people walking on walkway during daytime

By Jennifer Hinton

My journey of working in the area of sustainable economy began when I wrote my MSc thesis on the circular economy plan in China back in 2007- 2008. The circular economy seemed like an ideal response to the sustainability conundrum. Economic activity could carry on, but with less resource use and pollution. However, I bumped into the inevitable contradictions between efforts to increase material circularity in order to reduce environmental impacts, on the one hand, and an ongoing commitment to endless economic growth, on the other. Shortly thereafter, I read an early version of Tim Jackson’s Prosperity Without Growth. His main message, that humans can prosper without constantly growing their economic activity, resonated with me. I had experienced the erosion of social cohesion in the United States related to increasing materialism (the work-shop-drop treadmill) and I had also experienced the same trend in rural China. In both cases, economic growth seemed to be doing more harm than good, as far as the environment and community cohesion went. The health of people and planet were being sacrificed for money.

I began looking for ideas and practices that could help societies transition away from the growth-driven economic system. Since then, I have been working on the development of a new way of understanding the economy through the lens of “relationship-to-profit”. Relationship-to-profit theory explains that the global sustainability crises which on the surface might seem disparate and disconnected, such as inequality and climate change, are actually very much interconnected, because they are driven by the same thing: the pursuit of private financial gain. Capitalist societies relate to financial gain (such as Gross Domestic Product and profit) as a measurement of success and progress and, thus, as an end in itself. This is embodied in economic institutions like for-profit forms of business, which allow for a financial gain purpose and the private distribution of profit to enrich owners. The dynamics of the for-profit economic system are strong and, contrary to narratives of “market failures”, it is accomplishing what it is designed to: private financial gain. But it is doing so at an enormous social and ecological cost.

Today, most people live in a for-profit type of economy. However, history shows us this is not the only way that economies and societies can be structured. 

If we are to move in a more sustainable direction, societies need to change their relationship to profit and money. A promising building block for this is the phenomenon of not-for-profit forms of business, which are already operating around the world and in all sectors of the economy. An economy primarily composed of not-for-profit types of business would differ from the for-profit economy in many important ways. In the absence of private financial gain from business ownership, and with all businesses geared towards a social benefit purpose instead, there would be a lot more financial equality in a not-for-profit market economy. It would also be less prone to speculation, consumerism, environmental degradation, and political capture (a situation in which private interests have undue influence on policy-making). The not-for-profit way of organizing the economy is not a silver bullet – it won’t solve all of our problems – but it provides a sturdy foundation for solving them. Whereas trying to solve the issues of inequality, climate change, and biodiversity loss in the context of a for-profit economy is like swimming against a tsunami.

Relationship-to-profit theory does three important things for efforts to transform the economy. First, it explains why and how the current system is dysfunctional in clear and straightforward terms. Second, it lays out a concrete vision and pathway for a sustainable future that is more just and safe for all life on Earth. Lastly, the not-for-profit market economy model broadens the horizon of possibilities beyond the false dichotomy of capitalism versus the state-planned economy; a dichotomy that has contributed to high levels of political polarization over how societies should address the crises of the 21st century. This is why I felt the need to bring this work to the 36×36 project, through a peer learning exchange with my fellow participants. I am hopeful that the discussion of these ideas will contribute to real transformation on the ground.

Want to find out more about relationship-to-profit theory and not-for-profit models? Here are a few resources to check out:

Envisioning a Not-for-Profit World for a Sustainable Future (a short non-academic article)

A Not-for-Profit World beyond Capitalism and Economic Growth? (a semi-academic article describing how a not-for-profit market economy could take us beyond capitalism and economic growth)

A Circular Economy for Sustainability, not for Profit (a short non-academic article framing the circular economy from a post-growth perspective)

Fit for Purpose? Clarifying the critical role of profit for sustainability (an academic article outlining the system-wide sustainability dynamics of the for-profit and not-for-profit economies)

