The highest HPI score is that of Costa Rica (76.1 out of 100). As well as reporting the highest life satisfaction in the world, Costa Ricans also have the second-highest average life expectancy of the New World (second only to Canada). All this with a footprint of 2.3 global hectares. Whilst this success is indeed impressive, Costa Rica narrowly fails to achieve the goal of ‘one-planet living’: consuming its fair share of natural resources (indicated by a footprint of 2.1 global hectares or less).
10 steps towards sustainable well-being:
- Eradicate extreme poverty and hunger. Recognize that increasing material wealth in (so-called) developed countries does not lead to greater happiness, and that extreme poverty systematically undermines people’s opportunities to build good lives for themselves and their families.
- Improve healthcare. Increase access to clean water, halt the rise in diseases such as HIV/AIDS and malaria, and reduce child and maternal mortality. The World Health Organization estimates that everyone in the world could be provided with a good level of basic healthcare for just $43 per person, per year.
- Relieve debt. Many developing countries are forced to prioritize the service of crippling financial debt over providing a basic standard of living.
- Shift values. Value systems that emphasize individualism and material consumption are detrimental to well-being, whereas those that promote social interaction and a sense of relatedness are profoundly positive. Government should provide more support for local community initiatives, sports teams, arts projects and so on, whilst acting to discourage the development of materialist values where possible (for example, by banning advertising directed at children).
- Support meaningful lives. Governments should recognize the contribution of individuals to economic, social, cultural, and civic life and value unpaid activity. Employers should be encouraged to enable their employees to work flexibly, allowing them to develop full lives outside of the workplace and make time to undertake voluntary work. They should also strive to provide challenges and opportunities for personal development at work.
- Empower people and promote good governance. A sense of autonomy is important at all levels for people to thrive, and there is growing evidence that engaging citizens in democratic processes leads to both a more vibrant society and happier citizens.
- Identify environmental limits and design economic policy to work within them. Globally we need to live within our environmental means. One-planet living should become an official target of government policy with a pathway and timetable to achieve it.
- Design systems for sustainable consumption and production. Ecological taxation can be used to make the price of goods include their full environmental cost, and to encourage behavior change. Clear consistent labeling that warns of the consequences of consumption would also help, as well as giving manufacturers full life-cycle responsibility for what they produce.
- Work harder to tackle climate change. Emissions need to be cut by 80 per cent by 2050.
- Measure what matters. We cannot achieve our targets without measuring progress towards them. We need to be clear what they are: high well-being for everyone, without overshooting our ecological limits.