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Photo: Golli.

Iceland to Measure Social and Environmental Prosperity

Iceland will broaden its methods of measuring the nation’s prosperity to include social and environmental factors as well as economic ones. The Icelandic government has approved a motion from the Prime Minister to implement the use of 39 well-being indicators to measure prosperity and quality of life in the country. The 39 indicators will be used to shape government policymaking.

Shifting focus from GDP

“Gross Domestic Product and economic growth are certainly important metrics and will continue to be so, but these factors do not tell the whole story about people’s quality of life and the successes of communities,” reads a statement from Prime Minister Katrín Jakobsdóttir. “It is important to have metrics that take the environment, society, and economy into account.”

Iceland is not the first country to take this approach: many countries have begun to measure national well-being in recent years. Some, like New Zealand, have been using these measurements to design their budgets and shape policy, shifting focus from economic growth to the well-being of their citizens.

Climate, education factored into well-being

Iceland’s 39 well-being indicators are separated into three categories – social, economic, and environmental – and relate to the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals. The social indicators of well-being fall into categories including health, education and work-life balance, while the environmental indicators address issues including air quality, climate, waste, and recycling. Statistics Iceland will oversee the execution and development of the new initiative.

In an interview with Iceland Review, Environment Minister Guðmundur Ingi Guðbrandsson suggested the indicators could help Iceland shift its priorities toward a more sustainable and climate-friendly economy. “With the new five-year budget, I hope that we start seeing the first goals towards other indicators rather than just gross national product. That is a development that is happening in other parts of the world too, and I think it would be very exciting to see how we succeed in implementing that in our small economy.”

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