is a beautiful thought that very convincingly illustrates how much we must change our notion of what progress actually means.

You have a very tough challenge to overcome when you try to move away from an economy that is measured by the “growth” it produces, in terms of financially measurable output. Or, in other words, by how much it increases GDP every year. GDP is such an established measurement: Everyone has heard of it, it seems so incredibly familiar (even though most people have no idea what it really is), and that’s why people have a really hard time letting go of it.

Now, how does the growth of GDP tell us that a society is improving?

Well, it measures how much a society makes every year, in terms of how much money is being spent on things in that society. And then it assumes that we are doing better if more things are made and sold next year. And so on. Forever. More stuff is better. It’s as simple as that.

We are now finding out that more is not better. Up to a certain point, yes. But after that, more just hurts more: It hurts nature. It hurts equality in society. It hurts the psychological health in a population. It hurts the climate. Etc.

In the western world, and after we’d broken everything in World War II (“thanks” to the nation I come from, Germany), looking at the GDP was probably a good idea, for a while. We could simply count how much we are making and then assume that we’re doing better if we are producing more next year. It meant more people in jobs, more people could afford things, life was getting better. But those days are gone. We are no longer better off if the GDP keeps growing, we’re actually worse off, nowadays. And we’re clearly ruining the planet this way.

So we speak a lot about what might be a better measure. There’s not going to be a single thing that replaces GDP, of course. But if you ask Katherine which single measure she would pick if she could use only one, to analyse if a society is actually doing better year after year, she’ll say this:

‘Why not get countries to measure the number of girls who bicycle to school?’

Ok, this may seem very strange at first glance. What? Rather than looking at how much economic output our country is producing, let’s count girls on bikes?

Think about it. It makes a heap of sense:

If more and more girls ride a bike to school, it means it’s safer and safer to cycle in traffic.

If more and more girls ride bikes to school, it means that bikes are increasinly accepted as a means of transport. And it means less parents’ cars — who are now doing the “parent taxi” thing (a big issue here in Germany) — are polluting the air and creating dangerous traffic jams outside schools.

If more and more girls cycle to school, it means that more and more girls are actually going to school and getting an education, period. That’s an important achievement in many countries.

If more girls are cycling to school, it means that they’ll get used to this mode of transport, it will translate to better health for them in the future, and to less pollution in society in the future.

If more girls go to school on bikes, it means that they are not afraid to be attacked by predators who do them harm.

If more and more girls ride bikes to school, more and more boys will do that, too.

If more and more girls cycle to school, it means that more of them are empowered and unafraid.

I think I agree with Katherine: This is an incredibly convincing measure of progress. And one that deserves serious consideration as a replacement for GDP. And I am not joking one bit.

Two of Katherine Trebeck’s recent talks have been made available on YouTube. As WEAll Knowledge and Policy lead, Katherine regularly delivers talks and workshops about the wellbeing economy.

In June Katherine was a keynote speaker at Love Economics in Morecambe, UK. The organisers describe the talk as follows:

“Prof Katherine Trebeck unpacks her incredible work with the ‘economics of arrival’ and the WEAre network she is pioneering globally. “The current economic model is not broken, it is doing exactly what it was designed to do – to siphon off wealth and feed it to the rich!” There are alternative, far kinder and more sustainable models available. Watch this and be inspired!”

In May, Katherine travelled to Canada and participated in the ‘Beyond GDP conference’ at Dalhousie University. Her talk there was entitled ‘New Measures for a New Movement’.

Both of these talks, as well as many more by Katherine and other WEAll members and representatives, can be found in our resource library.

This was first published on Open Democracy

Ian Gough’s latest book is required reading for anyone who wants to understand the enormity of the task at hand, writes Katherine Trebeck.

This is a long overdue review of a book that could not be more important. I read Gough’s Heat, Greed and Human Need: Climate Change, Capitalism and Sustainable Wellbeing soon after it was published, and I have taken my time to digest and reflect on its messages. Since then, the book’s messages have only become more salient, as young people have gone on strike from school to call out political intransigence to the climate crisis, as scientists’ warnings have become more stern and their connection of the climate crisis with the operation of the economic system less tentative, and as the UN Special Rapporteur has exposed the UK government’s inadequate support (at best) for people failed by the economic system.