Relationship-to-Profit: A Theory of Business, Markets, and Profit for Social Ecological Economics (doctoral thesis putting forth relationship-to-profit theory)

How on Earth: Flourishing in a Not-for-Profit World by 2050 (a non-academic book putting forth a vision of a not-for-profit market economy)

Five Dimensions of Post-Growth Business (an academic article outlining the different dimensions of business that are important for a post-growth economy)


If you prefer videos, here’s a recorded presentation I gave on the Not-for-Profit World model for a general audience:

pile of donuts

By Della Duncan

A tactical guide to Doughnut Economics for grassroots community organizers

Author’s Note: I got involved in bringing the Doughnut to a community when Jared Bybee, a lawyer in Los Angeles who I had never met before, messaged me on the Doughnut Economics Action Lab website asking if I was interested in co-facilitating the first-ever California Doughnut Economics meet-up. In November 2020, over 50 people joined our first call excited by the idea of bringing the Doughnut to California and eager to help turn the idea into reality. Since then, we, a group of committed volunteers, have launched the California Doughnut Economics Coalition, working to compile California’s current “Doughnut selfie” with the hopes that we can eventually bring our work to the governor’s office to inspire equitable and sustainable systemic change at the state level. In our open calls, folks from other parts of the country (and even from other countries) have joined to cheer us on and get inspiration from our process. We have been supported by other groups before us (especially London and Amsterdam) as well as the Doughnut Economics Action Lab team and at the same time, we are also building the road as we walk it. This guide offers invitations for you to get involved whatever your background and wherever you are in the world. This offering comes from my personal perspective and experience which is by no means exhaustive. There are many roads up the mountain and customizing the process to your context may be helpful to gather support and momentum. 

Doughnut Inspired Word Cloud. Credit:
Doughnut Inspired Word Cloud. Credit:

You do not need to be an economist to change the goal of your economy to well-being for people and the planet. Here’s how you can bring Doughnut economics to your community.

Amsterdam, California, London. These are just a few of the places adopting the ‘Doughnut’ in order to encourage sustainable and equitable economic systems change. Behind each of these initiatives, there are people just like you motivated to turn Doughnut Economics from an inspiring idea into practical action.


What is ‘the Doughnut’ and why is it useful?

According to the late great systems thinker Donella Meadows, one of the highest leverage points to change a system is to change the goal. The current goal of many economies is blind growth. From extreme weather to wildfires, most people have directly experienced the impact of climate change by now. Infinite growth is not possible on a finite planet. At the same time, we recognize growing social and economic inequities, in most cases exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic, showing up as precariousness, homelessness, and the fact that according to Oxfam, ‘the world’s 2,153 billionaires have more wealth than the 4.6 billion people who make up 60 percent of the planet’s population.’ The ‘Doughnut’ is a model offered by Kate Raworth and the Doughnut Economics team (UK-based hence the “ugh” in doughnut) that puts growth as a means to an end and not an end in itself. The goal of a Doughnut economy is to meet human needs equitably in consideration of the sustainability needs of the planet. Doughnut economics asks, ‘how can we have an economy with a strong social foundation for all without going over the ecological ceiling?’

This is where you come in. The doughnut can scale from the town-level all the way to the planetary-level. By measuring the doughnut for your community (affectionately called ‘taking a doughnut selfie’) you can assess how your community is doing at meeting the needs of the people in your community in relation to the health of the ecological systems your economy is embedded in. Curious about the data that goes into creating a doughnut selfie? Check out this slideshow for an example of data points a community could use.

You don’t have to do this work alone, in fact there is already a growing community of folks around the world and likely folks in your area excited to work with you to bring your local doughnut to life. Here are 5 steps to get started.

5 steps to implementing Doughnut Economics in your community:

1. Get to know the Doughnut

You don’t need to be an economist or an expert, but familiarizing yourself with the main idea of ‘Doughnut Economics’ will help you be able to make sense of the idea in your own context and invite others to join your effort.

