VEC: Traditional measures fail to capture nuances of complex modern economies
September 22, 2022 – (Vancouver, B.C.) – The Vancouver Economic Commission (VEC) is pleased to present “A Beyond GDP Framework for Vancouver,” a groundbreaking new perspective that proposes a more comprehensive view of economic success.
Over the past few years, it has become apparent that economic development measured solely in Gross Domestic Product (GDP) is limiting. Alone, GDP does not accurately reflect progress or prosperity – and, when relied on as the singular goal of economic development, it can undermine the building of economies that thrive within planetary boundaries and support healthy, prosperous communities.
“Cities across the world are re-evaluating what prosperity means for their citizens, and they are quickly learning that it means going beyond GDP,” says VEC CEO Eleena Marley. “With the launch of this report, we hope that we can be a catalyst to Vancouver organizations adopting GDP-alternative metrics and ultimately act as inspiration for other cities to reconsider traditional economic metrics and propose alternatives that better reflect their priorities.”
To counter GDP’s shortcomings, VEC developed “A Beyond GDP Framework for Vancouver” to capture a more complete view of Vancouver’s economic health. The framework presents 36 indicators (existing and aspirational metrics), grounded in five local values (which explain how indicators address our goals as a society) and five lenses (perspectives from which to view and enrich insights). Examples of Beyond GDP metrics include air quality, job satisfaction, and food security.
“The measure of prosperity in our society must include how well people are doing: their health, their employment, and whether they can afford housing in their city,” comments David Miller, Managing Director of the C40 Centre for City Climate Policy and Economy. “For far too long we have relied entirely on the idea of measuring economic growth, which tells us nothing about these meaningful measurements of prosperity. The Vancouver Economic Commission, in partnership with C40 Cities, is doing world-leading work to measure what really matters, which will help us collectively choose policies that help people the most.”
The project outcomes reinforce the significance of grounding any beyond-GDP frameworks in local values, economic goals and priorities. VEC’s project team therefore placed significant attention on detailing the method behind the framework in a bid to create an open-source blueprint for other cities and jurisdictions to create their own beyond GDP frameworks.
“The transition to a new economic system that prioritizes wellbeing must happen at all levels – and cities are incredibly important to the global wellbeing economy movement,” says Amanda Janoo, Economic and Policy lead with the Wellbeing Economy Alliance (WEAll). “Cities like Vancouver have the power to transform the lives of their own citizens, influence change at national and regional levels, and model what is possible when we take an alternative approach to economic success.”
The framework concludes with recommendations for work that will inform future phases of VEC’s Beyond GDP research, including feedback related to alternative metrics, such as Indigenous values; integrating relevant goals into the framework and tracking progress towards achieving them; and advocating for the proposed metrics with Statistics Canada.
“A Beyond GDP Framework for Vancouver” is an initiative of the Economic Transformation Lab, an industry-academia research program developed by the Vancouver Economic Commission (VEC) to prepare Vancouver’s economy for global trends anticipated to impact the region over the next 10-15 years. This project was supported by McGill University, with funding support from MITACS’ Accelerate and Elevate programs.
Read VEC’s “A Beyond GDP Framework for Vancouver” and learn about the method and process behind its development today.
About the Vancouver Economic Commission (VEC)
The Vancouver Economic Commission (VEC) serves one of the world’s fastest-growing, low-carbon economies. VEC strengthens Vancouver’s economic future by providing programs, supporting local companies, attracting targeted high-impact investment, and conducting and publishing thoughtful leading-edge industry research. As the economic development agency for the City of Vancouver, VEC contributes to building a prosperous, inclusive, zero-carbon and resilient Vancouver economy, competitively positioned in the global market.
VEC respectfully acknowledges that it is located on the unceded ancestral territories of the xʷməθkʷəy̓əm (Musqueam), Sḵwx̱wú7mesh (Squamish), and səl̓ilwətaɁɬ / sel̓íl̓witulh (Tsleil-Waututh) Nations.
Ingrid Valou, Manager, Communications and Media Relations
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