This book is rich – and dense. It is not a page turner, but a ‘page-returner’. I found myself leafing back to re-read sections in order to grasp subsequent discussions. But the research and reflections contained between the covers provide the intellectual foundation for the protest placard ‘System Change Not Climate Change’.

Gough is one of the world’s greatest scholars on human needs (he explains his intellectual journey in a short autobiography). His work, with Len Doyal, shows that basic needs encompass physical health, autonomy of agency (mental health, cognitive understanding, opportunities to participate), and critical autonomy. They are satisfied by access to things such as adequate food and water, protective housing, safe work environment, healthcare, and significant primary relationships, and in turn optimized by freedoms from (civic and political rights), freedoms to(rights of access to need satisfiers), and political participation.

Since human need theory draws on eudemonic psychology (which underscores the recognition of three universal needs: autonomy, competence and relatedness), Gough’s work is influential for those who are a little skeptical about the merit of wellbeing as individual self-reported happiness in the hedonic sense. He reminds us, for example, that preferences and wants are shaped and context matters, so simplistic assumptions about one number or one question about how people feel are problematic. In contrast, “human needs are objective, plural, non-substitutable and satiable”.

Heat, Greed, and Human Need takes this focus and puts the attainment of human needs in the context of the climate crisis, given the scientific realities and lived experience faced by communities around the word. He does so by explaining how both rising heat (due to climate change) and resultant challenges in meeting human needs have their root cause in the greed embedded in – and exacerbated by – the current economic system: ‘neoliberalism’. This is an economic agenda characterized by belief in the superiority of markets (especially when spread across global production networks, and when the financial sector flourishes) and a disparaging approach to the role of government and collective action.

The pursuit of economic growth, which is inherent in this system, has been “at the cost of growing inequalities of wealth and income…Another way that growth undermines wellbeing is through the commodification of more and more aspects of life”.

In other words, while human needs theory tells us that everyone has psychological needs for autonomy, competence and relatedness, “economic growth often fails to nurture and nourish” these needs.

Worse, when the climate crisis is taken into account, Gough reports that research and modelling show increasing the efficiency of production won’t be enough – unfortunately for proponents of a ‘technical’ solution,

Instead, the task is to change the pattern of consumption and ensure that what the ‘North’ consumes is within a corridor of minimum and maximum standards. This requires fundamental transformation of almost all aspects of the economy, including a need to:

  • Invest in renewable energy and energy networks
  • Transform and communications and even cities
  • Retrofit buildings for energy efficiency
  • Regenerate natural resources generated
  • Re-examine ideas of investment, productivity, profit and growth to align with social needs and contribution

He suggests that there are three-elements of the shift: improving production to make it more efficient in resource and energy use; transforming consumption so it encompasses less material throughput; and reducing demand for consumption in the global north. These elements are set out in turn and their possibility aided by a rich discussion of the different ‘varieties’ of capitalism as it intersects with welfare states, climate mitigation strategies – including some great typologies (always useful for a reader like me who loves a good typology!).

Gough does not shy away from pointing to the extent of political capture that drives the current mode of greed-driven capitalism, nor does he hesitate in raising a skeptical eyebrow at policies currently in vogue amongst potential readers.

On the former, he notes that the financial sector in countries such as the UK and the US has expanded due to its lobbying power, influence on governments, and ‘ability to shift investment and economic activity between jurisdictions and the structural position of finance capital in ensuring national economic survival’.

On the later, in the face of the growing embrace of the citizens basic income agenda, Gough is cautious saying: the “idea of a citizen’s income resembles a ‘silver bullet’…[but it] could distract attention from the complex underlying causes of inequalities, ill-health and social conflict…These require ‘upstream’ systemic changes, rather than a single downstream intervention”.

This frankness and the positioning of human need delivery in the context of a planet burning up before our eyes make this rich book required reading for anyone who wants to break out of siloed thinking, who wants to understand the enormity of the task at hand, and who wants to be reminded of what the purpose of the economy should ultimately be.

WEAll’s Katherine Trebeck and her co-author Jeremy Williams have been blogging about the core themes of their book ‘The Economics of Arrival: ideas for a grown up economy’.

