Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Re-Post! Article from Solutions Journal by Laura and John

Volume 4 | Issue 1 | Feb 2013
The Happiness Initiative: The Serious Business of Well-Being
Stanley Wood
Growth in GDP was long ago decoupled from personal indicators of well-being, as many Americans report being overworked, stressed, and lonely.
Happiness: is it just a fad of the day or the wave of the future? On July 19th, 2011, the United Nations (UN) passed a resolution urging governments across the globe to start measuring happiness and well-being “with a view to guiding public policy.” The UN recognizes that gross domestic product (GDP) is an insufficient guide for safeguarding the well-being of people or our future. Instead, the UN suggests “a more inclusive, equitable and balanced approach to economic growth that promotes sustainable development, poverty eradication, happiness and well-being of all peoples.”
In April, 2012, the UN held its first High Level Meeting on Happiness and Well-Being. Prime Minister Jigmi Thinley of Bhutan set the tone:
The time has come for global action to build a new world economic system that is no longer based on the illusion that limitless growth is possible on our precious and finite planet or that endless material gain promotes well-being. Instead, it will be a system that promotes harmony and respect for nature and for each other; that respects our ancient wisdom traditions and protects our most vulnerable people as our own family, and that gives us time to live and enjoy our lives and to appreciate rather than destroy our world. It will be an economic system, in short, that is fully sustainable and that is rooted in true, abiding well-being and happiness.
We’re part of a team that is working to find concrete ways to engage individuals and communities in just the sort of reassessment the United Nations proposes. We started a project we call The Happiness Initiative in 2010. Before we explain how our model works, it’s important to understand why such a project is needed.

A Broken System

It’s clear to those who’ve been paying attention that our current economic behaviors are on a collision course with the earth’s limits, an issue the founders of the Balaton Group warned about 40 years ago in their seminal book Limits to Growth. Recent reports by the Global Footprint Network and others confirm their predictions. We are now using resources and generating wastes at rates 40 percent higher each year than can be sustained. If every country on earth were to consume at U.S. levels, we’d need five planets.
As the UN points out, part of the problem is our current metric for societal success: GDP. While the United States has one of the world’s largest per capita GDPs, it trails most other wealthy countries and some poorer ones in many ways. A few examples:
  • Americans are more likely to report experiencing stress than are people of 144 other nations. Rich and poor Americans are more likely to be anxious or worried than people in 88 other nations. The United States ranks 11th in “life satisfaction” according to the Gallup-Healthways poll, but well below Denmark, Finland, Norway, and the Netherlands.
  • Americans consume nearly two-thirds of the world’s antidepressants.
  • More than a third of Americans over 45 report being chronically lonely, up from 20 percent in 2000.
  • U.S. life expectancy is 50th in the world according to the CIA World Factbook, shorter than in any other rich country, despite the fact that Americans spend twice as much on health care per capita than other countries do.
  • Rates of poverty and child poverty in the US are the highest among wealthy countries, and more than double the average in Europe.
Yet sadly, the American economic model is becoming more dominant, even in Europe. We are sacrificing our health, happiness, social connection, leisure time, and the environment in the blind pursuit of growth. We can’t go on like this.
James Vaughan/Flickr
Since World War II, the consumer society has been triumphant. It’s time to look beyond consumerism to happiness, argue the authors.

Bhutan’s Gross National Happiness

Forty years ago, King Jigmi Singye Wangchuck of Bhutan was asked what he was going to do to improve his nation’s gross national product (GNP). He replied that, “Gross national happiness is more important than gross national product.” In 2004, with the assistance of the United Nations Development Program, Bhutan brought in a group of scientists and developed its first happiness survey based on nine domains of life: material well-being, good governance, environmental quality and access to nature, community well-being, cultural well-being, education, health, psychological well-being, and time balance.
At the same time, Bhutan identified 72 objective metrics for the nine domains of happiness. Subjective survey results, complemented by these objective metrics, are now used to guide policy decisions and allocation of resources in Bhutan. Recently, for example, when faced with deciding whether to build a dam in a large Himalayan valley so it could sell hydropower, the government decided that preservation of ecosystems and the value of nature to Bhutanese culture outweighed expected monetary gain.