Kate Raworth’s book Doughnut Economics: Seven Ways to Think Like a 21st Century Economist is a great place to start.

If you prefer to watch a video, Kate also made a TedTalk on Doughnut Economics called ‘A Healthy Economy Should be Designed to Thrive not Grow.’

2. Join the Doughnut Economics Action Lab community

The Doughnut Economics Action Lab or DEAL – is a community of practice for Doughnut Economics.

Sign up for free and create a profile to get started.

My Profile on the DEAL website

Once you are logged in, search the over 5,000 member database to find folks located in your area or who share your interest in particular themes. Find out how to message them by clicking on their profile picture.

3. Browse upcoming and past events for inspiration and information

On the DEAL website, there is a section featuring events coming up and those that have past. This will give you information about whether any events are going to be held or have been held in relation to your location. For example, at a quick glance at the time of writing this article, I can see that doughnut meet-ups have recently taken place in Hamburg, New York, Yorkshire, Spain, and Copenhagen!

Looking through the events will help you figure out if there are already folks working on bringing the doughnut to where you are. It can also help you to see how people are inviting people to collaborate, for example, some event organizers include games, presentations, and translation.

4. Plan and host a Doughnut meet-up 

California Doughnut Second Gathering Announcement

On the DEAL website, in the events section, there is a button to ‘add an event.’ This is where you can post your Doughnut meet-up gathering. Here are some tips and questions for you as you think through the planning and hosting of your event ~

  • Is there someone in your area who you could co-facilitate the gathering with? It could be fun and helpful to have another person to generate ideas, think through the flow, and facilitate the meeting well.
  • People attending your gathering will likely have different levels of experience with the Doughnut model, it might be good to include a short presentation on what the doughnut is and why it would be beneficial to measure it for your community. Here is the write up of the first California DEAL Meetup for inspiration of how we facilitated our first gathering.
  • Besides the DEAL website, where can you promote your event to reach people who might be interested? Consider who is likely to show up and whose voices might be missing or do you want to make special effort to include.
  • Lean on the DEAL team who are available to support you in promoting your event, attending your event, or offering resources and tools.
  • Setting up an eventbrite for your event is helpful to be able to collect names and emails of folks interested in your event. Be sure to follow-up with this list (even folks who sign up but don’t attend) with next steps and the date of your next gathering if appropriate.

5. Be open to what emerges

Embody the more kind, caring, and collaborative economy you are working towards. This is not an opportunity to force your idea or gain at the expense of others. Let the ‘Doughnut Principles of Practice’ guide you and your community’s work together. May it be distributive, nurturing, and regenerative. Let those who come to your first gathering help shape the next steps and the process including helping to answer practical questions such as how should we keep in touch, how often should we meet, and what do we want to accomplish? Shared leadership can sometimes feel slower but it is more thoughtful, inclusive, and does not leave anyone behind.

Setting our intention to meet the needs of all people within the means of the planet is bold but necessary. There will be surprises and likely even setbacks and disappointments. Don’t be afraid to ask for help. Remember you are not alone. There are many of us around the world also working on this shared goal and ultimately, the social and ecological benefits of this movement you are now a part of will be beyond our ability to measure.


This article originally appeared on

Read Shareable’s recent article on the story of Doughnut Economics in California here, listen to their featured interview with Kate Raworth on “How Doughnut Economics Can Sustain the Planet” here, and listen to Kate Raworth’s presentation on “Doughnut Economic Scaled to the City” released by Shareable in partnership with Tufts University and The Kresge Foundation as part of their cities@tufts series. Learn more about Kate Raworth and her work with the Doughnut Economics Action Lab by visiting:

By Christina Kwauk

As the world continues to respond to a second, third, and potentially fourth wave of COVID19, global leaders targeting the ever-elusive “end” of the pandemic have been focused on plans to rebuild the economy. But surely we cannot build back better post-COVID economies using the same pre-COVID economic thinking. Such thinking is rooted in values of human exceptionalism, resource extraction, and unfettered economic growth—values driving the very social, economic, and ecological crises we are trying to fix.