Published on Jeremy’s site ‘The Earthbound Report’, the blogs explore the following five themes (click to read the blogs on Earthbound Report, or view the first one in full below):

  1. What is Arrival?
  2. On making ourselves at home
  3. The futility of uneconomic growth
  4. What does progress look like after growth?
  5. A gentler path to the summit
What is Arrival?

Arrival is the idea that sparked our book and gives it its title: The Economics of Arrival: Ideas for a Grown Up Economy. But what do we mean by it? What is arrival?

(Besides being a rather good sci-fi film that came out while we were writing the book and drank our Google juice, obviously.)

Arrival is the notion that development has a destination. Growth is a means to an end, and at some point its work is done.

Arrival is about having enough to, in theory, have one’s basic needs met, and having all the resources required for a good life. To use a phrase that Jeremy’s grandma regularly said at the end of a good meal, we could describe it as reaching a point of ‘ample sufficiency’ in terms of wealth and resources in the economy as a whole.

In the context of national economies, a country has arrived if it has a high enough wealth and resources to theoretically provide a high quality of life for all its citizens. It has the finances and the materials to ensure everyone has what they need. Whether everyone has a good life in reality is, of course, a matter of access and distribution. Those are questions of politics and institutional design. Having enough resources collectively doesn’t necessarily mean everyone individually has enough. But it could, if a nation chose to make it so.

With that in mind, reaching a point of Arrival doesn’t mean that all problems are solved. We’re not suggesting that there’s a magical threshold where everyone’s needs are automatically provided for. But we can imagine Arrival as a moment when a society has the means for this. Growth has reached a point at which a good life could, theoretically, be universal.

Arrival is therefore a possibility, not a promise.

We’re using a journey metaphor, where rising economic growth and human development take us ever closer to our destination. You could, as in the sub-title of our book in fact, also consider Arrival to be a process of maturing and reaching adulthood, a metaphor captured in the German word for ‘postgrowth’, ausgewachsen. Or a tree reaching its full size, finding its niche among its neighbours, optimized to the rainfall, soil conditions and sunlight in the place where it stands.

This growth towards maturity is present all through nature. What if we extend the principle towards the economy? What does an economy look like when it is all grown up?

That does beg the question of how we know if and when a country has Arrived – and which of the world’s nations might already be there. It also raises the important question of what a country’s priorities should be once arrival is reached (and recognized). That’s something we call ‘making ourselves at home’, and we’ll look at that tomorrow.

Arrival is useful as a concept because it unlocks these kinds of questions. It’s a provocative notion, one that prompts us towards new lines of thinking. And those are positive questions – maturity is to be celebrated. Arrival is a success story. It delivers on the hopes of our ancestors, and promises a less stressful, more secure future for the next generation. But that would require us to recognize it and embrace it, or risk losing the gains so far in the scramble for more.

Let’s ask those questions, and see where they take us next. Welcome to the Arrivals Lounge.

Read the rest of the blogs at Earthbound Report

See also: Katherine and Jeremy’s recent blog ‘Arriving in a place with beautiful potential’ on And Beauty For All

By Lisa Hough-Stewart, WEAll Communications and Mobilisation lead

On Wednesday 10 July, Caroline Lucas MP secured a debate in the UK House of Commons about ‘Economic growth and environmental limits’.

The Green MP made a powerful speech, focused on “why and how our current economic model, which puts GDP growth above everything else, must change fundamentally, fast.”

Quoting Greta Thunberg’s famous statement that ‘our house is on fire’, Lucas argued that “the GDP growth obsession is the obstacle blocking the door to the emergency exit.”

Speaking on behalf of the UK Government, The Exchequer Secretary to the Treasury Robert Jenrick gave a response which continued to be centred on economic growth, stating that “it is now more important than ever that the Government and institutions such as the Treasury, which is at the heart of this debate, confront head on the question of how we continue to grow the economy while protecting our environment and tackling climate change.”

However, Jenrick did agree with the importance of moving beyond GDP, going on to say that “GDP undoubtedly has its limitations and should not be seen as an all-encompassing measure of welfare and wellbeing, and we entirely accept that it was never designed to be”.

