ArticlePDF Available

Gross National Happiness: lessons for sustainability leadership



Purpose – The purpose of this paper is to look behind the veil of the concept of Gross National Happiness (GNH), which has been initiated by the fourth King of Bhutan as an alternative to the traditional development concept of gross national product, by analyzing it as an expression of a particular view of leadership originated in the philosophical tradition of Mahayana Buddhism and exploring its relevance for leadership of sustainable development and sustainable (business) organizations. Design/methodology/approach – Review of literature on GNH in a historical and current context, linking it to trends and concepts in sustainability and leadership. Complemented by author’s observations on regular visits to Bhutan since 2003. Findings – The GNH leadership view consists of a set of principles: first, interrelatedness of economy, society and eco-systems; second, the economy, society and eco-systems can flourish if their needs are served; third, governance is the agent for serving these needs by the creation of societal happiness; and fourth, societal happiness should include the enhancement of subjective happiness and well-being of people. By tracing these principles to the philosophy of Mahayana Buddhism, especially the Bodhisattva ideal, and comparing them to the principles driving sustainability, the paper argues that GNH leadership signifies an innovation in leadership for sustainability. Practical implications – This paper examines how GNH leadership can be applied to organizational and business sustainability, and how it contributes to the emerging theory and practice of sustainability leadership. Social implications – The social relevance of the paper lies in the examination of how GNH leadership can be applied to organizational and business sustainability, and how it contributes to the emerging theory and practice of sustainability leadership. Originality/value – The paper concludes that GNH leadership – as it corresponds to the principles driving sustainability – represents a new model for sustainability leadership.
South Asian Journal of Global Business Research
Gross National Happiness: lessons for sustainability leadership
Sander G. Tideman
Article information:
To cite this document:
Sander G. Tideman , (2016),"Gross National Happiness: lessons for sustainability leadership", South
Asian Journal of Global Business Research, Vol. 5 Iss 2 pp. 190 - 213
Permanent link to this document:
Downloaded on: 15 June 2016, At: 11:51 (PT)
References: this document contains references to 98 other documents.
To copy this document:
The fulltext of this document has been downloaded 35 times since 2016*
Users who downloaded this article also downloaded:
(2016),"CSR in Afghanistan: a global CSR agenda in areas of limited statehood", South Asian
Journal of Global Business Research, Vol. 5 Iss 2 pp. 165-189
(2016),"Corporate social entrepreneurship in India", South Asian Journal of Global Business
Research, Vol. 5 Iss 2 pp. 214-233
(2016),"Effect of workplace incivility on job satisfaction and turnover intentions in India", South
Asian Journal of Global Business Research, Vol. 5 Iss 2 pp. 234-249
Access to this document was granted through an Emerald subscription provided by essajgbr
For Authors
If you would like to write for this, or any other Emerald publication, then please use our Emerald
for Authors service information about how to choose which publication to write for and submission
guidelines are available for all. Please visit for more information.
About Emerald
Emerald is a global publisher linking research and practice to the benefit of society. The company
manages a portfolio of more than 290 journals and over 2,350 books and book series volumes, as
well as providing an extensive range of online products and additional customer resources and
Emerald is both COUNTER 4 and TRANSFER compliant. The organization is a partner of the
Committee on Publication Ethics (COPE) and also works with Portico and the LOCKSS initiative for
digital archive preservation.
*Related content and download information correct at time of download.
Downloaded by Mr Brian Keilson At 11:51 15 June 2016 (PT)
Gross National Happiness:
lessons for sustainability
Sander G. Tideman
Rotterdam School of Management, Erasmus University,
Rotterdam, The Netherlands
Purpose The purpose of this paper is to look behind the veil of the concept of Gross National
Happiness (GNH), which has been initiated by the fourth King of Bhutan as an alternative to the
traditional development concept of gross national product, by analyzing it as an expression of a particular
view of leadership originated in the philosophical tradition of Mahayana Buddhism and exploring its
relevance for leadership of sustainable development and sustainable (business) organizations.
Design/methodology/approach Review of literature on GNH in a historical and current context,
linking it to trends and concepts in sustainability and leadership. Complemented by authors
observations on regular visits to Bhutan since 2003.
Findings The GNH leadership view consists of a set of principles: first, interrelatedness of economy,
society and eco-systems; second, the economy, society and eco-systems can flourish if their needs are
served; third, governance is the agent for serving these needs by the creation of societal happiness; and
fourth, societal happiness should include the enhancement of subjective happiness and well-being of
people. By tracing these principles to the philosophy of Mahayana Buddhism, especially the
Bodhisattva ideal, and comparing them to the principles driving sustainability, the paper argues that
GNH leadership signifies an innovation in leadership for sustainability.
Practical implications This paper examines how GNH leadership can be applied to organizational
and business sustainability, and how it contributes to the emerging theory and practice of
sustainability leadership.
Social implications The social relevance of the paper lies in the examination of how GNH
leadership can be applied to organizational and business sustainability, and how it contributes to the
emerging theory and practice of sustainability leadership.
Originality/value The paper concludes that GNH leadership as it corresponds to the principles
driving sustainability represents a new model for sustainability leadership.