It goes without saying that we cannot expect to create new economic thinking with the same education systems that have raised generation upon generation of economic thinkers with these unsustainable values and assumptions about the economy. To manifest and sustain a new economy, we need education systems to challenge these long-held values by transforming our ways of seeing, being, doing, and becoming in the world in balance. But, as my fellow 36×36 femxle protagonists reminded me during a peer-learning session earlier this month, education-as-usual is often missing foundational lessons on economic topics like personal finance let alone getting into the thornier topics of how colonialism, racism, and patriarchy have deeply influenced our economic values and dominant economic lenses.

This is where I believe a new green learning agenda informed by feminist principles, social justice, and climate action becomes the linchpin to the social transformation necessary for new economic thinking.

What is a new green learning agenda for a new economy? It is essentially a new way of educating children, youth, and adults aimed at building the knowledge, skills, and mindsets for three economic shifts: 1) a just transition to a greener economy that values care work, 2) the reorientation of mindsets and behaviours toward social, economic, and ecological sustainability, and 3) the transformation of underlying systems of oppression exploiting our life-giving systems.

Core to a new green learning agenda is the goal of nurturing in learners of all ages a feminist planetary consciousness—an awareness that our social challenges are intricately tied to our planetary challenges. Such a consciousness promises to confront the problems of education, including its colonial, racist, and patriarchal legacies, and its complicit role in perpetuating neoliberal mindsets that drive our present models of consumption and production.

While some cities, states, and countries are beginning to propose new visions for their economic systems that attempt to break free of these legacies, many are lagging behind when it comes to proposing new visions for their education systems to foster new forms of economic thinking.

As of May 2021, according to Climate Interactive’s Green, Resilient, and Equitable Actions for Transformation (GREAT) Database, there are only 49 examples of COVID recovery policies and actions at the city-; territory, state, or province-; or national or regional-level that address economic recovery with an eye toward multi-solving for climate mitigation and adaptation that could produce co-benefits in racial, gender, and economic equity. For example, Spain’s Recovery, Transformation, and Resilience Plan describes a new vision for the Spanish economy as a circular economy, a green (and blue) economy, a digital economy, a decarbonized economy, and a care economy. Notably, Spain is also one of nine examples in the database that have a focus on gender equality.

But of these 49 examples, only eight allude to education and training. Even more disappointing, these eight references to education can be described in two ways: one, as passive references, suggesting educational access is a positive secondary outcome that comes from taking action in other sectors like shifting to clean energy (e.g. Afghanistan), or it becomes collateral damage if climate action is not pursued (e.g. San Jose, California). Second, education is referenced as an investment pathway for re-skilling and/or training a workforce to support the jobs necessary to fuel a transition to a greener economy—defined as digital- and technology-based, rather than care-based. Only one example (again Spain) talked about education and training as a sector of investment to support an ecological transition that reduces gender gaps and meets the needs of the vulnerable. Such re-skilling efforts echo traces of one approach to a new green learning agenda. However, the Plan’s intersectional ambition is confined to training in digital skills, does not address education beyond workforce training, and lacks what I and my co-author Olivia Casey have defined elsewhere as a breadth of “green skills” needed for broader social transformation.

Indeed, what we need global leaders to focus on is not building back better, but what environmental educationalist Stephen Sterling might describe as building back differently—a semantic refinement to help us break free from the temptation to merely reform our existing systems but rather to transform them entirely. COVID should have been the wakeup call urging global leaders to focus COVID recovery strategies on balancing our social, economic, and ecological relationships within what Kate Raworth calls the “sweet spot” of doughnut economies: the safe and just space for humanity nestled between our ecological ceiling and social foundation. But unsurprisingly, discussions around new economic models seem to stop short of discussing the new economic thinking behind those models and the new education systems needed to generate this.

So, as the 36×36 protagonists work together to co-create a new feminist manifesto for economic system transformation, it is vital that we include a vision for the education system, too. After all, education is the intergenerational bridge from the present to the future.


