• Grado académico – Profesión: Máster en psicología industrial y ciencias políticas de la Universidad de Hamburg. Doctora en Transformaciones a la Sostenibilidad de la Universidad de Twente.
• Lugar actual de trabajo: Fundadora y Directora Ejecutiva del Instituto de Liderazgo Colectivo. Miembro del Comité Ejecutivo del Club de Roma.
• Líneas de investigación: Transformación hacia la sostenibilidad. Desarrollo de metodologías y articulación de espacios para su plena ejecución.
Blog by Kristin Vala Ragnarsdottir, WEAll Ambassador and Professor of Sustainability Science at the University of Iceland
Previously published on the WEAll website here
June 2, 2020
A few years ago a guy called me up in Iceland and asked: “Why do the leftists own the environment?“ My answer was: “They do not but they have taken environmental issues to the forefront of their politics. All parties should do that.“ He went on to found the Right Green Party which never took foothold in Icelandic politics. But it was a step in the right direction. Healthy environment and sustainability is tantamount for everyone’s wellbeing.
I was party to a similar discussion in an international WhatsApp group recently: “Why is it that left-wing governments are promoting the wellbeing agenda? In doing so it will be rejected by those to the right in politics.“
My response was: “In Iceland there is a broad political base behind the new wellbeing policy which has a focus on prosperity and quality of life and is aligned with the UN Sustainable Development goals.“
Our Prime Minister is from the Left Green Movement, but her coalition government encompasses the whole political spectrum – with the Independence Party (conservative right wing) led by Bjarni Benediktsson who is Minister of Finance and and Economic Affairs, and the Progressive Party led by Sigurður Ingi Jóhannesson and is Minister of Transport and Local Government.
This broad based coalition government agreed the Wellbeing policy agenda in April 2020. It has 39 wellbeing indicators that are to be collected and followed by Statistics Iceland. This is very important when considering what may happen in the next election – when the Left Greens may no longer lead the government. Then the wellbeing agenda is already engrained in policy with civil servants and public institutional support.
What about the other countries in the Wellbeing Economy Governments partnership?
In Scotland, the wellbeing economy agenda is being supported and followed by the National Performance Framework (NPF) which was presented to the Scottish Parliament by the First Minister Nicola Sturgeon. Sturgeon is from the Scottish National Party (SNP) – which is considered to be a centre-left party and wants Scotland to become independent and and have closer ties with Europe and the EU.
Importantly, the NPF was passed unanimously with support from all five political parties in the Scottish Parliament. Again, with this broad base of support in parliament the wellbeing economy agenda has a chance to survive if the next elections do not return the SNP as the leading party.
In New Zealand, the Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern set the first wellbeing budget world-wide in May 2019 with a central question – how well are our people? The focus is on five priority areas where evidence indicates greatest opportunities to improve the lives of New Zealanders. The PM´s political party is Labour (left). Labour is in a coalition government with the New Zealand First Party (right wing) and the Green Party (left wing). This again, is a broad-based political coalition, giving strength to the wellbeing agenda.
Scotland, Iceland and New Zealand are all members of WEGo – the Wellbeing Economy Governments partnership – which is an offspring of WEAll. A new member has just joined WEGo – Wales. The First Minister of Wales is Mark Drakeford and he leads the Labour (left wing) government in Wales. Wales has had the Wellbeing of Future Generations Act since 2015 that has seven wellbeing goals. Therefore the wellbeing agenda is firmly in Welsh policy – and has been set in law for five years.
The Wellbeing Economy agenda is therefore neither left wing nor right wing. It is for us all, so that all people and our planet can prosper. Now that governments across the globe are finding their feet to lead their nations out of the COVOD-19 health and economic crisis – let us remember that pandemics hit us all, wherever we stand in politics. We also know that we cannot go back to business as usual.
In the worlds of professor Frank Snowden, a historian: “By creating the myth that we could grow our economy exponentially and infinitely, by almost 8 billion people living on earth, excessive travel, environmental pollution, by pushing back nature more and more, we created almost ideal conditions for the coronavirus to emerge, spread and hit us especially hard.“
Let us join hands across political spectrums and make the Wellbeing Economy the new economy for the 21st century. Would you like to learn more? Then see the WEAll ten principles of Building Back Better.
The pandemic is hard to sum up. It is full of tragedy and heartbreak, of resilience and courage, and of humanity and solidarity. Things that were deemed impossible have become reality – social distancing is the new norm, vaccines are developing at breakneck speeds and some elected officials transformed into bold leaders by choosing to prioritize health over the economy. But what stands out most prominently to me amongst the terrible and incredible moments is that we have sleepwalked into a crisis of values.
In this crisis, market values have steadily infiltrated societal values so much so that our understanding of value has come to mean success and prosperity through wealth maximization, commodification and externalization of social and environmental impacts. To be considered valuable, an asset or activity must be captured in the market, and anything that sits beyond the economy’s reach is essentially worthless. We’ve been steadily moving from a market economy to a market society.
Despite the warnings from climate change and the loss of our natural world growing louder and mounting demands from scientists and civil society for urgent action, policymakers and capitalism have trundled along, unwilling to admit – or face – necessary radical change. It’s taken the human tragedy of a global pandemic and its deep impacts on our friends, families and communities to realize that the values underpinning current economic thinking are, at worst, responsible for gross inequalities, massive biodiversity loss and the destabilization of climate and, at best, poorly designed to solve them.
Signs of change
The calls to Build Back Better for our people and planet continued to grow throughout 2020 and beyond. CEOs and civil society groups authored letters to political leaders, campaigns to RESET the economy went global and more articles than I can cite called out the failures of contemporary capitalism in search of a more meaningful, holistic and people-centric approach. Whether it’s donuts or missions or pathways to a resilient economy, the work of economists such as Kate Raworth and Mariana Mazzucato, think tanks like New Economics Foundation and global movements such as the Wellbeing Economy Alliance are being increasingly recognized as possible alternatives to common economic thought.