The Global Search for New Measures of Well-Being

A handful of world leaders have already been following the example of Bhutan. The British prime minister, David Cameron, says he wants his legacy to be a measure of happiness. The United Kingdom’s Office of National Statistics conducted its first survey and found the British to be “unhappy” about work, family, education, and health care, but not very concerned about climate change.
In 2010 France’s President Nicolas Sarkozy strongly urged all world leaders to consider happiness and well-being measures in addition to GDP.
In Sao Paulo, Brazil, an organization called Future Vision is working with high school students, training them to go door to door in neighborhoods, survey residents’ well-being, and hold town meetings. An unexpected outcome of these projects is a newfound respect between neighborhood residents and youth.
Canada recently issued its first Index of Well-Being, using objective metrics. These well-being indicators will be considered in forming public policy. At the same time, the City of Victoria in British Columbia refined the survey used in Bhutan and was the first to survey its population, using a random sample. That work brought refreshed awareness to Mayor Dean Fortin who believes we need to find different models of success: “Our children will not be the consumers that we are. Our world cannot afford that level of overconsumption.” Their idea sparked our project.

The Happiness Initiative

The Happiness Initiative began as Sustainable Seattle’s fifth set of regional sustainability indicators, but has now become an independent project. We launched the project by putting Victoria’s happiness survey online in January of 2011. People from every state in the United States took it, as did 500 people from other countries. The survey was a shortened version of Bhutan’s, but still took half an hour to complete (a problematic length in an age of short attention spans).
Gelay Jamtsho
At the insistence of King Jigmi Singye Wangchuck (at right), Bhutan in 2004 created gross national happiness as a counterweight to gross national product.
The First Happiness Report Card: In November of 2011, we issued our first happiness report card to the City Council of Seattle, which had unanimously proclaimed it would consider the results in future policymaking.
The first happiness report card compiled the results of 7,200 people who completed the survey, including 2,600 from the Seattle area. The happiness report card for the Seattle area found that the lowest score was in time balance. Scores were also low in community participation, and satisfaction with government. Scores were high in material well-being and psychological well-being, but the objective metrics tell a somewhat different story. For example, average income trends down and reports of domestic violence are up.
Perhaps the most surprising finding in the Seattle report was that youth, ages 19–24, were the least satisfied age group. They scored low in affect, satisfaction with life, time balance, the environment, and material well-being. This differs from previous results in well-being research. While it may be that our sample is not fully representative of youth, the Occupy movement and consistent messages of environmental decline and unemployment rates may play a role in the gloomier outlook among young people. For all ages, closer community ties bring greater happiness.
Immigrants were even less happy than youth. A Seattle Department of Neighborhoods grant allowed us to translate the survey into several languages used commonly by immigrants in the city. Local organizations serving the Vietnamese, Somali, Oromo, and Filipino communities used these surveys with immigrants. In all domains, their scores were well below (10 to 25 percent) city averages, particularly in “confidence in government.” Community meetings were held to address the issues; one held by the Vietnamese Friendship Association drew 200 local community members and many city and police officials. While being taught how to make Vietnamese “spring” rolls, the group looked for ways to increase trust and understanding.
New, shorter survey now available: We have also launched a new, shorter, fully validated, and more effective survey. The new survey includes 10 domains of well-being. It was developed by a team led by San Francisco State University’s Ryan Howell, who says that, “When you take into account both time efficiency and comprehensiveness, I firmly believe this is the best well-being survey out there anywhere. Individuals, organizations, academic institutions, and governments can all benefit from using this survey.”
A representative sampling of Americans has been taken to provide baseline data for the new survey. Each survey-taker receives a personal score, comparing the taker’s well-being in each of the 10 domains with a national average score. Aggregate results are provided to communities by zip code or to organizations using referral codes or unique URLs.
Here is the latest data from the survey: http://www.happycounts.org/overview/
Across the United States, city council members, city managers, members of regional governing boards, and many community activists are showing interest. In Eau Claire, Wisconsin, a city of 66,000, the city manager convened a team including local universities, the chamber of commerce, the public library, and other organizations to launch an initiative. Many colleges and universities are also beginning class- or campus-wide initiatives. Students at Colby-Sawyer College in New Hampshire are conducting the survey on campus and in the nearby town of New London as part of a transitional towns initiative.
Greg Drzazgowski
Started in January of 2011, The Happiness Initiative, based in Seattle, is using surveys to measure the well-being of people across the country.