Photo by Ar//sh Mohammed on Unsplash 

By: Isabel Nuesse

Are you ready to unlearn everything you knew about economics?

One of our 36×36 womxn, Della Duncan, hosts a truly revolutionary, informative and visionary radio documentary – Upstream – that offers themed episodes exploring a wide range of topics related to our current economic system.

Season 4 of the podcast just launched. In their first episode, Homo Economicus, or economic man, Upstream questions our core assumptions about who we are as people, and how we’re seen in the current economic system. Does the story that we’ve been told about how we interact with our economic system truly reflect us as people?

One of the interviewees Bayo Akomolafe speaks to the image of the atlas man.

He says, this image is homo economicus – “This is man hard at work, spinning wheels.” He states that, “It is a rude suggestion that this universe depends on this activity,” and the thinking that increased productivity and rational solutions are what is needed to fix things.

The podcast draws on various perspectives of the embedded problematic nature of thinking that we are inherently selfish, greedy individualists. Upstream then shares the reasoning why this is wholly untrue.

David Sloan Wilson who is an evolutionary biologist says “What sets us apart from other primates is that we’re so cooperative…our ancestors found ways to suppress disruptive behaviors within groups.” He highlights how this attribute sets us apart from other mammals – and our cooperation is what has enabled us to evolve to the species that we are today.

Upstream then travels to meet with George Monbiot who immediately shares his outrage in how much we’ve been lied to about what we’ve been told about human beings. He says, “We’ve been shown a dark view of humanity – which is a totally false one.” He emphasises how spectacularly unusual humans are in relation to other animals – particularly when it comes to altruism.

Throughout the podcast, Upstream shares a wide range of perspectives and research on this topic of homo economicus. This journey shares a new way of thinking on how we relate to one another – and what our most human traits actually are. Do check out the podcast here, and follow their incredible Instagram account if you’re looking for memes that call it how it is.

2 Questions: 1) Purpose building Narratives - What are the empowering narrative and vision for the network? 2) Dynamic Structures: How do we build collective action around first issue-based exchanges and come together around a process for change?

by Elisabeth Kühn, CLI Managing Partner and 36×36 project lead

The Covid-19 pandemic has only been the last in a series of events that have simultaneously brought us together and isolated us as human beings across the globe. Caused by an invisible virus, it has taught us what it means to live in an interconnected world. This is more than a lesson in global health issues. It invites us to realize that understanding our world from a systemic perspective is necessary. We are connected in a multitude of ways, and just as these invisible connections can bring about destruction, they can also be leveraged for building wellbeing on a healthy planet for all humankind.

Recognizing our interconnectedness is the starting point for building the 36×36 transformation network. As part of the second expertise building module on “Strategizing Transformative Change” in the project, the womxn in the network came together for a strategic session around the big question: How can we become not just an exchange network of professional femxle change makers passionate about driving new economic approaches, but be a transformation network that drives strategic action? This is a daunting task. But while it is true that a network of 36 passionate womxn cannot change the world alone, they can be the powerful starting point. Consciously leveraging the expertise, action, strategies and connections between womxn towards a deliberate and action oriented network is the first step in bringing about the transformation towards wellbeing on a healthy planet.

This question was explored in a module that was both an expertise building and a strategic working session. The overall guidance was provided by the six Network Enablers, the design elements necessary for transformative networks that bring about aliveness in systems. They are derived from the same conceptual background (see FAQ here) that is also behind the larger six strategic questions guiding the process towards the network’s manifesto. In addition, three key success factors focused the womxn’s work in the module: a) successful, transformative network action needs to start in small collective action teams. Building thriving connections starts in small teams of network members, such as regional teams. From these teams, connections across the whole network can be built, which brings in the second success factor: b) a shared vision of the network. The creative process of defining how the 36×36 network wants to be in the future provides an anchor to collective action teams and ensures against working in silos. And finally, the big task of how to start action in the face of such complexity is done with c) first theories of change for the network, developed in said collective action teams. Theories of change, while not without its limits as a tool, provide a powerful record for an intervention logic, and support the coherent development of goals, strategies, results and activities around a common vision.

