Comprehensive Wealth

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The Comprehensive Wealth project is a project of the International Institute for Sustainable Development. Midsummer Analytics, Global Forest Watch Canada, and others have been integral to the development of the report. The project has been made possible through the generous support of the Ivey Foundation. The Comprehensive Wealth Report, released on December 1, 2016, will help shift public and government focus towards a more balanced perspective on progress.

Wealth is, simply put, the sum total of the assests we own as a society. It is important because it represents the resources we have at hand today to ensure that social and economic activities continue in the future. For this reason, measures of wealth provide an important lens through which to regard future prospects for well-being.

In the past, wealth was defined to include only produced and financial assets. What we do know about it is, then, focussed mainly on these economic assets. In recent years, however, our understanding has broadened considerably and it is now defined to include natural, human and social capital in addition to produced and financial capital. Collectively, these five asset categories have come to be known as comprehensive wealth. Each of the five is important in its own right because each is an input into the broad “societal production function” for well-being.

A key question is whether the size of the comprehensive wealth portfolio is growing over time. If it is, then national development is likely sustainable and well-being should be stable or increasing. If it isn’t, development is on an unsustainable path and well-being will certainly decline at some point. This is why measures of comprehensive wealth are increasingly understood to be crucial to assessing societal progress.

The principal objective of the comprehensive wealth project is to encourage Canadians and their governments to move “beyond GDP” as the fundamental measure of societal progress. By preparing and carefully communicating a report measuring comprehensive wealth in Canada, this project aims to help shift the focus of the public and governments toward a more balanced perspective on progress.


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