A GROWING movement of businesses, policy makers and citizens are calling for our economy to be redesigned so that it serves the needs of people and planet.

The Scottish Government established its intention to become a wellbeing economy in its recent 10-year National Strategy for Economic Transformation.

According to the Wellbeing Economy Alliance (WEAll) Scotland, a wellbeing economy is one designed to provide all of us with good lives while protecting the health of our natural environment.

It will take a radical but welcome+ departure from business as usual to achieve this goal. Reprogramming our economy so it truly serves humanity will require attending to questions of power and ownership and choosing to nurture the kinds of businesses that enhance our collective wellbeing.

We all know we cannot carry on down the economic path we have trodden if we are to respect the natural limits of our environment. We are already overshooting on several of the planetary boundaries that are essential for the healthy functioning of the ecosystems that support us.

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The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) recently warned that further delay in action to address climate emissions will miss a “brief and rapidly closing window to secure a liveable future”. Economic growth in Scotland has gotten us as far as we need it to. Collectively, we have enough resources to go round. It is time we thought less about accumulating national wealth and more about the kind of industries and jobs we need to foster and which we need to scale down. Our leaders know this but short-term thinking is embedded in our political culture. I would love to see a Hippocratic Oath for politicians that required them to make decisions that would have positive impacts in the long term.

A new generation of businesses is already demonstrating what enterprises could look like in a wellbeing economy. Innovative leaders are increasingly redefining what it means to succeed and putting collective prosperity before the narrow metric of profit.

Measuring businesses according to profit and productivity alone can easily justify extractive relationships with workers and natural resources. The goal of prosperity can encourage healthier businesses that consider their connection to their staff and wider operating environment.

A recent survey of business leaders in the UK found that almost half of all respondents believed the purpose of business is to “find profitable solutions to the problems of people and planet, not to profit from creating problems for either”. This is a remarkable shift from the outdated mantra of “the business of business is business”.

Customers are also voting with their wallets. A 2019 survey of consumers in the UK, US, China and Brazil found that the top three issues consumers identify with while making decisions about brands were how they treat their employees, how they treat the environment and how they treat the communities in which they operate. According to Deloitte, purpose-driven businesses achieve higher workforce and customer satisfaction and they grow three times faster on an average than their competitors.

Of course, growth will often be part of a business’s strategy. But not always. In our hunger for growth and expansion we have sometimes forgotten to value and enhance what we do have. As CEO of Remarkable, I see my purpose as to make work better for people and to support businesses to put purpose at the heart of their mission and operations. In addition to delivering Investors in People accreditation in Scotland, and providing First Aid for Mental Health Training, we provide employers with practical steps they can take to embody wellbeing economy thinking.

One of the ways I see businesses changing every day is in the democratisation of leadership. Thriving businesses are often those which assign equal value to the voice of an employee as to the voice of a shareholder. I’ve worked with clients who have seen vast improvements in services once they have harnessed the intellectual capacity and unique perspective of every single employee.

At Remarkable, we value learning together and we embrace a healthy attitude towards making mistakes.

The wellbeing economy businesses of the future will prioritise collaboration over competition. Our collaboration with Intent Based Leadership International is an example of this. We jointly provide an online module on the democratisation of leadership. Everything we produce is open source and available to everyone.

The National:

Scotland’s craft brewing sector has also been held up as a case study for effective collaboration between businesses operating in the same space. For some more traditional businesses, shifts can still feel like a big challenge. Those who have achieved great success according to yesterday’s standards can be understandably reluctant to change. Others are keen to get involved but do not know where to start. And this is where practical guidance and an enabling environment can help.

I am so proud of the role Scotland has played in setting up the collaboration of governments committed to becoming wellbeing economies (WEGo). High-level statements committing to do things differently give those of us championing this transition the hope that our work will be scaled up. But this does need to be matched with practical commitments, so the right thing to do for people and planet increasingly becomes the right thing to do for business.

We are living through an immensely challenging time but it is also an amazing moment of transition. In the wake of the pandemic there is a revival of the idea of the possible. There’s a real appetite to investigate a better way of living and working.

We had this huge global social experiment that proved we can live and work in radically different ways. Purpose-driven enterprises that enhance the wellbeing of their employees and the communities in which they operate must be central to the Scottish Government’s strategy if it serious about creating a Scotland where people and planet can thrive.

Bonnie Clarke is CEO of Remarkable and a member of Wellbeing Economy Alliance Scotland