The womxn’s strategic work on a shared vision for the network as well as theories of change developed in regional collective action teams will be integrated and developed further over the following weeks – towards a solid foundation for an action-oriented network that drives and leverages connections among its members, and that prepares the way for expanding to further connections and networks beyond 36×36.

In last week’s expertise building module, 36×36 participants explored their visions for the future of the network in creative and inspiring ways. Sarah Gamrani was moved to write this beautiful poem, which she shared with the group in a performance.


i was born on a waxing moon


i was born on a waxing moon

which means my life will only be

more beautiful 


i started doubting about this 

when, growing up, 

i have noticed 

that all we can do is destroy 

what surrounds us 

and any kind of joy 


i am an emotional being

whose emotions have been buried

in the soil of a society 

that has decided 

to value everything that is wrong


it took us courage and time

to realize that other

emotional beings

needed a space to shine


a new space, we did create,

care and tolerance

have made it possible

to forge powerful links


and like the waxing moon 

on the day I was born 

these links continued to grow

until they reached a full wisdom.


sarah gamrani




By Anna Haw and Isabel Nuesse

This image which sparked memes all over the internet in the last month may compel more people to rethink our consumer-driven habits and current state of our economy….or so we hope.

As consumers, we rarely give much thought to how the multitude of things we buy make their way across the planet and into our homes. That is, until the Ever Given (400m long packed with up to 18,000 containers) stopped $9.6 billion dollars’ worth of products each day that it was stalled in the Suez Canal. That’s $6.7 million a minute.  This debacle reveals the true scale of our global supply chains, and broader global economic system.

How is it that one ship can have such an impact? That so many goods depend on a single waterway, and that 6 days of disruption can amount to over $50 billion in losses? 

With so much money being lost, resources were swiftly mobilised to solve the frantic halt of the Suez Canal. It’s remarkable really, that our dependence on this consumer culture and our need to keep trading goods catalysed a global upheaval. 

The focus on incessant GDP growth has necessitated a relentless drive to create and trade goods, no matter the cost to the environment or human wellbeing. 

This shipping fiasco serves as a clear metaphor of our current economic system. We have an economy that lacks resilience, makes little practical sense and is so heavy that changing direction is almost impossible, despite obvious imminent danger. 

The comparatively tiny tug boats and bulldozers working together to dislodge the massive ship are akin to the many initiatives that are working to dislodge the current economic system. What’s needed to uproot the current economic system is a rising tide to provide much-needed support and create an enabling environment to the many profoundly positive new economic initiatives that are desperately trying to change the course of our damaging economy. 

We can create this rising tide.

It will take incredible mobilisation, bold action, risk and ultimately embracing long-term goals. 

There was support and media attention at all angles covering the crisis of Ever Given. Yet our current economic framework is a part and parcel of causing these crises. Rather than applying a band-aid at vast expense, or incessantly reporting on how many billions of dollars are being lost, let’s focus on the root of the problem. Are we throwing resources at a framework that is too centralised, single-minded and outdated?

What if a potentially catastrophic  global trade event can be viewed instead as an opportunity to give our  system a re-think? Do we need to keep purchasing goods at the current rate that we are? Can consumers buy less, share more and redistribute our wealth to support initiatives working towards achieving social justice on a healthy planet?  

As the Ever Given moves forward towards its destination with hundreds of other laden ships in its wake, let us not miss the opportunity to think about what our society’s priorities are, and where we’re mobilising our resources.

We do have the capacity to catalyse, dramatically shift and re-route our economic system, so what’s stopping us?

Image: Suez Canal Authority via AP


Previously published by Capitals Coalition hereBy Natalie Nicholles, Senior Director at the Capitals Coalition.

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.