The Wellbeing Economy Alliance (WEAII) is a 10-year collaboration between global organisations and individuals committed to transforming the economic system into one that delivers social justice on a healthy planet.
WEAII currently has six hubs around the world, of which Scotland is the largest, each working collaboratively to learn from and support its network of allies and effect tangible change. More hubs are planning to launch over the coming months.
We sat down with Sarah Deas, Trustee at the Wellbeing Economy Alliance Scotland to discuss the work of the alliance and how it benefits not only Scotland but other countries across the globe.
Sarah Deas, Trustee at the Wellbeing Economy Alliance Scotland
What is your ultimate goal for the alliance?
Our hope is that within 10-15 years, WEAll is no longer needed. This may sound idealistic, but people (including policymakers) are becoming increasingly aware that the current system does not benefit everyone who lives within it and are beginning to take tangible steps to make a wellbeing economy a reality. Working with businesses that take wellbeing and systems change seriously will be a big part of this transformation.
How do you help businesses become more sustainable?
Business plays a vital role in the transition to a wellbeing economy. It is a vehicle for creativity and innovation, and it has the potential to be one of the most effective advocates for change.
Working together with government and civil society, businesses have a major role to play in creating the means of meeting human and ecological needs. In our current system, finance and the economy tend to serve themselves rather than serving society and the environment. A wellbeing economy is an alternative vision for the economic system, in which finance serves and incentivises the economy, and the economy serves society – and the environment – as part of its intrinsic purpose.
Our Business of Wellbeing Guide is a useful resource for businesses that wish to become more sustainable and people-focused, including practical advice and case studies on a variety of topics, from embracing participatory leadership to becoming a purpose-driven business.
In March we launched our Business and the Wellbeing Economy survey. This was organised in partnership with our allies and will help us to understand and identify businesses’ ‘pain points’ and how WEAII can help. Once we gather the results and do an in-depth analysis, we will provide relevant resources to help businesses on the journey.
VisitScotland Business Events has recently joined the Wellbeing Economy Alliance, what does this mean for Scotland and its partners?
VisitScotland Business Events (VSBE) recognises that attracting international business events to Scotland can be a catalyst for social and economic change. As the nation looks to build back better from the Covid pandemic, WEAll Scotland is delighted to welcome VSBE to our alliance. Through participating in the WEAll, our members have the opportunity to network and work with other organisations committed to making Scotland both a destination and home for sustainable businesses focused on people and the planet.
Tell us about the work of your Scottish hub, how does this help the wellbeing of the region?
As one of WEAll Scotland’s co-founder’s Dr Katherine Trebeck likes to say, ‘Scotland is more awake than many when it comes to the need for economic systems change, but we’re still at the stage where we’re peeking out from under the covers.’
It’s so encouraging to see the wellbeing economy become a mainstream topic among Scottish politicians and policymakers in the last year.
Fiona Hyslop, Cabinet Secretary for Culture, Tourism and External Affairs declared in Parliament last May that “the time of a wellbeing economy has well and truly arrived.”
The wellbeing economy concept then took centre stage a month later when the Scottish Government’s Advisory Group on Economic Recovery published its report, ‘Towards a robust, resilient wellbeing economy for Scotland.’
At WEAll Scotland, we were delighted to see that the language of the wellbeing economy featured so prominently. But it’s important to remember that we exist to advocate for and enable a wellbeing economy, not simply celebrate it becoming a buzzword.
It’s time to move away from outdated metrics like growth in GDP and instead focus on the indicators which truly measure quality of life: social justice, a healthy environment and the opportunity for everyone to pursue good lives.
That’s one reason why working with organisations and supporting them as they transition into wellbeing-focused businesses is so important. As drivers of the economy, businesses have a crucial role to play in making wellbeing a priority - for their staff, suppliers, customers and wider networks.
Scotland is in an excellent position to achieve economic wellbeing not only for the nation but as a model to replicate for others wishing to do the same.
What is next for the Wellbeing Economy Alliance?
Everyone is focused on recovering from the pandemic and it’s our goal to ensure that ‘green growth’ and ‘build back better’ aren’t just talk—they need to be realised through tangible actions.
Since the wellbeing economy is relevant to everyone, part of our work will be with policymakers to ensure the wellbeing economy is part of the discourse during Scotland’s election season in May 2021. We also want to support businesses and help them to successfully integrate wellbeing economy principles into their operational practices benefiting both the company and its employees - and having wider positive impacts on society and the planet.
Our alliance with VisitScotland Business Events will be a crucial part of making Scotland a destination for sustainable businesses focused on people and planet—not just profit. We look forward to working with them and learning from them in the coming months.
To find out more about the Wellbeing Economy Alliance visit wellbeingeconomy.org/scotland