Internationally, interest in the Happiness Initiative is also growing. At the Balaton meeting, Gyongyver Gyene, a professor and community activist from Budapest, Hungary, declared that, “A happiness initiative in our transitioning area could be very timely as we negotiate increasing tension, economic instability, and rapid changes to our built and social environments in Budapest.” Swapan Metha, who led an effort that brought 10,000 youth to march in the streets of New Dehli, India, to protest corruption, added that, “It is important that people have a way to communicate what really matters to them, and for policy makers and other decision makers to hear this. Our current systems are not working, so maybe something like this could make a difference.”
There are nine steps to conducting a happiness initiative:
  1. Form a happiness team. For a city or town, this includes people representing local government, universities, or other educational institutions, business representatives, health authorities, community-based organizations, and other institutions such as the public library. We have developed toolkits so that anyone can measure happiness. These can be found at www.happycounts.org. Each organization is encouraged to proclaim its public support for the project and a model proclamation is included in the toolkit.
  2. Conduct the survey, using a unique url provided by the Happiness Initiative (email happy@happycounts.org for the url). This will allow your community, college, or organization to receive your specific aggregate survey results. The survey can be conducted in two ways: a voluntary “opt-in” survey that is continually available online so that individuals can take the survey and access their own comprehensive well-being assessment as a path to deep self-reflection. If there is funding, a city should also try to conduct a random sampling to get the most scientifically valid results.
  3. Determine and gather data for objective metrics. Many areas already have their objective metrics, but the Happiness Initiative suggests indicators for organizations and areas that don’t already have them.
  4. Issue a happiness report card to the team members and for the public. The content of the report depends on the level of analysis. A basic report includes just the survey results and objective metrics for the domains of happiness. A detailed report analyzes correlations and demographic trends.
  5. Reconvene the team and bring in new partners. Who should be at the table? Who should know about the state of well-being in the area? Who is positioned to take positive action or make things happen? These are the partners to include on the team at this point.
  6. Convene town meetings to discuss the happiness report and explore where people are hurting and where they are thriving. Ask questions to find out what people want to do themselves, and want to see done by local policy makers, businesses, and not-for-profits.
  7. Conduct happiness projects where resources are available. These can be small individual actions or large community-scale initiatives. Team partners may make policy changes or use the report card to inform resource allocation decisions. These, too, can be collected for the next step.
  8. Issue a happy town report that compiles the community input from the town meetings and explains the happiness projects. The report should be issued to the team, but also be released to the media in order to inform the public.
  9. Reconvene the team to interpret and learn from the results, and decide when the next assessment should occur.
Supporting activities for a happiness initiative include creating a website for the project or web pages on a team member’s website. Attracting positive media attention will encourage more people to take the survey and lend greater support for policy makers who use the results. Thus far, the media have loved the project, with coverage ranging from Al Jazeera to Reuters and the Atlantic.
Pursuit of Happiness Day and Week: As part of the Happiness Initiative, and in partnership with many other organizations, we are co-sponsoring Pursuit of Happiness Day on April 13, 2013 (the birthday of Thomas Jefferson) followed by a week of “Sustainable Happiness” ideas leading up to Earth Day. In 2012, Vermont’s governor proclaimed Pursuit of Happiness Day and the event was celebrated on several colleges. More information can be found at:www.happycounts.org/celebrate.
Forty years ago, Limits to Growth warned us that we needed to slow down our rates of production and consumption, pollution, resource depletion, food production, and population growth. We did not. Twenty years ago, Sustainable Seattle created the first set of regional sustainability indicators so policy makers and businesses would truly value and preserve our natural, built, social, and personal environment. They didn’t. Now we must prepare ourselves for the future. The Happiness Initiative is just one of many solutions that can help us adapt. It uses a personal approach by asking questions; and by providing a platform for conversations to spark actions for our well-being.
It has now been 100 years since that January day in 1912 when thousands of mill workers, most of them immigrant women, left their jobs and marched in the snowy streets of Lawrence, Massachusetts, demanding “bread, and roses, too.” They knew they needed “bread”—a raise in wages from 16 to 18 cents per hour. But they also needed many non-material things including shorter working time—“to smell the roses.” As the great labor song put it: “Small art and love and beauty their drudging spirits knew… hearts starve as well as bodies…”
Since the triumph of the consumer society after World War II, our focus has been entirely on the bread, the money, the stuff, what we measure with GDP. But the nonmaterial side of life—love, art, beauty, time, caring, connection, nature, and so much more—all that counts for nothing as far as GDP is concerned unless we buy it, all the most important things in life that are not things at all but that truly make us happy—all the “roses” have been left to wilt. It’s time to value them again, time to count them again, time to water them again.
Join us, not only to measure happiness, but to find it as well!

