Happy Planet Index: 2012 Report

Key findings
  • There is a growing global consensus that we need a new headline measure of progress
  • The Happy Planet Index is a measure that focuses on what really matters: sustainable wellbeing for all

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Photo credit:   pagedooley

June 14, 2012 // Written by:

Saamah Abdallah, Senior Researcher and Programme Manager, Wellbeing
Juliet Michaelson, Associate Director, Wellbeing
Laura Stoll, Researcher, Well-being
Nic Marks, NEF Fellow
Sagar Shah, Researcher, Wellbeing

There is a growing global consensus that we need new measures of progress. It is critical that these measures clearly reflect what we value – something the current approach fails to do.

The Happy Planet Index (HPI) measures what matters. It tells us how well nations are doing in terms of supporting their inhabitants to live good lives now, while ensuring that others can do the same in the future, i.e. sustainable wellbeing for all.

The third global HPI report reveals that this is largely still an unhappy planet – with both high- and low-income countries facing many challenges on their way to meeting this same overall goal. But it also demonstrates that good lives do not have to cost the Earth – that the countries where wellbeing is highest are not always the ones that have the biggest environmental impact.

The HPI is one of the first global measures of sustainable wellbeing. It uses global data on experienced wellbeing, life expectancy, and Ecological Footprint to generate an index revealing which countries are most efficient at producing long, happy lives for their inhabitants, whilst maintaining the conditions for future generations to do the same.

This simple headline indicator gives a clear sense of whether a society is heading in the right direction. It provides a vital tool for policymakers to ensure fundamental issues are accounted for in crucial policy decisions.

At heart, the HPI is a measure of efficiency. It calculates the number of Happy Life Years achieved per unit of resource use.

This year’s results:

The HPI is a headline indicator that provides an overall picture, but countries which do well on the HPI can still suffer many problems. Other indicators will also be necessary to fully assess how societies are doing. NEF has developed a measurement framework of which HPI is one component; it sits alongside other measures such as economic performance and environmental pressure.

In a world of dwindling resources, efficiency has to sit at the heart of our approach. For this reason we believe the HPI should be used as a headline indicator of progress.  That there is a need for a new indicator like it cannot be questioned.

Explore the data at www.happyplanetindex.org.



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