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New WEAll Briefing paper published today:

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

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

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

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

Ideally, it will be both.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Download the full paper here.

Image: Linwood CDT

Ecological economics can help create the future that most people want – a future that is prosperous, just, equitable and sustainable.

Ecological economics (EE) is a transdiscipline. While it is difficult to categorise ecological economics in the same way one would a normal academic discipline, it can be characterised in general by its goals, worldview, and methodology.  The overarching goal is sustainable wellbeing of both humans and the rest of nature, with three broad sub-goals of sustainable scale, fair distribution, and efficient allocation of resources.

An exploration of what ecological economics is and why we need it more than ever, is the opening chapter of a pioneering new book “Sustainable Wellbeing Futures: A Research and Action Agenda for Ecological Economics.” Authored by the book’s editors Robert Costanza, Jon D. Erickson, Joshua Farley, and Ida Kubiszewski, the article sets out how the ecological economics worldview includes an interdependent, co-evolving, complex whole system perspective of economies embedded in societies embedded in the rest of nature.

In the foreword to the book, Professor Jacqueline McGlade reflects on the wellbeing economy movement and where it must go next:

“The first global political manifestation of a shift towards wellbeing economies becoming mainstream emerged in 2018, with the decision by the leaders of Scotland, Iceland and New Zealand, to form the Wellbeing Economies Group. Their goal is to implement economic policies with the objective of delivering the collective wellbeing of their nations, looking at how happy the population is, not just how wealthy it is, creating fair work that is well-paid and based on worthwhile and fulfilling work, and which values a transition to longer term sustainability.

Sustainable Wellbeing Futures provides the robust and well-articulated body of knowledge that these national endeavours will need.

The ideas that Sustainable Wellbeing Futures brings to life have been borne out of thousands of hours of discussions about the multiple aspects of wellbeing and ecological economics. Shortcomings have been probed and examined and answers found. The importance of this book is that it provides solutions and examples of how we – as individuals, organisations, governments – can work together to turn the tide against the destructive changes in our world. These examples should give us hope and inspiration. We should also take encouragement from the volume itself; it is heartening to see so many leading researchers and thinkers working together to provide a coherent, multidisciplinary voice, stating loud and clear what is happening and how we can deliver our future wellbeing.”

This forward-thinking book lays out an alternative approach that places the sustainable wellbeing of humans and the rest of nature as the overarching goal. Each of the book’s chapters, written by a diverse collection of scholars and practitioners, outlines a research and action agenda for how this future can look and possible actions for its realisation.

Over the coming weeks, WEAll will be highlighting some of these ideas by sharing short abstracts from each chapter. It is due to be published in May 2020 – find out more and order a copy here.

 

 

 

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

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

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

It includes:

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Centre for the Understanding of Sustainable Prosperity (CUSP) has published a new working paper making the case for an early zero carbon target for the UK.

‘Zero Carbon Sooner’ by Tim Jackson addresses the question of when the UK should aim for zero (or net zero) carbon emissions. Starting from the global carbon budget which would allow the world an estimated 66% chance of limiting climate warming to 1.5o C, the paper derives a fair carbon budget for the UK of 2.5 GtCO2. The briefing then analyses a variety of emission pathways and target dates in terms of their adequacy for remaining within this budget.

A key finding is that a target date for zero carbon is not sufficient to determine whether the UK remains within its carbon budget. Policy must specify both a target date and an emissions pathway. For a linear reduction pathway not to exceed the carbon budget the target year would have to be 2025. Nonlinear pathways, such as those with constant percentage reduction rates, have a higher chance of remaining within the available budget provided that the reduction starts early enough and the reduction rate is high enough. It is notable that reduction rates high enough both to lead to zero carbon (on a consumption basis) by 2050 and to remain within the carbon budget require absolute reductions of more than 95% of carbon emissions as early as 2030. On this basis, the paper argues in favour of setting a UK target for net zero carbon emissions by 2030 or earlier, with a maximum of 5% emissions addressed through negative emission technologies.

Download and read the briefing paper here.
Based on the results of the 2018 IPCC Special Report, all countries and sectors should speed up emission reductions to limit global warming to 1.5 degrees. In addition to regulations, carbon taxes are effective at reducing emissions. Based on research, the best way to introduce them is via a budget-neutral environmental tax reform (ETR).

This research analyses the potential tax instruments that could be used in Finland to support emission cuts and the circular economy. From the potential pool of instruments, a total of three different types of ETR scenarios are formed and their impacts on the economy and emissions are analysed. The first scenario includes environmental taxes that mainly target firms and that might harm the cost-competitiveness of energy-intensive Finnish industries without compensations. The second scenario includes environmental taxes mainly targeting consumers; we analyse their regressivity, which is one of the main concerns regarding environmental and emission taxes. The third ETR scenario aims to promote circular economy solutions.

Based on the findings, all three scenarios would bring about the “double dividend” effect by significantly reducing emissions and increasing employment and GDP compared to baselines.

2018 and 2019 launched a wide range of dire warning about the fragility of our planetary systems, notably David Attenborough’s speech at COP 24 on climate change and another dire warning about the alarming loss of planetary biodiversity from the UN’s biodiversity chief, Christiana Pascal Palmer. All of which cries out for a global call for action to exert immense pressure on our governments to set ambitious global targets.

