We need an economic system that helps all life thrive
Today’s dominant, colonial economic model is linear, focusing on perpetual material growth. Make, use, dispose. Repeat. It creates waste, degrades nature, ignores justice and fails to ensure equity.
This traditional economic model treats fundamental elements of life, like people and nature, as mere “externalities” with no real value. It’s easy to see why we find ourselves stuck in patterns of overconsumption and waste — why there are islands of plastic in the oceans, why Earth Overshoot Day comes earlier every year, why we need to campaign for social justice, equity and collective opportunity.
This system is not working for people or the planet.
What could a new economic model look like? One that respects — even nurtures — nature and helps enhance the things we truly care about, like health, collective prosperity and well-being?
A well-being economy is purpose-driven and regenerative, with the health, happiness and — you guessed it — well-being of people as top priority.
Transforming our economics is by no means easy. But we’ve known about holistic approaches based on progress and collective well-being since time immemorial. All are based on the real world, rather than flawed assumptions about people and an idea that infinite material growth on a finite planet is possible.
Yannick Beaudoin, Director General for Ontario and Northern Canada
How does Canada currently measure economic success?
Simply put: growth — of Gross Domestic Product, or GDP. We learned to do this during the Second World War, when GDP was deemed an effective way to measure our contributions to the war effort. This model is outdated. It’s time for economic success indicators that focus on well-being!
What countries have adopted well-being–focused economic models?
The Kingdom of Bhutan was the first country to test a Gross National Happiness Index in 2008. Since then, countries worldwide have followed, with New Zealand joining in 2019. Canada’s federal government is exploring the concept but has made no commitments.
What is a “circular economy”?
A circular economy moves beyond the current extractive industrial model. It aims to reduce or eliminate waste and pollution, keep materials in use and regenerate natural systems. The global economy is only 8.6 per cent circular, consuming more than 100 billion tonnes of materials each year.
Canada’s GDP says nothing about our well-being — it often benefits from social ills and environmental crises
Gross domestic product (GDP) is a measure of the value of goods and services our country produces, not a marker for our collective well-being.
Former Director General, Ontario and Northern Canada
Read our reports
Build Back Better: Designing a Canadian economic system that grows well-being and quality of life
The David Suzuki Foundation recommends that Canada aim to “build back better” from COVID-19 by pursuing an economic system that prioritizes well-being for all. This includes addressing ongoing environmental crises such as climate change and pervasive inequities in prosperity and quality-of-life.