As Mark Carney stated in his 2020 Reith lectures, we need our economic system to find a new equilibrium where the market is organized in pursuit of what society values. 2020 has demonstrated that what is truly valued and valuable are our relationships, solidarity, fairness, responsibility and our connection to the planet. Such intangibles are invisible in this economy and yet fundamental to human prosperity.
These societal values are needed to determine how we develop and appraise policies for our public resources, where we invest our savings and investments, how we run our businesses and deliver public good. Rebalancing the system and redefining value has the potential to transform the economy from exacerbating our most pressing challenges to becoming a problem-solving mechanism for them.
To make this reality, we must reframe the roles, structures, and social contracts within and between business, finance and government, ensuring that the information used to make decisions represents what we value.
Accounting for nature, people and society – our natural, social and human capital – as Capitals Coalition organizations know well, transforms decision-making.
A way forward
I believe the capitals approach can help us to realign market values and reform capitalism. The Coalition’s vast community of business, finance, government, accounting and standards, civil society and science and academic organizations have been applying and championing a capitals approach across the world for over a decade.
Today, there are initiatives to ensure that financial accounts and accounting reflect a company’s financial, social and environmental performance (see European Union’s Transparent Project and Harvard’s Impact Weighted Accounts Initiative). There’s innovation in financial products to account for natural, social and human capitals and there are leading companies, such as Olam and Kering, who have been working to internalize their externalities. How we integrate the value provided by nature, people and society in our economic decisions has been the focus of many.
We’re seeing movement at the national level, too. “We cannot recover better without better information to guide us,” says Elliot Harris, United Nations Chief Economist when explaining the new Ecosystem Accounting standard. “It is high time we moved beyond GDP and measured our wealth and success with tools that recognize the value of nature and people.” This was echoed by the UK Treasury’s Dasgupta Review which called for the adoption of an inclusive wealth approach to economic planning and decision making by measuring a country’s wealth in terms of all assets, including natural, social and human capital.
What we need now
While the capitals approach has captured the minds of so many, there remains a momentous shift needed in the mainstream if we are to remedy the crisis of values.
We need deep cultural change to drive recovery packages and commitments. We need to boldly evolve our understanding of capitalism as, not an end to itself but, a means to deliver public good. We need adaptive accounting processes that include our impacts and dependencies on natural, social and human capital. We need an enabling environment that promotes a culture of ethical business, greater connection to communities and a sense of accountability for successes and failures. We need deeper collaboration between business, finance, government and civic actors to develop new rules, provide clear incentives and accountability and be good stewards of our planet and of one another.
I feel that we’re at an inflection point in our crisis of values. To be more resilient, more inclusive and more sustainable, we must power a shift in values if we are to recover from the COVID crisis and shape the economy of the future.
The 36×36 project has officially commenced! This exciting initiative brings together femxle leaders from around the world to co-create a revolutionary architecture for the global economy.
The neoliberal economic “story” has proliferated around the globe for decades, legitimising a huge concentration of wealth and power and the destruction of our environment. This story, based on “trickle-down”, free-market ideas, was crafted by a group of 36 men in 1947, at a resort in Switzerland. Despite the widely recognized failures of this economic ideology, it continues to dominate the way that we organise and govern systems of production and exchange.
The Schumacher Institute, Collective Leadership Institute and Wellbeing Economy Alliance collaborated around the exciting notion that if 36 men could shape the old economic system, womxn could come together to transform it and create the new economy we all need.
The three partner organisations were energised by the idea of a network of femxle leaders – a network that, far from being a closed shop like the “boys’ clubs” of old, would be diverse, collaborative and inclusive from the start. The first 36 womxn would be just the beginning of a femxle revolution in economic thinking – hence the idea of 36 by 36: a multiplier effect.
“Up until the 21st century women’s voices were almost absent in the economic and finance discourse and decision making. This project is a step in the direction for women to have an equal say. It is absolutely crucial for the future of people and planet.” – Vala Ragnardottir, Schumacher Institute
After months of project development, outreach and dozens of incredible applications, the 36×36 project has now brought together a cohort of impressive womxn involved in a diverse range of pursuits to co-create this new vision. From 24 countries and a hugely diverse range of backgrounds, these womxn are already leading the way to a new economic system. Together, their change-making power multiples – find out who they are here.
What will they do?
The womxn will participate in a certified leadership program, interrogating the dimensions of a new economic system and what it will take to get there. They will host a series of public events to bring wider knowledge into the process, and they will collaborate on their shared challenges to advance their own work. All of this will culminate in a visionary manifesto that will lay out what is needed to change our economic system.
“Womxn have been in the forefront of naming the problems with prevailing economic thinking and practice. It is time that they take the lead in reinventing the purpose of economy: caring and serving life on this planet. And it is time that they become the drivers of transformations.” – Petra Kuenkel, Collective Leadership Institute
How can I get involved?
Over the next 9 months, these womxn will embark on a journey together to spark a femxle-led revolution in economic thinking. We invite all of you into this process: the programme and manifesto aim to reflect the wider new economic movement.
“Economics continues to be dominated by old, white men and if we are serious about rebalancing the world, we must also rebalance the economics discipline. 36×36 provides an opportunity to build a transformative network, demonstrating that a different economic system is not only possible but just a few strategic decisions away” Amanda Janoo, WEAll
To stay updated about the progress of 36×36, and hear about ways to get involved, check out the following:
WEAll Citizens Platform, “36×36 Femxle Economic Revolutionaries group”
(WEAll Citizens > Groups > “36×36 Femxle Economic Revolutionaries”)