Beyond COvid: The Digest

How can the "wellbeing economy" approach inform policy?

August 9, 2020
  • Our focus is on "wellbeing economies" this week, following the most recent webinar in our Beyond Covid Discussion Series.  
  • Our In Brief and Reflections sections this week feature critiques of the Government's support for and contracting of private corporations, new research on the impact of lockdown on emissions and an explainer of how a carbon border tax would work.
  • To get in touch with feedback or suggestions for next week's Digest, contact us on

In Focus: Wellbeing Economies

  • This week's Beyond Covid webinar saw Benedikt Árnason (Economic Advisor to the Prime Minister of Iceland), Katherine Trebeck (Wellbeing Economy Alliance, WEAll) and Andrew Simms (Co-Director, New Weather Institute) discuss how the concept of a "wellbeing economy" can inform our recovery from Covid-19.
  • Benedikt Árnason explained how the Icelandic government developed the wellbeing priorities that will guide its next 5 year fiscal plan and have already shaped the country's response to Covid-19.
  • ~~These policy priorities were borne out of the Icelandic government's approved "wellbeing indicators" - developed over two years of public consultation.
  • Katherine Trebeck outlined the fundamentals of a "wellbeing economy" approach to policy (see also WEAll's explainer), highlighted the public support for prioritising wellbeing over GDP growth in the coronavirus recovery and showed how in the UK, the Scottish and Welsh governments are joining Iceland's as wellbeing economy trailblazers.
  • Andrew Simms argued that the radical restructuring of our economies in response to Covid-19 has opened up space for rethinking policy goals, highlighting renewed interest in ideas such as the Happy Planet Index.

Watch now: Benedikt Árnason. Katherine Trebeck and Andrew Simms discuss the need for wellbeing to be at the centre of economic policymaking.

In brief

  • The Bank of England is "effectively subsidising polluting industries" through its Corporate Bond Purchase Scheme, finds research published by the New Economics Foundation this week. (Bloomberg coverage)
  • ~~Around 57% of the bonds purchased (£11.4bn) are from the most carbon-intensive industries, though these represent less than a fifth of employment and gross value added.
  • Leading virologists have criticised the government for awarding testing contracts to private companies on "ideological grounds".
  • ~~The Government has also come under fire for awarding a PPE contract to a financial services company with "links to a Government advisor" - resulting in 50m unusable face masks.
  • Many companies receiving government funds through the Covid Corporate Financing Facility (CCFF) have continued to pay out dividends and lay off staff, a VICE News investigation has revealed.
  • ~~Think tank Positive Money has outlined how tighter conditions can be attached to CCFF support here.
  • IPPR have published a report arguing for the "creation of a digital commons" - based on an understanding of data as an exceptional type of public resource that requires the development of new models of ownership, outside of market or state institutions.
  • ~~See accompanying openDemocracy article by author James Meadway here.
  • Bosses' pandemic pay cuts are "superficial" and the culture of excessive bonuses has continued amid huge job cuts, argues the High Pay Centre in its annual assessment of FTSE 100 pay packages. (BBC coverage)
  • Tax Justice UK have advised the Scottish Government on how tax policy can contribute to a green, inclusive recovery from Covid-19 (briefing here).
  • Research published in the Nature Climate Change journal has argued that the impact of lockdown measures on meeting emissions targets is "undetectable" but highlights the need to seize the opportunity of a green recovery. (Carbon Brief coverage)


  • The OECD have published a briefing on "three ways a wellbeing lens can aid Covid-19 recovery".
  • ICYMI, an explainer from BCG of "How an EU Carbon Border Tax could jolt world trade" has been doing the rounds in climate circles this week.
  • UCL's Laurie Macfarlane argues that Johnson's proposed planning reforms are "a slap in the face to evidence-based policymaking".
  • A new paper on social care from the Journal of Social Policy argues that policymakers' failure to act on warnings in 2010 have led to a "lost decade", making the case for urgent reform. (Guardian coverage)

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