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Symposium 2015

Solution for New Indicators of Progress: How to Make a Difference to Policy and Politics

The Challenge

Despite growing recognition from many senior politicians and officials that progress is not just about economic growth, and that economic growth (as measured by GDP) should not be the overriding goal ...

Despite growing recognition from many senior politicians and officials that progress is not just about economic growth, and that economic growth (as measured by GDP) should not be the overriding goal of government, the day-to-day reality is that GDP growth does persist as a central focus. For example, whilst France is recognised as having lead the way in the ‘Beyond GDP’ agenda with the Stiglitz Commission arguing for a shift in focus from production to wellbeing, the French President Hollande was recently quoted as saying "I will do everything to make growth as high as possible.” This primacy of growth risks other objectives, including social and environmental goals, being sidelined. Indeed, whilst economists often say that economic growth is only a means to an end, and that that end is wellbeing, there is reason to believe that some decisions are taken which favour increasing economic growth at the expense of wellbeing.

Economy for the Common Good

ECG contributes to the great transformation
While our current economic system can, in some cases, create prosperity, it also creates a number of serious problems: unemployment, inequality, poverty, exclusion, hunger, environmental degradation and climate change. Social and ecological crises are accompanied by three fundamental cultural crises: an existential crisis about the meaning of life, a crisis of values and a crisis of democracy. In the eyes of many observers we are dealing with a fundamental systemic crisis, which can no longer be solved by individual reforms, but only by a “system change.” Besides a change in fundamental values and a change in life styles, we also need an evolution in the legal framework for the economic system. According to a poll by the Bertelsmann Foundation in the summer of 2010, which was repeated in 2012, 80 to 90% of Germans and Austrians want a “new economic order.” The time is ripe for a new “great transformation” (Karl Polanyi), in the direction of embedding the economy into the social context, into constitutional values, into people’s hearts and into the ecological foundations of life.

Brief history of ECG
The international movement “Economy for the Common Good” (ECG) started in October 2010 on the initiative of a dozen companies in Austria with just that objective in mind: the economy has to be brought in line with constitutional values such as human dignity, cooperation, sustainability, social justice and transparency. To this end, the founders developed a “Common Good Balance Sheet” which was implemented for the first time in 2011. The founding companies and individuals also helped draft a call for a new economic order which is described in the book “Economy for the Common Good” by Christian Felber. The ECG proposes to start a participatory process in which all core elements of a new economic order—market, money, competition/cooperation, social/ecological indicators, external costs, CSR, financial systems, trade regimes, etc.—will be discussed in economic conventions, with the goal of drafting a new „economic constitution.”

Core ideas and principles of ECG
The “Economy for the Common Good” is a comprehensive and coherent economic model which provides an alternative to both major historic narratives “capitalism” and “communism.”

  • The contradictions between the universal goals found in democratic constitutions and actual economic behavior are addressed and resolved by a change in the legal rules for economic activities. Incentives will be created for the adherence to constitutional values.
  • Economic success is currently measured using monetary indicators like the gross domestic product and financial balance sheets. Success is not measured in terms of human needs, quality of life, and fulfillment of fundamental values but by the accumulation of money. A “Common Good Balance Sheet” will fundamentally rectify this distorted thinking and practice.
  • One-sided economic thinking is replaced by a holistic and interdisciplinary approach, whose proposals are based on scientific and empirical research: game theory, neurobiology, social psychology, sociology, etc.
  • It is an open and evolutionary approach promoting learning through experience and is open to integrating elements from related approaches like sharing economy, circular economy, economic democracy, zero growth, blue economy, care economy, gift economy, and others.

 

Size of the ECG movement
After only three years the ECG has become a broad, international movement including thousands of individuals, hundreds of companies, dozens of communities and organizations. Participants are involved in developing, refining and implementing tools and processes. The overall process for the creation of the “Economy for the Common Good” is composed of four major strategies:

  1. Economy: Enterprises implement the “Common Good Balance Sheet” and build up networks of international cooperation. ECG Balances of nearly 250 companies are audited and certified. 1800 companies are using the concept in one way or another.
  2. Policy: Cities and regions adopt the ECG proposals and become official “Municipalities for the Common Good.” Two municipalities have done it; another ten are in the process of becoming it.
  3. Education: Universities and other institutions promote the ECG in the fields of research, teaching, application, and public dissemination.
  4. International Approach: The three above-mentioned areas are put into practice starting on the local level. So far, more than 100 local ECG groups have emerged in a self-organizing manner in Austria, Germany, Switzerland, Italy, Spain, Holland and South America. The movement is composed of numerous hubs, including: Entrepreneurs, business consultants, auditors, balance sheet editors, speakers, public figures, public relations and IT. ECG nonprofit associations have been founded in Austria, Germany, Italy, Switzerland and Spain to help organize the movement.

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