In Japan, Over 22 Local Governments Prepare Happiness Indices Reply

Japan for Sustainability (“JFS”) reports that over 22 local governments are now in the process of developing new measures of well-being, happiness, or “true wealth,” including both cities and prefectural governments. These projects include the cities of Kyoto and Sapporo (the capital of Hokkaido), Arakawa City in Tokyo, and a group of 13 prefectures who are jointly collaborating to produce a “Local Hope Index.” These results are reported in the context of Japan for Sustainability’s survey of 101 local governments.

JFS is a non-governmental organization that is closely allied with the Institute for Studies in Happiness, Economy, and Society (ISHES), sponsor of the Life Beyond Growth report.

For information on the Japanese local government happiness initatives, see this archived issue of the JFS newsletter:

For general information about JFS:



New measure of prosperity for Scotland: Oxfam Humankind Index Reply

Oxfam, the UK’s leading aid and development charity, has launched a new index for measuring quality of life and social justice in Scotland – the Oxfam Humankind Index (HMI). The index, developed by the Oxfam’s Scotland Office, is largely based on information from public consultations and surveys with a particular focus on seldom heard groups such as African refugee women, young people living in poverty in rural areas or people with learning disabilities.

Oxfam worked in partnership with the New Economics Foundation, who processed the compiled information from the public consultations to produce a series of weighted priorities set for Scotland by the people of Scotland. The index consists of 18 measures in five domains (Social, Human, Nature & Environment, Financial, Physical Resources) ranging from good family relationships, having secure and satisfying work, a decent home, good local facilities and transport to access to green areas.

Judith Robertson, the head of Oxfam Scotland, said the index “goes beyond simplistic economic measures like GDP. It reminds us that the economy should serve its people, not the other way around.”

The first assessment of Scotland’s performance using HMI showed that the country’s overall prosperity increased by 1.2% between 2007-08 and 2009-10, largely due to improvements in how people felt about their health and community spirit.

HMI is now being considered also by senior Oxfam executives for use across the UK and as part of the charity’s work on sustainable living and on new measures of inequality, as well as by Oxfam offices overseas in “middle economy” countries such as Brazil. The charity is also  encouraging local and national government to examine these results in order to plan and prioritize their future actions.

Link: Oxfam Humankind Index (HMI), Guardian article about HMI

“Green Growth Knowledge Platform” launched Reply

The Global Green Growth Institute (GGGI), the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP), and the World Bank, in partnership with numerous other organizations, launched the “Green Growth Knowledge Platform” (GGKP) in March 2012. The GGKP is a network of researchers and development experts, and its aim is to identify and address the key knowledge gaps in green growth theory and practice. The outcomes will be shared with practitioners and policy makers to “foster economic growth and implement sustainable development.”

Even though this project is still in its infancy, there are already a number of good resources, such as relevant reports and conference links.


“Earth Debates” at the Natural History Museum, UK Reply

In the build up to the Rio+20 conference, a series of four debates were held at the Natural History Museum, UK. The debates, organised by a partnership of the Natural History Museum, Stakeholder Forum and British Council, focused on key issues at the heart of the Rio+20 conference green economy agenda. The four events, featuring discussions of a panel of leading UK experts, were titled: 1. “Ecosystem Economics – can we put a price on nature?” (25 March 2012), 2. “Beyond GDP – how can we measure progress?” (22 February 2012), 3. “Green Cities in a green economy – how to pioneer a sustainable transition?” (14 March 2012), and 4. “Food Security – how do we feed 9 billion in 2050?” (11 April 2012).

It is possible to watch the full debates at the website of the Natural History Museum.


Global Transition 2012: International initiative on ‘New Economy’ Reply

The Global Transition 2012 is an international network of organisations and leading thinkers striving for “an alternative global green economy that maximises well-being, operates within environmental limits  and is capable of coping and adapting to global environmental change.” The initiative has been introduced and supported by the Stakeholder Forum for a Sustainable Future, the new economics foundation (nef) and the New Economics Institute, with partnership with other organisations such as the Green Economy Coalition and BioRegional. The current focus of the initiative is to “grow the network of organisations from now, in the lead up to Rio+20 [United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development, 2012] and beyond.”

