My dad once famously (at least, within our family) nicknamed me “The High Priestess of Post-Apocalyptic Doom”, thanks to my neurotic tendencies. My teenage angst was focussed on my parents’ patchy use of our newly supplied Council recycling wheelie bin (revolutionary), sun-beds (my dad enjoyed a few, back in the day) and links to cancer from mobile phones!
It was the 90s (yup, I’m that old) and having more than one wheelie bin was pretty much a novelty, and mobile phones were still the size of bricks and mercilessly free of smart technology (no social media – hurrah!).
Scroll forward a couple of decades and Greta Thunberg has her face on the cover of Time Magazine, is keynote speaker at world forums on environmental issues, and gets face time with royals and presidents alike. Just think what I could have achieved if only I had been born some 20 years later…
Now the time is very much ripe for meaningful discussions regarding environmental concerns and the impact that human life, including a narrow approach to pursuing economic growth as an end in itself, is having on our planet and our fellow humans.
This was the key topic at The Wellbeing Economy Alliance’s “Wealth of Nations 2.0” Conference held in Edinburgh on Wednesday 22 January. The timing couldn’t have been better (or worse, depending upon your perspective) coming a day after it emerged that Scotland has experienced one of the most significant falls (among developed countries) in the latest index of social and economic wellbeing.
The Scottish Trends Index of Social and Economic Wellbeing uses data based on a range of measures including income, education, longevity and inclusivity. It ranks Scotland in the bottom half of 32 Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) countries.
Nicola Sturgeon was keynote speaker at the conference and certainly seemed committed to placing well-being at the heart of Scotland’s economic approach – her focus appears to be on sustainable and inclusive economic growth (whilst not entirely displacing economic growth as a measure of success).
Professor John McLaren of the Scottish Trends website has said the Scottish Parliament may have to adopt a more "radical" approach to address well-being. There certainly seemed to be recognition of this from the First Minister and from the very enthusiastic delegates at yesterday’s conference – but many of these are already ‘the converted’ coming from the public, social enterprise and third sectors.
It was fantastic to see Scottish Power as a co-sponsor of the conference, but my hope for future years is that levels of attendance and engagement from the private sector will increase - if this country is committed to a seismic shift in its economic model these are the very people who must be invited to the table and bought-in to that process. In recent months, we have seen tentative interest from a number of key corporate players and are helping them to find their way, drawing upon our experience of working with the public and third sectors.
So watch this space - especially with Glasgow taking centre stage as it hosts COP26, the UN’s major climate change conference, in November this year.