Friday, February 15, 2013

RE-Post! Why Your Company Should Not Account for Sustainability

Hi All - Laura Musikanski, Executive Director of The Happiness Initiative, here. Below is an article from CSR wire I wrote. If you would like a copy of my book, please email me and I will give you a code for a price reduction. Thank you!!! Laura

Sustainability, taken full circle, means that a business will make more money.
Submitted by:
Feb 13, 2013 – 09:00 AM EST

By Laura Musikanski
The short answer is: because you do not want to make more money.
Doing business today is not the same as 50 years ago - there are just not as many cheap resources.  In recent years, the cost of everything from raw materials to transportation – even labor - takes a big bite out of gross revenues. And we can expect that bite to get bigger. Scarcity is the symptom, and our own actions on this planet are the cause.
Accounting for sustainability is measuring and managing all the impacts of a business, and all the costs. In other words, sustainability is a core issue for every business, whether they like it or not. And businesses that are not accounting for sustainability are like ostriches with their heads in the ground. 
Why Do We Rely on Business? 
Most of us rely upon businesses to help us meet our basic needs: food, shelter, jobs… We also need business to help us meet our “higher needs:” art supplies, sports gear, reading materials… 
If we define sustainability as meeting the “needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs,” businesses are in a pickle. The world’s populations are increasing; our planet’s natural resources are in decline, and the need for businesses to meet our

needs without further compromising future generations is gaining urgency everyday. It behooves us to lift up to the light those businesses with their heads in the ground.
Needs vs. Money: The Conflict of Sustainability
The sad truth about sustainability is that businesses don’t really care unless it makes money. Only a few businesses understand that their function as a business is not “making money” but helping people meet their needs. If they did, they would see the connection between the bottom line and sustainability, and, ironically, make more money.
KPMG, in its 2011 International Survey of Corporate Responsibility Reports, found that 95 percent of the world’s largest 250 (G250) companies are issuing sustainability reports, with 83 percent of U.S. companies in the G250 accounting for sustainability.  The larger the company, the more likely it is to issue a report.
This does not mean that these companies are all taking sustainability seriously. About half of the G250 companies accounting for sustainability have seen financial gain from their reporting. Cost savings and increased revenues are the chief drivers, with ethics, innovation, reputation and employee motivation following. 
Tata Steel: The Motivation Behind Sustainability
Tata Steel, headquartered in India, is one of the largest steel companies in the world.  It provides steel to markets in 26 countries and employs over 81,000 people. Revenue topped $26 billion in 2011.  The founder felt that wealth was a ‘means by which a company could make a positive contribution to the communities it served.' 
The company had long been measuring and managing areas of sustainability, including environmental, social and labor, before it started issuing sustainability reports. A few of the activities they include in their 2011 Corporate Citizenship Report, for example:  
  • Operations Efficiency and Performance Improvement teams
  • A brownfield expansion project to increase production
  • A zero water discharge expansion project
  • Fewer carbon emissions than allotted under the EU Emissions Trading Scheme
  • Production of improved products for the auto manufacturing industry to increase fuel-efficiency in cars.
  • Zero Harm initiatives
  • A sustainable livelihood program in India that includes literacy aid, medical help, safe water supply and agricultural productivity support
  • Creation of the Tata Steel Academy