On their website, The Global Transition 2012 initiative publishes short blog articles from leading thinkers, information on events related to the Rio+20 conference, as well as series of ‘Challenge Papers’ on key topic areas covering: The Green Economy, Beyond GDP, Global Inequality, One Planet Living, The Blue Economy, Energy Resources and Services, Food Security, Managing Natural Capital, Global Finance and Banking, Green Jobs and Skills, and Trade.

‘The Gren Economy’ paper by nef urges that “we must devise and manage a rapid economic transition.” The authors propose that new economic models maximising human well-being, but at the same time working within the Earth’s environmental boundaries, need to be implemented. The paper “puts forward 6 challenges to lay the foundations for [the needed] systemic change: 1. Develop a national transition plan that puts countries on paths to operate within planetary boundaries, and on timescales sufficiently quick to preserve key, ecological life support functions; 2. Don’t start from a growth perspective; 3. Agree to develop and implement new measures of economic success; 4. Commit to reduce income and wealth inequalities between and within nations; 5. Put fiscal policy and public expenditure centre stage in managing economic transition; and 6. Recapture the financial sector for the public good.”

‘The Beyond GDP: Measuring Our Progress’ paper co-authored by nef, Global Footprint Network and National Secretary for Planning and Development, Ecuador, then focusses on ways of measuring environmental sustainability and well-being. The authors “call for governments around the world to: 1. Amend their national accounting systems to align what they measure with what really matters; and 2. Use those measures as a guide for policy and political action.”

In connection with the Global Transition 2012, the initiative has also developed ‘The Global Transition to a New Economy’ project. The key of this project is an interactive map of already existing projects and initiatives that can be put under the umbrella of ‘New Economy’.


“The Regeneration Project”: defining the role of the private sector in a sustainable society Reply

The Regeneration Project is a collaborative initiative by SustainAbility and GlobeScan that focuses on “the role that the private sector can take to fundamentally reshape – and make more sustainable – our society and economy.” The project’s vision is to “provide a roadmap for achieving sustainable development (SD) within the next generation, focusing in particular on ways the private sector can improve sustainable development strategy, increase credibility and deliver results at greater speed and scale.” The initiative reflects on the progress that has been made on the sustainable development agenda since the release of the Our Common Future report by the Brundtland Commission in 1985 and the first Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro in 1992.

The project has been inspired by interviews with sustainable development “Pioneers” – a series entitled the “Ray Anderson Memorial Interviews” – and in 2012, it plans to produce a series of white papers on SD in relation to the Rio+20 conference, as well as to perform s0-called international influencer surveys, public opinion surveys and various related events.

The first white paper, titled “Unfinished Business: Perspectives from the Sustainable Development Frontier,” has been released in January 2012 and provides a summary of interviews (undertaken over 2011) with 20 sustainable development Pioneers from business, government and civil society with the focus on what has happened in the field of SD since the Rio 1992 conference. The paper documents the shift of businesses and NGOs towards working together (as opposed to against each other) on SD and notes that “many Pioneers call for a rethink of the economic system.”  The key message of the interviews points to the potential for business leaders to play an important role in sustainable development.

The Regeneration Project has also partnered up with the Guardian Sustainable Business and brings series of short articles and videos on topics relating to the Rio+20 conference.


Beyond GDP (EU 2007 conference website) Reply

This is the principal website of the European Union’s project/conference on developing indicators that are “as clear and appealing as GDP, but more inclusive of environmental and social aspects of progress.” The initial conference — held in 2007 and co-sponsored by the European Commission, European Parliament, Club of Rome, OECD and WWF — was a landmark that helped pave the way for much that came later. However, the website seems to have been stopped being updated in Oct 2011. This legacy site contains info on indicators (GDP, Enlarged GDP, Social indicators, Environmental indicators, Wellbeing), relevant news [until Oct 2011], resource documents, the documentation of the conference, and many good links to other initiatives/organisations etc.