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The concept of a wellbeing economy has been interpreted differently by various organisations and individuals. In March 2021, the Wellbeing Economy Alliance published a Wellbeing Economy Policy Design Guide. The executive summary provides the following overview of the concept of a wellbeing economy:

Around the world, governments are moving beyond Gross Domestic Product (GDP) and embracing new metrics of progress, from the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) to national wellbeing indicators. This movement is significant, as it moves us beyond a focus on ‘means’, i.e. economic growth, to a focus on the achievement of ‘ends’, i.e. our collective wellbeing.

The challenge is that our current economic thinking has not only determined our measurements of progress, but also our government structures, societal power dynamics and cultural narratives. Developing a Wellbeing Economy is, therefore, not only about different measures or different policies, but also about changing our relationship to the economy and our approach to its management and governance.

Supporters of a wellbeing economy wish to move away from focusing on GDP when determining the success of a nation, wanting instead to turn to a more holistic approach, focusing on sustainable wellbeing for all. This involves ensuring sustainability for the planet, a fair distribution of resources globally and ensuring people’s human needs are supported.

In April 2021, the European Environmental Bureau, an international network of organisations, published a report titled ‘Towards a wellbeing economy that serves people and nature’. The report points to the link between economic growth and climate change and identifies four areas of the economy that the authors believe highlight the need for change:

The economics of the climate crisis are clear: the world’s richest 10% (around 630 million people) were responsible for over half of cumulative carbon emissions between 1990 and 2015. The correlation between growth of the global economy and the increase in greenhouse gases in the atmosphere is close to perfect.


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