Representatives of other parties taking part in the debate also supported this sentiment.

Ahead of the debate, Caroline Lucas published a piece in Politics Home which set out her arguments in full detail, and referenced Katherine Trebeck’s ideas as well as those of other WEAll members and partners.

Considering alternatives to GDP, she wrote: “To do all this we need to start measuring what matters. The economist Katherine Trebeck has one suggestion: ‘Why not get countries to measure the number of girls who bicycle to school? What clearer yardstick could convey so much about progress in women’s education, green transport, health and poverty alleviation in a single number?'”

Both in the article and in the Westminster debate, Lucas heavily cited the new report from WEAll member The European Environmental Bureau (EEB)  which demonstrates that efforts to decouple economic growth from environmental harm, known as ‘green growth’, have not succeeded and are unlikely to succeed in their aim.

The full transcript of the Westminster debate can be accessed via Hansard here.

This piece was originally published by UN Association 

The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) speak to an agenda that is familiar the world over, even though different terms might be used to describe the key ideas: quality of life, flourishing for all people and sustainability for the planet. These ideas are increasingly coalescing around the notion of wellbeing, in all its dimensions.

This shared vision for a better way of doing things can be found across a range of sources. It is embedded in the scripts of many religions. It is contained in the world views of First Nations communities. It can be read in the scholarship of development experts and in research findings about what makes people content. This vision echoes in evidence from psychology about human needs and from neuroscience about what makes our brains react. Perhaps most importantly, it can be heard loud and clear in deliberative conversations with people all over the world about what really matters to them. It is set out in the 17 SDGs, and perhaps is best captured by the overriding mantra of ‘leave no one behind’.

An economy that leaves people behind
This is a call to ensure that everyone is included, that no one is marginalised. ‘Leave no one behind’ implies that it is the system, our collective institutions and their interactions, which does the ‘leaving’ – not that it is those left behind who are to blame. Taking this system-wide viewpoint enables a conversation about the interconnected nature of people’s opportunities and conceptualisations of development, how they interact with the environment, and how shifts in one sphere have consequences in the other. In the worst-case scenario, these interactions can spark spirals that devastate lives, threaten human rights and undermine peace.

The systemic nature of these processes means that it is inadequate to keep plastering over “wounds caused by inequality by building more prisons, hiring more police and prescribing more drugs” (as Danny Dorling puts it in his book Injustice: Why Social Inequality Still Persists). Expenditure on such items is a grave testament to the failure to help people flourish and enjoy quality of life. This tally is even higher when one looks at the expenditure necessitated by environmental breakdown – cleaning up after climate-change-induced flooding or storms, treating asthma exacerbated by toxic particles in the air, and buying bottled water when rivers and streams are polluted.

Of course, such expenditures are the preserve of those fortunate enough to have the resources to spend. Environmental breakdown hits those without such resources the hardest due to their increased vulnerability. People’s ability to escape from sources of toxicity and risk is determined by whether they can command access to uncontaminated, safer land and food sources, or if they are among the great numbers of those who must make do with what is left.

The vulnerability of those who are least to blame reflects the unequal distribution of power, resources and opportunity: economic resources are as unequally shared as the impact resulting from plunder of natural ones.

An unequally shared harvest
One of the best-regarded authorities on economic inequality is the World Inequality Report. The 2018 publication revealed that in recent decades income inequality, measured by the top 10 per cent’s share of income, is getting worse in almost all parts of the world. Statistics compiled by Credit Suisse show that the richest one per cent own as much wealth as the rest of the world. The gap between the real incomes of people in the Global North compared to those in the Global South has expanded by approximately three times since 1960. Taking the broader definition of poverty adopted by Peter Edward’s ‘ethical poverty line’ (identifying the income threshold below which life expectancy rapidly falls, currently $7.40 a day) as many as 4.3 billion people live in poverty.

Those GDP-rich economies that most epitomise the current economic model provide some of the starkest evidence that the prevailing system distributes inadequately. The McKinsey Global Institute reports that 81 per cent of the US population is in an income bracket which experienced flat or declining income over the last decade. The figure is 97 per cent in Italy, 70 per cent in Britain and 63 per cent in France. People living in GDP-rich countries are struggling to get by. In the UK, for example, the use of food banks has risen dramatically in recent years.

