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Towards a sustainable well-being society

Welfare states are going through a historical transformation. The public debt crisis, economic restructuring and adaptation to climate change are huge challenges to be addressed. These challenges reflect a deeper and longer-term structural crisis of the 20th century societal paradigm.

What is needed now is the same kind of courage, visionary thinking and open-mindedness that we had when we first began to build the welfare state.

Sustainable development is the kind of development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs. Without a vision of what those needs are today and in the future, sustainable development is difficult to implement. This is why we need a new understanding of what is meant by the “good life” in our ever-changing world.

Towards a positive cycle of change

Our planet’s resources must be accepted as the framework for all human activity. The natural environment forms the basis and sets the critical boundaries for all actions of man. Within these limits, social and human capital and efficient economic systems and governance models need to be seen as important enablers of the ultimate aim – human well-being. 

Sustainable well-being refers to the pursuit of the “good life” within the earth’s carrying capacity. In its working paper, Towards a sustainable well-being society, Sitra proposes to found the sustainable well-being society on six principles. They have been chosen with developed Western societies in mind and they envision society a couple of decades ahead.

Building sustainable well-being means:

1. Addressing well-being in a holistic way

2. Adjusting to planetary boundaries

A sustainable well-being society is built on infrastructures and operating models that promote sustainable well-being. Its building blocks are:

3. Empowering individuals and communities

4. Moving to a regenerative and collaborative economy

5. Building competencies for a complex world

6. Developing inclusive and adaptive governance

These six principles reflect how ways of thinking and doing must be changed in developed Western countries. Implementing these will increase societies’ resilience, or in other words their ability to use sudden changes as sources of new learning and strength, and can be seen as an overarching goal that connects all the other principles.

Towards a sustainable well-being society is part of a longer term commitment from Sitra to promote such an approach. As a future-oriented organisation, Sitra aims to build a vision of and principles leading to sustainable well-being societies, and to pilot the approach in its practical transition work, together with other people and organisations in society.

Sitra’s first report on the principles of sustainable well-being was published in spring 2013 (Hämäläinen 2013) and signalled the start of our efforts to initiate meaningful dialogue with other advanced Western societies on building a more sustainable future.



Comments (1)

Congratulation for this article. It represent the real future suomi power that I knew during my stay in University of Helsinki.

Currently I'm working in a chilean ministry to promote R&D&innovation, and finland is a great model.

My best regards

Hector Paz 1 year 1 month ago
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