EAC Meeting: Aligning Economic Goals With Environmental Sustainability

The Environmental Audit Committee’s meeting on 9 February 2022 focused on how the UK’s economic goals can be aligned with environmental sustainability. Panellists included Nick Spencer of the Institute and Faculty of Actuaries, Signe Norberg of the Aldersgate Group and Jeremy Peat OBE of the Royal Society of Edinburgh. 

Traditionally, accounting methods have relied on quantitative measures, recording things which can be measured numerically, such as how much money timber from a rainforest could be sold for. However, not everything which is valuable can be measured in this way – a rainforest is also valuable because it produces oxygen. These issues which are harder to measure numerically, qualitative issues, are becoming increasingly recognised as important in how Government should decide on policy.

I asked the panellists what benefits or challenges they see in incorporating more qualitative measures of social capital or wellbeing into our system of national accounts. Some companies have started using Environmental Social and Governance (ESG) factors to this effect, and I asked the panellists what we as policymakers can learn from this approach for Government accounting and decision-making processes. I concluded by asking what impact the Office for National Statistics’ measurement of national well-being and development of natural capital accounts so far has had on macro-economic policy.