Those who reap most of the rewards of this system are also those putting the planet in most danger. On climate change, figures published by Our World In Data show that the richest countries (high and upper–middle income countries) emit 86 per cent of global CO2 emissions. In the UK, emissions are strongly correlated with income, while in the US, the richest 10 per cent have a carbon footprint three times that of people in the poorest 10 per cent of incomes.

Rebuilding the system
It is not unusual to hear people who are concerned about the state of the world pointing to the levels of inequality. They cite the lack of sufficient job quality, bemoan the plunder of the planet and declare that the economic system is ‘broken’.

But if one peers beneath the symptoms, it becomes apparent that the root cause of so much of this is directly due to how the economy is currently and proactively designed. Our economic system does not sufficiently account for nature, is blind to distribution of resources, and elevates measures of progress that encompass perverse incentives (such as short-term profit and GDP at the expense of human wellbeing).

The system is not broken: it is doing what it was set up to do. The roots of inequality and environmental breakdown are found in a heady mix of institutions, processes and power relations that shape allocation of risk and reward. Decisions taken over many years by successive governments have resulted in: inadequate minimum wage levels and inadequate social protection; different rates of tax on income compared to capital; relatively low rates of top income tax (particularly in the UK and US compared to other OECD countries, and compared to previous levels); loopholes inserted in legislation that enabled tax avoidance; undermining of unions’ scope to collectively bargain and fight for workers’ pay and conditions; narrow ownership of many firms; and corporate governance that fixates on short-term profit.

The same system dynamics are seen in the links between inequality and environmental impact. These links arise through: the pressure to consume status items to maintain the appearance of wealth; the consumption patterns of the richest; the way inequality undermines collective efforts to protect environmental commons; and the break that inequality exerts on pro-environmental policies. These structures are deliberate, even though the side effects may not be. Although they stretch back many decades (centuries even), they can be dismantled and designed differently.

Building a wellbeing economy
The patterns highlighted above suggest that while the vision might be to leave no one behind, today’s reality is that some might be too far ahead – hoarding economic resources and doing much damage to natural ones. This arrangement is a construct that reflects political decisions and choices by enterprises.

A wellbeing economy can be built that would deliver good lives for people from the beginning, rather than requiring so much effort to patch things up, to cope and recover after the damage is done, and to redistribute what is unevenly shared. A wellbeing economy can be achieved by reorienting goals and expectations for business, politics and society.

A wellbeing economy is one that is regenerative, that is cooperative and collaborative, and that is purposeful. It will have equal opportunity at its core: not simply by meekly redistributing as best one can the outcomes from an unequal economic system, but by structuring the economy so that better sharing of resources, wealth and power is built in. For example, it would entail:

  • regenerated ecosystems and extended global commons;
  • a circular economy serving needs rather than driving consumption from production;
  • people feeling safe and healthy in their communities, mitigating the need for vast expenditure on treating, healing and fixing;
  • switching to renewables, generated by local communities or public agencies wherever possible;
  • democratic economic management (in terms of power, scale and ownership);
  • participatory, deliberative democracy with governments responsive to citizens;
  • purpose-driven businesses with social and environmental aims in their DNA, using true-cost accounting;
  • economic security for all, and wealth, income, time and power fairly distributed, rather than relying on redistribution;
  • jobs that deliver meaning and purpose and means for a decent livelihood;
  • recognising and valuing care, health and education in the ‘core’ economy outside the market; and
  • focusing on measures of progress that reflect real value creation.

A growing movement is forming around the idea of such an economy. It comprises academics laying out the evidence base, businesses harnessing commercial activities to deliver on social and environmental goals, and communities working together not for monetary reward, but following the innate human instincts to be together, to cooperate and collaborate. Such efforts will be made so much easier as pioneering policymakers are emboldened to step away from the constraints imposed by a 20th century vision of ‘development as GDP’. Instead, they must embrace a new agenda for the 21st century – an economy geared up to deliver human and ecological wellbeing. This work bodes well for the creation of a world in which no one is left behind.

