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Why Even Governments Are Beginning to Realize We Need New Measures of Success

RECEPTION NEWS: First the fires, then the pandemic, then the floods. After the collective trauma of the past few years, it is no wonder that the focus has been on the resilience and well-being of people and our communities.

Climate change and the housing crisis are proof of the damage that can result from focusing too much solely on continued economic growth, whatever the cost.

While at times it certainly felt like nothing was happening, behind the scenes the momentum was building towards a more humane and nature-centric approach to governance and business, and how we measure success.

We say human-centered because, let’s be clear, healthy people and communities depend on well-functioning ecosystems to survive and thrive.

The collective upheaval of recent years has resulted in a shift in what is considered valuable – not only in the eyes of the general public, but also in industry and governance.

To start, let’s take for example the recent conversations we’ve heard around nature-based targets. Since more than half of the world’s economic output depends on biodiversity and ecosystem services, organizations are beginning to assess their impacts on the natural system as a whole, not just carbon emissions.

“Positive nature”, referring to economic activity that improves the state of nature (such as biodiversity, soil quality and water), and therefore society, is beginning to enter the lexicon as “the new net zero”.

This is one of the main questions we will be looking at tickets are now available for our next urban greening event next month, where Pollination, which has outstripped many other consultancies, has already gained considerable insights. (Yes, they will be at our event).

Tim King, chief investment officer of impact investor Melior Investment Management, said FRG not so long ago: “I tell companies that it is changing rapidly. Investor expectations are changing extremely rapidly, as are customer and employee expectations.

Pressure is mounting on government and industry to set more ambitious targets and find better ways to measure and improve our impact on the environment.

Simon O’Connor, chief executive of the Responsible Investment Association Australasia (RIAA) said The fifth state recently, this momentum has been strengthened in both Australia and Aotearoa/New Zealand “to better account for and value assets based on nature’s risks and how they are managed”.

This week, for example, Accounting for Nature (AfN) announced that it has accredited the first region-wide methods as part of its environmental accounting standard that cost-effectively monitors the condition of native vegetation, wildlife, aquatic vertebrates and waterways.

Dr Adrian Ward, chief executive of AfN, says this is an exciting new step for environmental accounting to help us track the changing state of our environment over time and its relationship to our economy.

It’s also a powerful new method to counter the scourge of greenwashing that seems so prevalent.

“New methods have been added to Australia’s toolbox for understanding the state of our natural environment, this is exciting progress for the emerging practice of environmental accounting, but above all an opportunity to take real and measurable steps. towards an overview; our impact on climate change,” he said.

Also take a look at the new stakeholder consultation initiatives from the Taskforce for Nature-related Disclosures (TNFD) announced at the World Economic Forum in Switzerland last month. This includes a new consultation group convened by the RIAA to help Australia and New Zealand expand their reach and engagement.

TNFD is working to develop a risk management and disclosure framework for organizations to report and act on nature-related risks, with final recommendations to be released in September 2023.

This month, the Center for Nature-Based Climate Solutions at the National University of Singapore joined the initiative, bringing its expertise on nature-based solutions for climate mitigation and adaptation in the Asia-Pacific region, while the Stockholm Resilience Center at Stockholm University will strengthen know-how in Europe.

The Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) has also joined the initiative to strengthen policymaking on financial markets, nature and biodiversity, and finance and green investments.

These types of initiatives show that nature-related activities are attracting real attention at the highest level and gaining momentum.

And make no mistake, we need it here in Australia.

To add to Australia’s embarrassing climate record (we ranked last of all developed countries on climate action according to a 2021 report by the Climate Council), Australia also received the high (dis) honor to win the gold medal for worst mammal extinction rate of any country in the world according to the World Wide Fund for Nature. Wow, what an achievement!

Australia has an incredible level of biodiversity, with most species entirely unique and not found anywhere else in the world.

However, in 2020 Australia has lost 34 mammals (and counting) to human-induced environmental changes since colonization, which is about the same number as the rest of the world combined over the past 200 last years.