Some of the indicators they are using include:
  • Fatalities
  • Number of employees and contractors
  • Carbon dioxide emissions and other emissions
  • Waste
  • By-products
Tata continues to see cost savings and increased revenue from its sustainability efforts, but the motivation for sustainability is not just money. I submit that is the reason the company gains so much financially, and the reason the company can honestly put that the innovation of a new product – a lighter steel for the car industry that will result in more energy efficient cars – in its sustainability report without appearing insincere. 
Tata provides a great example for companies that are seeking to make money from sustainability and those seeking to deeply integrate it for ethical or brand reasons.
The truth about profit as a motivator for sustainability is that it is not so sad.
Sustainability, taken full circle, means that a business will make more money. There is nothing wrong with this. And the fact is that in a world driven primarily by money, wealth and growth, it is necessary that a business increase its bottom line when accounting or sustainability.
This is the first step towards pulling businesses with their head in the ground and all of us into an economic and social system where businesses operate to meet our needs without compromising future generations ability to meet their own needs.

Laura Musikanski is the author of the new DōShort Accounting for Sustainability: A Business Guide to Measuring and Managing. Laura is also co-Founder of The Happiness Initiative, was Executive Director of Sustainable Seattle, Sustainability Director for a consulting firm and an entrepreneur and small business owner for 18 years.  Laura is a lawyer with an MBA and certificates in Environmental Management and Environmental Law and Regulations, and has taught MBA and professional training programs. She is a member of the Balaton Group.
Laura's book is part of Dō Sustainability's new DōShort series of concise, sustainable business ebooks for professionals. These practical ebooks support professionals in the vanguard of sustainable business -- who are often forging new paths in their organizations -- by giving them the confidence, information and tactics they need at every stage of their career.
CSRwire Discount: For 15% off the RRP of any DōShort title, use code CSR15. Currencies will be converted, and orders can be fulfilled immediately, anywhere in the world.
Subscriptions: You can also get access to the entire DōShorts collection via individual or corporate subscription. Read more about subscriptions here.
Queries? If you would like to contact Laura Musikanski or find out more about the DōShorts series, email gudrun@dosustainability.com or visit www.dosustainability.com.

Monday, February 4, 2013

What is Sustainability - and what does it have to do with Happiness?

Posted by Laura Musikanski, Executive Director of The Happiness Initiative.

My first book just got published.  Its called "How to Account for Sustainability: A guide to measuring and managing."  People ask me - isn't happiness a departure for sustainability?
For me - no! We can't have ecological sustainability without human's being able to meet their needs.

Two years ago I met the originator of The Natural Step and asked him "Why is the last principle - that humans must meet their basic needs - not first? (The first three principles focus on conserving and protecting nature - see below for more.). He responded that people were not ready for that when he created the concepts.  Ah,  but it has always been clear to me that we must take care of people first, and if people are happy - truly happy (not just hedonistic pleasure but deep down happy) then they will naturally take care of the planet and each other.
The other clear link between happiness and sustainability is how you define it. To me, both are comprehensive. With that, here are some definitions of sustainability I will use in my second book:

Corporate Social Responsibility:  
Term initially used in 1960s in the context of charitable contributions and 1970’s in the context of environmental initiatives beyond compliance.   

Corporate Responsibility
Possibly initially used by accountants in place of Corporate Social Responsibly to indicate inclusion of environmental and economic performance.

From Latin sustinere meaning to maintain, to support, to nourish.