This piece was originally posted by Enough

In 1983 President Reagan declared, ‘There are no great limits to growth because there are no limits to human intelligence, imagination and wonder’.

That was an era when students were striking against the risk of atomic war, when celebrities sang that aid and charity from the west would ‘feed the world’.

It was a time when the scientific community was building a strong evidence base about hydrofluorocarbons that resulted in political agreement (the ‘Montreal Protocol’) to eradicate their use in order to protect the ozone layer.

Today, some three decades on, thousands and thousands of students around the world are striking against the inadequate political response to the climate crisis.

Today, both celebrities and companies are being called out for tax evasion which undermines state budgets for health and education in the UK and around the world.

And the scientific community is not only warning against the 6th mass extinction, it’s building an evidence base that the link between economic growth and environmental impact is real. The recent Global Assessment pulled no punches in saying: ‘A key constituent of sustainable pathways is…steering away from the current limited paradigm of economic growth’.1

Only calling for our current economic system to be decarbonised ignore such biodiversity losses. They also ignore the evidence

  • That decoupling growth from carbon emissions is a case of buying things from overseas rather than at home (so it is recorded in another country’s carbon ledger)
  • That efficiency gains are liable to be partially offset by rebound (spent on other goods and services which themselves have a carbon footprint), and
  • That any decoupling is just too slow to be a solution.

This is the unfortunate reality for proponents of a technological saviour scenario or green growth (which, in a way, is the macroeconomic equivalent of greenwashing).

Community groups and scholars alike are also pointing to the mounting evidence that economic growth is not an automatic contributor to equality of opportunity, despite the claims of hundreds of economics text books and so many politicians in the UK and around the world.

How would such claims go down with communities in Scotland who haven’t seen many drips trickling their way from the growth in Scotland’s GDP in the decades since Reagan was President?

How would it sound to the people who have to turn to food banks after a shift at work because the economic activity on offer isn’t enabling them to feed their families?

How would it sound to the streets of Scotland where life expectancy is more than fifteen years below that of the rest of the population, where amenities are crumbling, and opportunity is restricted by deeply unequal outcomes?

And yet, in spite of such contemporary realities, thinking from the Reagan era lives on – on our airwaves, political debates, and even in our mindsets.

Just over 12 months ago, a report was published on behalf of the SNP and voted on at their 2019 spring conference, the product of the “Sustainable Growth Commission”.

The 354-page document contains some useful and progressive proposals – not least its framing of tax as an investment and welcoming the role of migrants in Scottish life.

But the very premise of the report has been inadequately discussed and the critique of it thus far has focused on Scotland’s currency post-independence, with even some of the currency arguments being framed according to their impact on GDP growth.

Turning the pages reveals that the report focuses on “sustainable” in the “perpetual” sense of the term, not the “taking into account environmental limits and so operating in a way to respect and regenerate the ecosystem” sense of the term.

The latter doesn’t make for such a catchy title, but the former sense and the agenda of the report itself needs to be re-examined in light of scientific consensus around climate change, youth outrage at political intransigence, and the failure of a growth-orientated model to deliver for enough communities in Scotland.

The Growth Commission points to New Zealand’s economy over the last decade or so as something to emulate, despite New Zealand’s concerted efforts to move away from its recent growth-ist orientation and instead build a wellbeing economy. As Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern says:

people look [at our GDP] and say ‘you’re doing OK’. But we have homelessness at staggering rates, ones of the highest rates of youth suicide in the OECD and our mental health and wellbeing is not what it should be. We need to address the societal wellbeing of our nation, not just the economic wellbeing. 

These words could easily apply to Scotland. Instead of persisting with an economic model that our Kiwi friends are discarding, we should accompany them in imagining and creating an economy more suited to the environmental realities of our age and which does more to ensure the economy works for all, not just the privileged few.

And in many respects, Scotland is pioneering a new way, recognising that our economy can be one that is better than growth. They entail efforts to make the economy circular and businesses more inclusive. There is cross-party support for broadening the notion of national success towards a broader set of goals via the National Performance Framework and, just recently, a shift in the goal of Scottish Enterprise towards supporting businesses that deliver quality jobs, wellbeing and tackling inequality. And Scotland is showing leadership in convening the new Wellbeing Economy Governments (WEGo) initiative

Yet, despite these highlights, the Growth Commission sits alognside a long list of examples that illustrate ubiquity of the growth-ist mindset.

