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GDP? Get rid of it!

Gross domestic product (GDP) is the most powerful indicator in the world. And that while a large part of the scientific community sees it as an outdated figure. Why are we only looking at economic growth? And why do welfare, sustainability and inequality not count? Environmental economist Rutger Hoekstra describes in his new book ‘Replacing GDP by 2030’ how we can get rid of GDP once and for all. His book is central to the symposium ‘Towards the Wellbeing Economy’ on 12 December.

The GDP alternatives are a mess

In Replacing GDP by 2030, Hoekstra first analyses the success of GDP and the inability to introduce a better measuring system. GDP is currently published in a harmonised way in more than 200 countries and is then passed on to society via the press. This ‘GDP multinational’ is a tightly organised global logistics operation, while the world of GDP alternatives is a mess. There are hundreds of welfare and sustainability measurement systems proposed by scientists, non-profits, international institutes, companies and individuals. This heterogeneous ‘Beyond-GDP cottage industry’ sends a very confusing message to society, Hoekstra says in his book.  

We need a new multinational

The solution proposed by Hoekstra is both simple and ambitious: Beyond-GDP also needs a ‘multinational’. According to the author, the United Nations should build this scientific community, just as it helped lay the foundations of macro-economic science after the Second World War. One of the most essential steps is to create a ‘common language’. Macro-economists have tight definitions of economic terms such as consumption, investment and income. On the other hand, there are no global definitions for well-being, sustainable development or broad prosperity. Hoekstra makes proposals about what such a language could look like and how big data and the Sustainable Development Goals should play a role. Above all, he shows how valuable it is to approach the question ‘What is progress? from multiple scientific perspectives.


The symposium will take place on 12 December in the Small Auditorium of the Academy Building in Leiden. The experts who speak are:

  • Prof. dr. Arnold Tukker, Scientific Director of the Institute of Environmental Sciences (CML) & Professor of Industrial Ecology
  • Rutger Hoekstra, Author of Replacing GDP by 2030 & Founder of MetricsForTheFuture.com 
  • Robert Costanza (via Skype), Professor and Vice Chancellor’s Chair in Public Policy, Crawford School of Public Policy, Australian National University, Canberra, Australia 
  • Jan-Pieter Smits, Project Manager Monitor Brede Welvaart, Statistics Netherlands & Professor of Quantification of Sustainability, Eindhoven University of Technology
  • Dirk Schoenmaker, Author of Principles of Sustainable Finance & Professor of Banking and Finance, Rotterdam School of Management, Erasmus University Rotterdam 
  • Hans Stegeman, Head of Investment analysis and economics at Triodos Bank

For more information about the symposium, see the agenda item. Please note: registration is required. 

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