Measuring people's well-being

By Marina Grossi

What cannot be measured cannot be managed. This maxim of the business environment begins to be extended to areas that are much less Cartesian. The challenge that presents itself is to build indicators to measure well-being, aiming at increasing people's happiness. Last year, on the eve of Rio+20, Banco Itaú launched its Social Well-Being Index, which brings together a series of economic and social indicators, including inflation, unemployment, life expectancy and inequality. The index still needs to consider important variables to assess the well-being of Brazilians, but the concern points to a new path, unthinkable a few years ago.

Still isolated, the initiative illustrates, in an emblematic way, a worldwide movement of companies, governments and civil society that acts to replace the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) with an indicator that better represents the increase or decrease in well-being. being of a population. The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), which will be adopted from 2015, signal this concern.

Indeed, the timing is quite opportune. In an environment of global economic crisis, it is possible to rethink the messianic role that GDP growth plays in the planning and future of our society. The questioning leads us to the understanding, still not properly disseminated, that it is necessary to rethink new parameters that reflect the real sources of happiness of a people. In companies, it is necessary to have performance indicators capable of expanding their strategies to a path of promoting effective well-being, both in the society in which they operate, and in the policy with their employees and suppliers.

At the beginning of this century, the American psychologist David Myers made this reflection and concluded that, contrary to common sense, once the basic satisfactions of human beings are met, economic growth does not cause an increase in the happiness of the population. According to Myers' understanding, despite American society having doubled its wealth in 40 years, the number of people who considered themselves happy had a slight decline - the rates of divorce, teen suicide, depression and violent crimes increased enormously over the same period.

In Brazil, the economic cost still dominates the scope of social programs, without a holistic approach. Recently, the federal government announced the expansion of the Brasil sem Miséria program, with the goal of lifting more than 2.5 million people out of extreme poverty. In this program, the government adopts only the monetary indicator (income of up to R$ 70.00 per month) to define extremely poor people, without considering fundamental elements, such as access to decent health, housing, education and security.

This new vision is present in several environments, including the business environment. Gone are the days when a company sold only a product or a service and nothing else. Today, it sells an image, a concept, the benefits linked to the brand. A company with a systemic vision knows that its relationship with the consumer, with the environment and with society cannot be inconsequential. The idea is to create an auspicious, positive environment for business and for everyone who enjoys and is impacted by them.

Large companies are already moving on a global scale. Natura and Itaipu are the focal points of an international group that discusses and tries to implement local experiences inspired by the Gross National Happiness of Bhutan, a small Asian country. This business avant-garde has already proved to be relevant in other contexts and will certainly contribute to the design of measures that could become the new indicators of global social well-being. It is expected that the SDGs demonstrate this concern when seeking indicators to measure new production and consumption patterns from 2015 onwards. Among the groups that think about the SDGs, it is worth highlighting the leadership of Paul Polman; CEO, Unilever; and Peter Bakker, president of the WBCSD (World Business Council for Sustainable Development), a global network to which the CEBDS is a member.

Still in its infancy, this could be one of the greatest legacies of Rio+20. We must go beyond the narrow measurement of GDP. Capitalism in the 21st century will necessarily have to overcome the pursuit of economic growth only, pointing its compass to include the well-being and happiness of the population in that measurement.




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