Sustainable Development
The United Nation’s used the term when establishing the Brundtland Commission in 1983. Denotes interconnection of development activities across all systems: economic, social, environmental, political, technical, international, administrative, and production.

Used in terms of the environment to indicate taking responsibility for natural resources, often through conservation and restoration activities. Used also for a good or service through management of environmental impacts.  

Corporate Citizenship
Term used by the legal field in 1990s in lieu of corporate social responsibility largely to encompass charitable and political activities. Note that the US Supreme Court rejected corporations as citizens in Bank of Augusta v. Earle, 13 Peters 519 (1839), but decided that corporations are artificial personhoods with some, but not all, constitutional rights in Santa Clara Railroad Co., 118 US 394 (1886). 

Ethical Business
Refers to the goods, services, or the way the business is run, as inherently ethical.

Business Ethics
Refers to the manner in which a business makes a profit. Business ethics came into focus with the Enron and WorldCom scandals and the ensuing Sarbanes-Oxley Act of 2000. Issues of focus in relation to business ethics include compliance with accounting rules, anti-discrimination laws, trade laws (anti-competitive behavior, deceptive practices, price fixing), product safety laws, intellectual property laws, laws against bribery, standards against slave and child labor, et-cetera.

Three-Legged Stool
A metaphor for environmental, social and economic responsibility. Brought into use by the social responsibility investment (SRI) community in the 1990s.

Triple Bottom Line
Refers to environmental, social and economic performance, or the “three pillars” of responsible business.  John Elkington, author of Cannibals with Forks: The Triple Bottom Line of 21st Century Business (1997) is attributed with coining the term. Other terms for the triple bottom lines are (1) Economy, Equity, Environment, and (2) Environmental, Social and Economic Responsibility (3) Profit People, Planet.

Profit, People, Planet
Popular term for the triple bottom line. People refers to human capital and covers labor issues and community interactions. Planet refers to natural capital and covers environmental impact of processes, goods and services. Profit refers to all economic benefits. 

Environmental Management Systems (EMS)
A set of processes and practices for managing environmental impacts. EMS systems vary based on areas of focus i.e., water, waste, purchasing, design. Most are based on the “Plan, Do, Check, Act” model. Planning includes identifying impacts and goals, doing includes implementation, checking includes monitoring and adjusting, and acting includes reviewing and changing the EMS.  Popular EMS systems are the ISO 14001 series, Design for the Environment Program (DfE) and others supported by the Environmental Protection Agency.

ISO 14001 series
International Organization for Standardization (ISO) EMS.  ISO 14001 series comprises of over 10 standards, covering labeling, evaluation, communications, and greenhouse gasses. ISO 14001 series is based on the “plan, do, check, act” platform and allows for certification.

ISO 26000
International Organization for Standardization (ISO) emerging standard for social responsibility. Encompasses social, environmental and economic performance.

Green Business
Used to define a business that goes beyond compliance. Also used for a business that contributes toward sustainable development such as alternative energy, organics, fair labor goods, products made from recycled materials.

First used by Simon Zadek, founder of AccountAbility, an NGO established by in 1996 to promote accountability and sustainability, to indicate transparency to stakeholders.  

Cleaner Production
Originated in the Kyoto Protocol and was further developed by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) as a component of a Life Cycle Assessment.  A methodology to reduce waste and toxins to humans and the environment in production processes. 

The Natural Step
A non-profit founded in 1989 to accelerate sustainability. The Natural Step introduced “backcasting” whereby the desired outcomes guide short term decisions. The Natural Step Framework sets out four systems conditions for sustainability: (1) Substances from Earth’s crust cannot be systematically extracted at a faster rate than they are re-deposited.  (2) Substances produced by society cannot be systematically produced at a faster rate than they are broken down by nature. (3) Natural resources cannot be systematically deteriorated for production so that natural system’s ability to regenerate falls behind. (4) Human needs must be met world wide. 

Ecological footprint
A measurement of human consumption of natural resources and the resultant waste against nature’s regenerative ability.  Sometimes defined in terms of trees or acres of a grain that it would take to support a particular lifestyle over a specified amount of time.