Yet our political systems seem incapable of responding at scale and urgency to this existential crisis.  Our government was one of the first to sign up to the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs or Global Goals) in 2015. The 17 Global Goals and associated targets represent an unprecedented opportunity to tackle the root causes of climate change, biodiversity loss, eliminate extreme poverty and put the world on a more sustainable path. And yet three years after the goals were agreed, the UK government does not have a compelling and coherent plan on how the UK is going to achieve them. The government has made a commitment to report on the UK’s progress at the UN in New York in July 2019. This is closely followed by the UN SDG Heads of State Summit on the 24 and 25 September. The UN SDG Summit will be one of three high-level events taking place in September, along with the 2019 Climate Summit and the High-level Dialogue on Financing for Development. These events will be mutually reinforcing in identifying areas for action to accelerate the progress towards sustainable development.

Growth in all of its forms is one of the greatest conundrums facing humanity in the 21 century. It can improve our living standards and health and well-being. Yet as a recent global photographic competition (www.prixpictet.com) has depicted in graphic detail the dizzying growth of our cities and their dependency on scarce resources along with the relentless growth of the world’s population, all of which now threatens our very existence. We face a global environmental catastrophe in land use, food production and resource use which could undermine existing fragile economies and the sustainability of our civilisation.

And our politicians search relentlessly for solutions which will re-energise economic growth, with little evidence to date that their interventions are making any fundamental difference. So it’s not surprising that some of the worlds’ so – called sustainability experts have also found it impossible to reach any consensus on whether sustainable consumption and economic growth are compatible

But some recent analysis of the UK’s Material Flow Accounts for 2001-2009 suggest we are using less stuff now than the previous decade (Guardian 1/11/11- The Only way is Down http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/blog/2011/nov/01/peak-stuff-consumption-data ).

It seems that the grand total of stuff we use (minerals, fuel, wood etc) in the UK amounts to roughly 2 billion tonnes per year about 30 tonnes for each and every one of us. For our former London Mayor’s benefit that’s as heavy as 4 Route Master buses!

This data is potentially good news because it implies at least as I read it that we may have “decoupled “economic growth from material consumption. Genuine decoupling has been seen by many of us as unachievable. But is this really de-materialisation and hence the emergence of a Green Economy or as others have suggested is it the dawn of de-growth?

Whatever the answer our unsustainable lifestyles and commitment to perpetual economic growth are major political and social obstacles because they have become the major drivers of climate change on Earth. Jason Hickel recently suggested that the solution is “about changing the way our economy operates” (Guardian: 5 March).

Encouragingly, the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) form a new roadmap for our future that in principle aligns the economy with the Earth’s life support systems.  Yet a recent report by the Stockholm Resilience Centre[1] shows that attempting to achieve the socio-economic goals using conventional growth policies would make it virtually impossible to reduce the speed of global warming and environmental degradation.

The research team tested three other scenarios and the only one that met all goals was the one that implemented systemic transformational change. A key element in the model was reducing inequality by a redistribution of wealth, work and income, including ensuring that the 10% richest people take no more that 40% of the income. A huge challenge for many of our wealthy political elite!

We need immediate action and committed leadership now from our government to create a movement for change that embraces and actions the Global Goals: why is it so rare that we encounter in our political leadership the qualities needed to enable sustainability: humility, respect for all forms of life and future generations, precaution and wisdom, the capacity to think systemically and challenge unethical actions? And more worryingly on the basis of current performance, what hope of improvement is there for our collective future?

We have an unprecedented and immense challenge before us – with little choice but to engage.

[1] https://www.stockholmresilience.org/publications/artiklar/2018-10-17-transformation-is-feasible—how-to-achieve-the-sustainable–development-goals-within-planetary-boundaries.html

Guest blog by:

Dr. Stephen Sterling is Emeritus Professor of Sustainability Education at the Centre for Sustainable Futures, University of Plymouth, UK. A former Senior Advisor to the UK Higher Education Academy on Education for Sustainable Development (ESD), and a National Teaching Fellow (NTF), he has worked in environmental and sustainability education in the academic and NGO fields nationally and internationally for over four decades, including as a consultant and advisor on UNESCO’S Education for Sustainable Development (ESD) programmes.He is currently co-chair of the UNESCO-Japan Prize on ESD International Jury, and a Distinguished Fellow of the Schumacher Institute.  He has a reputation as a thought leader in ESD and is widely published in this area, including The Sustainable University – progress and prospects. His most recent book is Post-Sustainability and Environmental Education: Remaking Education for the Future,  (co-edited with Bob Jickling, Pivot/Palgrave, 2017).

Professor Stephen Martin: Hon FSE; FRSB; F.I.Env Sci is a passionate advocate for learning for sustainability and has spent nearly 40 years facilitating and supporting organisations and governments in ways they can contribute towards a more sustainable future. For nearly a decade he was a member of Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Further and Higher Education with national responsibility for Environmental Education and served as a special advisor to the Secretary of State in the Department of the Environment in drafting the education and training sections of HM Government’s first white paper on the Environment-Our Common Inheritance. More recently he was the founding Chair of the Higher Education Academy’s Sustainable Development Advisory Group and a former member of the UK‘s UNESCO Education for Sustainability Forum. He has held visiting professorships at the Open University, University of Hertfordshire, University of Gloucestershire and  currently, at the University of the West of England Over the past 15 years he has been a sustainability change consultant for some of the largest FTSE100 companies such as BP, Barclays, Tesco and Carillion as well as Government Agencies such as the  UK National Commission for UNESCO,Environment Agency, OFSTED, the Higher Education Academy and the Learning and Skills Council. He was formerly Director of Learning at Forum for the Future.

Please see this recent publication from Stockholm Resilience Centre for more on the themes explored in the blog: Transformation is feasible – How to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals within Planetary Boundaries