You see it in the almost ubiquitous talk of boosting Scotland’s productivity – without exploration of:

  • More of what (do we really need to churn out more things?)
  • Without recognition of the power imbalances in workplaces that so often mean productivity gains are captured by the owners of capital, with workers making do with the crumbs, and
  • Without discussion as to whether faster and faster is an appropriate goal for a post-industrial economy that could pride itself on services, on care, on craftmanship?

You read about the growth-ist mindset each time there is a news report that compares Scotland’s GDP to that of the UK or the OECD, every time a financial analyst makes predictions for the Scottish economy and all they consider are future GDP and simple employment numbers.

You see it in the business case being made for gender equality or addressing poverty (“it’s a drag on the economy”).

And you hear the growth-ist mindset every time we have a nice adjective stuck in front of growth: ‘inclusive’, ‘green’, ‘low carbon’, ‘shared’.

These at least concede that growth comes with environmental and social collateral damage. But these new ways of framing growth show our collective mind has been so tuned to growth, our imaginations so limited, that the best we can do is put an adjective in front of it.

Expanding our collective imagination to encompass the possibility and the necessity of a post-growth economy that serves people and planet requires updating Reagan’s quote for the 21st Century and using our limitless imaginations, wonder, and human intelligence to build an economy that is better than growth.

It means, to cite Gramsci, massively rejigging the ‘hegemony of the common sense’.

The Enough! Project is a vital much needed driver of that rejigging: multifaceted, grassroots focused, with eyes firmly on reframing the discussion and collaboration for change.

And the Enough! framing can be applied to the significant shifts needed in how things are discussed and done in Scotland:

  • Enough adhering to a 20th century model
  • Enough pitting environmental goals against social justice and employment
  • Enough of being content with downstream sticking plasters, important though they are
  • Enough tribalism when young people are deeply and rightly concerned about their future
  • Enough chasing for more and more as the solution to all our woes.

And enough of not recognising that while we have enough resources, we certainly don’t have enough of sharing and cherishing them.

On Friday, 14 June, WEAll’s Katherine Trebeck was part of thinkdif – the Disruptive Innovation Festival run by the Ellen MacArthur Foundation, alongside WEAll Ambassador Kate Raworth.

Watch Katherine and Kate’s session below and find out more about thinkdif at

This is a transcript of Katherine Trebeck’s remarks to the APPG on Wellbeing Economics at the United Kingdom Parliament on 11 June 2019

The Wellbeing Economy Alliance works across the world and across sectors to build an economy in service of human and ecological wellbeing.

Understanding where that agenda is up to can be understood by looking at:
1 The forgers (those policy makers grasping the mettle and putting a wellbeing economy agenda into practice)

2 The frontiers (where are we standing now and what is the next challenge?); and

3 What is fraught (the barriers and the tensions still to be worked through)?


The forgers are the policy makers – civil servants and politicians – rolling up their sleeves and delivering the sort of changes needed. You see this in Scotland with its National Performance Framework and its leadership of the Wellbeing Economy Government partnership. You see it in other initiatives such as work on making the economy circular and businesses more inclusive. And just today the announcement that Scottish Enterprise would shift its attention to supporting businesses that deliver decent work, fairness and tackle inequality.

Other forgers are Wales with its Future Generations Commissioner and New Zealand with its Wellbeing Budget. US states such as Maryland and Vermont are adopting the Genuine Progress Indicator and Oregon has a 10 Year Budget. Iceland is forging ahead with action for gender equality and Costa Rica on biodiversity.

These examples show embracing the wellbeing economy agenda and forging ahead is not just about scattering the word “wellbeing” in the title of policy documents or in the text of political speeches – it is about robust change in policy and decision making.



And that brings us to the next frontier we are facing. These are pockets of good practice, but their isolation and existence next to policies that are counter to a wellbeing economy agenda speaks to an incoherence in policy regimes. Mixed messages are being given – but at least mixed is better than the message of the past in which was a narrow fixation on GDP GDP GDP!

