It’s easy to feel overwhelmed and despondent when thinking about the challenges we face in achieving a more sustainable world. Nevertheless, wellbeing is integral to the sustainability transition. Firstly, because people want a positive vision of how a sustainable society looks like. But more importantly, because striving towards wellbeing as a societal objective is more consistent with achieving sustainability goals than the old-fashioned search for ever-more economic growth.
Today, on the 11th UN International Day of Happiness, it is fitting that we happily announce that the Hot or Cool Institute is now responsible for development and management of the Happy Planet Index. The Happy Planet Index, one of the seminal alternative indicators of progress, is a measure of the environmental efficiency with which countries achieve good lives. It shook up the debate around moving beyond GDP and contributed to the rapid development of wellbeing and happiness policy and measurement initiatives around the world.
Wellbeing has always been at the heart of Hot or Cool’s mission, it’s one of our three key principles, and we have worked to develop solutions for positive lifestyles that are compatible with the 1.5 Degree target for reducing CO2 emissions, including in projects like PSLifestyle and work on care-centred transitions to equitable low-consumption societies.
We mark a change of pace in these ambitions, by also announcing a new Sustainable Wellbeing programme at Hot or Cool, led by our newest member of staff, Saamah Abdallah. The programme will kick off with an update of the Happy Planet Index, which Saamah and our new Senior Fellow Nic Marks created back in 2006.
Today, as the International Day of Happiness, there will be plenty said about the things that individuals and societies can do to improve their wellbeing. Much of the advice and work in this area has a strong evidence base and is not to be scoffed at. But Hot or Cool’s ambitions are broader. For us, wellbeing is something to be achieved together, with the support of a wellbeing economy and a fair and thriving society. And it is something that we can achieve whilst also working towards a healthy planet.
Hot or Cool, now responsible for the Happy Planet Index, will launch the sixth edition of the index next year. The new programme of work will bring a science-based wellbeing approach to Hot or Cool’s existing work on sustainable lifestyles, demonstrate the political feasibility of policies that increase wellbeing and reduce environmental impact, and influence the on-going debates on indicators of progress, sustainability and wellbeing. Watch this space!