Research Report

The Alberta GPI Blueprint: The Genuine Progress Indicator (GPI) Sustainable Well-Being Accounting System

Mark Anielski
Copyright Date: Sep. 1, 2001
Published by: Pembina Institute
Pages: 126
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Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Preface
    (pp. vii-vii)
    Mark Anielski
  4. 1.0 Introduction
    (pp. 1-3)

    For more than 50 years economists have measured the economic well-being of nations using a System of National Accounts (SNA) and a broad measure called the Gross Domestic Product (GDP). However, the SNA and GDP measure well-being through a very myopic lens: the more money that changes hands for goods and services produced and sold in the market, the more it is assumed our economic well-being improves. This narrow measurement system is fundamentally flawed. First, it does not accord with the letter and meaning of the words “economic” and “wealth” and, second, it fails to measure the real conditions that...

  5. 2.0 What is GPI Accounting?
    (pp. 3-3)

    The Genuine Progress Indicators System of Sustainable Well-being Accounting is a new blueprint for measuring and managing the total wealth of communities and nations. It was applied for the first time to the province of Alberta, Canada in the report Sustainability Trends 2000.

    GPI accounting yields a comprehensive assessment of the total well-being of a society, its economy, and the natural environment. It considers the physical conditions of well-being that contribute to a high quality of life and a sustainable lifestyle. Raw time-series data from government, statistical agencies and other reputable sources are used to construct the accounts. These include...

  6. 3.0 Alternative Frameworks for Measuring Well-being
    (pp. 4-8)

    Various alternative systems have been developed for measuring well-being, many of which were reviewed thoroughly in developing the approach for Alberta. This chapter briefly describes the main frameworks that have been documented and applied over the last 60 years; more details are available in Appendix B.

    The SNA and the GDP originated in the early days of World War II. In 1939, as a basis for helping Britain finance the war, John Maynard Keynes and Richard Stone began developing a national accounting system to measure activity in the British economy. About the same time, U.S. statistician and economist Simon Küznets...

  7. 4.0 The Alberta GPI Accounts Blueprint
    (pp. 9-61)

    The Alberta GPI accounts contain 51 ledgers, or sub-accounts, for economic, social and environmental well-being, drawing from existing data sources over four decades (1961-1999). These accounts allow citizens and decision makers to examine the long-term trends, compare trends and see a “landscape” portrait of how society has changed in terms of the condition of the environment, people, households, communities, business, and government. The information can be used to generate “State of Well-being” annual reports to citizens, as shareholders in the total wealth, or conditions of well-being.

    The total capital accounting framework in the GPI accounts is centered on the three...

  8. 5.0 Strengths and Weaknesses of the GPI
    (pp. 62-64)

    Many people will welcome GPI well-being accounting as a refreshing alternative to years of measuring economic progress according to money measures such as the GDP. Others will find these alternative approaches a threat. We consider GPI accounting an opportunity to begin a new legacy for accounting for sustainability in the 21st Century.

    Envisioning and developing a new accounting system to measure the sustainable well-being of nations is a bold and humbling undertaking. We expect and welcome critical debate in the spirit of moving beyond the current system of income accounts and GDP measures of economic progress. Our work goes well...

  9. 6.0 GPI Accounting: For Whom and for What?
    (pp. 65-68)

    Who would use the GPI System of Well-Being Accounts and for what purpose? Like any performance information or accounting system, the GPI Accounts are intended to provide decision makers and stakeholders (in this case citizens) with an account of the “state of the nation” or province. To answer the question “how would GPI Accounts be used to inform public policy?” we need only answer the question “How do we now use economic information (such as GDP, inflation rates, interest rates) and social indicators to orient public policy?”

    The answer is that we use information to make better decisions. What gets...

  10. References
    (pp. 69-86)
  11. Appendix A. List of Alberta GPI Background Reports
    (pp. 87-88)
  12. Appendix B. Measurement Models and Tools
    (pp. 89-98)
  13. Appendix C. Alberta GPI Accounts, Raw and Indexed Data Sets
    (pp. 99-117)
  14. Endnotes
    (pp. 118-119)