Now, we are at a point where acceptance that GDP is flawed is widespread – the question is now how not if GDP should be replaced (or at least complemented as a measure of progress and national success).

The next stage has to be how to take these patches of good practice and make a quilt? And that is about joining up the work of the forgers so the economy itself is changed. Repurposing and then reorienting decisions and budgets and incentives and procedures and power in government departments. Such as recognising that if the education department does its job well then the police department will see savings, that if teams looking after local parks and green space do their job well then health services will be under less pressure.


And what is still fraught?

Clearly, the timeliness of data is a challenge. GDP is sticky as a supposed measure of progress because it is reported on frequently and people think they know what it means. And while there is a plethora of data relevant to a wellbeing economy collected and collated, it needs to be better used and decision makers scrutinised according to this information.

The media is also a constraint – until the morning news shows, the day after a national budget is announced, ask the finance minister what it means for increasing collective wellbeing instead of economic growth, then this agenda is still marginal. And until the definition of an economic crisis shifts away from incremental falls in GDP to questions around economic inequality, numbers of people feeling financially insecure, the numbers turning to food banks and the extent to which people can and do access green space, then we’ve got work to do.

And finally there is the fraught question of definitions. Is it a matter of taking subjective wellbeing as the definitive measure or alongside societal or collective wellbeing with SWB as a component part?

There are questions on the adequacy of both – is SWB too anthropocentric? Inadequately attentive to economic inequalities? Are we talking about hedonic or eudemonic?

And for collective wellbeing there are also questions – who defines it? How is it measured and what proxies make sense? Who is the collective? And over what time period are we looking?

But these slightly fraught issues not withstanding, the work of the forgers and where the frontiers have been pushed show that while there is work still to do, progress has been made.





WEAll’s Katherine Trebeck was a guest last week on the Futures of Work podcast, talking about the need to build a wellbeing economy, and her book The Economics of Arrival (co-authored with Jeremy Williams).

Listen here now:

Last week, an enthusiastic crowd in London attended the sold-out event to promote ‘The Economics of Arrival: Ideas for a grown-up economy’ by Katherine Trebeck and Jeremy Williams.

Hosted by WEAll members CUSP (the Centre for Understanding Sustainable Prosperity) and GEC (Green Economy Coalition), the event attracted academics, civil society professionals, activists, journalists and more, all keen to understand more about the need for economic system change and to engage in the debate about how we get there.

Katherine Trebeck and Jeremy Williams inspired the audience with an overview of the book’s themes and concepts. Williams explained that the concept of ‘Arrival’ is “not a promise but the possibility of having enough.” The authors argue that for many countries, there are now diminishing returns to  growth and that they ought now to focus on ‘making themselves at home’ by prioritising human and environmental wellbeing.

Trebeck made the case that our global economic system is manifestly failing to deliver – on poverty, wellbeing, health, environment, and equality. “People feel their lives are out of control. The system isn’t working,” she said.

Sharing examples such as Japan and Costa Rica to demonstrate the potential of alternative economic approaches, and ending with a positive message that economic system change is possible, the speakers certainly got the room talking with this introduction to their work.

Questions and ideas came thick and fast from those in the room who were keen to delve further into the concept of Arrival.

A panel discussion featuring Professor Tim Jackson of CUSP and Irene Gujit of Oxfam GB, as well as Trebeck and Williams, gave an opportunity for more exploration, as the room considered the different applications of the book’s concepts in the global south as well as tangible ways to build a wellbeing economy in the UK.

‘The Economics of Arrival: Ideas for a grown up economy’ is available from Policy Press here.

Watch a short video summarising the ideas in the book:

Images: Ben Martin

Major international news outlets Reuters and The New York Times are today running a story looking at the new economy movement, including perspectives from WEAll’s Katherine Trebeck and a number of other leaders in the wellbeing economy movement.

“The science is in: the endless pursuit of economic growth is devouring the foundations of life on Earth, and no country – rich or poor – can expect to escape dire consequences if things go on as they are. So how might the world change course?” asks journalist Matthew Green in the groundbreaking piece.

Read the full article on Reuters and New York Times.

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.


  • 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.


  • 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.