Two years ago, when I wrote my book A Coffee Dream, I dedicated an entire chapter to ‘The flavor of Happiness’. In particular, in this chapter I discuss about the measure of happiness, quoting a famous speech by Robert F. Kennedy, given at the University of Kansas in 1968, which focused – already half a century ago! – on how inadequate was GDP as an instrument for measuring the wellbeing of citizens. “Our Gross National Product – Kennedy was saying – counts air pollution and cigarette advertising, and ambulances to clear our highways of carnage. It counts special locks for our door and the jails for the people who break them. It counts napalm and counts nuclear warheads and armored cars for our police to fight the riots in our cities. Yet the Gross National Product does not allow for the health of our children, the quality of their education or the joy of their play. It does not include the beauty our poetry or the strength of our marriages, the intelligence of our public debate or the integrity of our public officials. It measures neither our wit nor our courage, neither our wisdom nor our learning, neither our compassion nor our devotion to our country, it measures everything in short, except what makes life worthwhile.”
Since then, the debate has never subsided over the best indicators to measure a country’s wellbeing. Jigme Singye Wangchuck, King of Buthan, remains famous for being, in 1970, the first head of state to measure the Gross National Happiness, monitoring 9 key indicators, ranging from environmental sustainability to community vitality: he was fully convinced, as I am, that the real goal of any economy is to produce happiness.
I am very proud to announce that Fondazione Ernesto Illy has recently signed a 3-years partnership with the Sustainable Development Solutions Network (SDSN), headed by Professor Jeffrey Sachs, as the sole sponsor of the World Happiness Report, a landmark survey of the state of global happiness. The first report was published in 2012 – and in 2016 ranked 156 countries by their happiness levels. Leading experts across fields – economics, psychology, survey analysis, national statistics, health, public policy and more – describe how measurements of well-being can be used effectively to assess the progress of nations. The report review the state of happiness in the world today and show how the new science of happiness explains personal and national variations in happiness. They reflect a new worldwide demand for more attention to happiness as a criteria for government policy.
The Sustainable Development Solutions Network (SDSN) was commissioned by UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon in 2012 to mobilize scientific and technical expertise from academia, civil society, and the private sector to support practical problem solving for sustainable development at local, national, and global scales. In 2017, the World Happiness Report will be published – under the auspices of the UN Secretary General António Guterres – and presented on March 20, World Happiness Day, at the United Nations in New York.
I have always been a supporter of Professor Sachs and the Sustainable Development Solutions Network, but the importance of the Happiness Report and its use to implement government policy is today more paramount than ever. As an entrepreneur, I consider companies as the bricks of modern society (also keeping in account that they produce the largest part of the GNP): it is inside the companies that we can start building happiness, nurturing personal growth, sharing knowledge and creating value at all levels. The modern company, pursuing the triple bottom line (social, economic and environmental sustainability), has the mission and duty to foster individual and collective happiness.
I will be happy to share more thoughts following the presentation of the 2017 Happiness Report on March 20.