“Healthy communities depend on well-functioning ecosystems,” the WHO published in 2015.

All of this buzz around nature-based targets stems from a growing realization that nature is important to our continued existence on the planet.

Biodiversity loss has a direct impact on human health, they say.

What does it say about us as a species if we continue to pursue economic growth at the expense of our own well-being?

Alone, economic measures of success mean nothing. Let’s also try these:

It is also other alternative measures of success that are relevant to our future that are now heralded as the way forward – with the adoption of non-economic measures to guide federal policy ultimately explored by the government.

Treasurer Jim Chalmers called the upcoming budget a “welfare budget”.

While traditional indicators such as GDP are widely recognized as a valuable indicator of economic success, GDP does not measure work-life balance, unpaid work, environmental aspects, life expectancy or infant mortality. It does not measure well-being, security, happiness or quality of life.

“What I am committed to is a program to measure what matters. One of my personal obsessions is that we need to improve our ability to measure what matters,” Dr. Chalmers said on ABC radio.

“In addition to the really important economic data that we are already collecting – on top of that, not instead of it – we should be measuring progress in this country more effectively so that we can have a proper national conversation about what really matters to us and what matters also in an intergenerational sense.

“What I’m hoping to do in the October budget is get the ball rolling so we can have proper consultation with a lot of people who are interested in this.”

In its recently released 2022-2023 budget, the NSW Treasury has placed greater emphasis on health, investment in early years, greater climate resilience and environmental sustainability

An economic management framework should also be included in the NSW government’s formal program reporting system, covering the state’s natural, social, human and economic assets: results-based budgeting framework” .

“A greater focus on environmental, social and governance principles (together referred to as ESG) is rapidly becoming an essential part of prudent economic and financial management,” NSW Treasury said.

This idea is not new.

About half of OECD countries all have measures of well-being, with statistics offices developing new data methods to measure outcomes such as housing affordability, family violence and unpaid work.

The good news is that the OECD’s Better Life Index ranks Australia above average in available data on income, jobs, education, health, environmental quality , social connections, civic engagement and life satisfaction.

When asked to rate overall life satisfaction on a scale of 0 to 10, Australians gave it an average score of 7.1, above the OECD average of 6 ,7.

At the same time, the level of psychological distress among the Australian population increased significantly from 2001 to 2017/18, with a recent article reporting that mental health expenditure also increased over this period.

And although the 2022 World Happiness Report found Australia to be the 12th happiest country in the world, a survey conducted during lockdowns found that over 40% of young people reported severe levels of anxiety and depression.

Additionally, other well-being indicators such as family and domestic violence have soared in Australia during the pandemic.

In 2012 recommendations were presented to the NSW Parliament to develop a system of wellbeing indicators.

New Zealand already has such a system. It focuses its well-being data collection around three areas: individual and collective well-being, institutional and governance health, and country wealth and well-being.

“To undertake sound analysis and provide good advice, we need to think broadly about what it means for us to move forward as a country and how we understand the impact of current or potential policies,” the Treasury said. New Zealand in April after updating its Living Standards Framework. Dashboard.

“We consider it economically sound to draw on a wide range of data and evidence in our definition of progress and in our policy advice.”

Dr Katherine Trebeck, former senior advisor to the Wellbeing Economy Alliance, told AFR: “The other side of wellbeing is what I describe as system change. This is a conversation about understanding the drivers of people’s feelings of anxiety, why there is inequality, who feels most satisfied and in control of their lives, the circumstances that create dignified lives , job quality.

“It’s important to help people survive and cope, but we also have to look ahead.”

Victoria also explored developing a roadmap to “promote societal well-being and consider both human and planetary health, now and for future generations”.

In 2020, former treasurer Josh Frydenberg called the wellness budget idea “a yoga mat [and] pearls”.

Well, it seems that among the environmental, housing and other issues we’ve faced in recent years, a yoga mat and some beads are just what humanity needs to ensure we thrive in the future. .

— BY ROSE MARY PETRASS

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