Keywords Transformational leadership, Sustainable development, Leadership practice,
Gross National Happiness, Sustainable business, Sustainable value creation
Paper type Research paper
The concept of Gross National Happiness (GNH) was first expressed in 1972 by the
fourth King of Bhutan, Jigme Singye Wangchuk, in response to western economists
visiting his country who said that they regarded Bhutan to be a poorcountry when
measured in terms of its gross domestic product (GDP) (Ura and Galay, 2004). While
acknowledging that Bhutan may score low on the scale of conventional indicators for
anations economic performance, he claimed that his secluded nation in the
Himalayas would score high on an indicator measuring happiness. Indeed, according
to a global study on subjective well-being conducted in 2007, Bhutan ranked eighth
out of 178 countries (White, 2007). In fact, according to this study Bhutan is the only
country in the top 20 happiestcountries that has a very low GDP. In 2004 Bhutan
started working on operationalizing the GNH concept (Ura and Galay, 2004) and by
South Asian Journal of Global
Business Research
Vol. 5 No. 2, 2016
pp. 190-213
DOI 10.1108/SAJGBR-12-2014-0096
Received 31 December 2014
Revised 3 August 2015
24 August 2015
13 March 2016
Accepted 14 March 2016
The current issue and full text archive of this journal is available on Emerald Insight at:
Downloaded by Mr Brian Keilson At 11:51 15 June 2016 (PT)
2008 Bhutan had developed its own GNH index based on a country-wide survey
(Ura et al.,2012).
Meanwhile, the idea of GNH has gained immense popularity internationally as an
alternative development philosophy. In 2010, Ben Bernanke, Chairman of de Federal
Reserve, said in a public speech that the next level in economics is to create new
measurements models that capture happiness as the purpose of economics, and that we
should learn from Bhutans Gross National Happiness index (Bernanke, 2010). In 2012,
at the initiative of Bhutan, the General Assembly of the UN even made the conscious
pursuit of happiness a fundamental human goal in the resolution Happiness: towards
a holistic approach to development(United Nations, 2012). UN Secretary General Ban
Ki-moon stated, GNP has long been the yardstick by which economies and politicians
have been measured. Yet it fails to take into account the social and environmental costs
of so-called progress. We need a new economic paradigm that recognizes the parity
between the three pillars of sustainable development. Social, economic and
environmental well-being are indivisible(Ban Ki-moon, 2012).
This conceptual paper will look behind the veil of the GNH concepts growing
popularity. It will review the background, development and status of the GNH notion.
It also explores how it can be regarded an expression of a type of leadership –“GNH
leadership”–that holds relevance for leadership in a world facing a sustainability
crisis. Moreover, the paper investigates the explicit and implicit features of GNH
leadership and relates it to the context of sustainable development, thus contributing to
the emergent field of sustainability leadership (Schein, 2015; Tideman et al., 2013).
In the context of this paper, sustainability leadership is defined as the leadership that
occurs when organizations progress in levels of complexity by serving the needs of its
various stakeholders and in doing so create sustainable value, that is integrated
economic, societal and environmental value, or triple value.
The remainder of the study is structured as follows: In the next section, the GNH
approach in Bhutan is described, looking at the current status, the limitation and
innovative aspects of GNH. Then, the paper explores the philosophical roots of GNH
leadership, which is based in the ancient tradition Buddhism that still prevails in
Bhutan. Subsequently, the paper deals with the lessons that GNH leadership hold for
sustainability in (business) organizations and sustainability leadership theory and
practice. The focus is on business sustainability as it is here that the application of
leadership is considered most feasible and immediate. Finally, the conclusion contains
the main findings of the paper.
The GNH approach in Bhutan
Development of GNH
In contrast to the ambitious international policy statements inspired by the GNH
concept, the concept was introduced rather modestly and gradually in Bhutan through
a series of domestic and international conferences and meetings, with the contribution
of international scholars and researchers, starting with a first publication in 1999
(Galay, 1999) and a first conference held in Bhutan in 2004 (Bakshi, 2005; Ura and
Galay, 2004), for which this author served as international coordinator. In the first
publication, GNH was understood as containing four different aspects: first, good
governance; second, sustainable socio-economic development; third, preservation and
promotion of culture; and fourth, environmental conservation (Galay, 1999). By 2008,
these four pillars were further refined into nine domains, which articulated the different
Downloaded by Mr Brian Keilson At 11:51 15 June 2016 (PT)
elements of GNH in greater detail and formed the basis of GNH measurements, indices
and screening tools:
(1) good governance;
(2) living standards;
(3) community vitality;
(4) education;
(5) time use;
(6) psychological well-being;
(7) cultural resilience;
(8) health; and
(9) environment.
These nine pillars demonstrate that many inter-related factors are considered to be
important in creating the conditions for happiness in the perspective of GNH.
For example, GNH counts traditional economic factors such as the importance of
material security and equitable living standards but extends that to other
social-cultural and environmental factors that are typically excluded from GDP
measurements (Helliwell et al., 2012).
In this regard, GNH responds to the widespread criticism of GDP as a flawed
measure of development. GDP only measures marketed economic activity and does not
distinguish between those activities that create well-being and those that signify a
decline in well-being. For example, more crime, more sickness, more pollution and more
disasters, all add up as part of the GDP measurement, because they increase market
activity in the economy. In fact, the destruction of our natural environment to feed
market demand shows up as economic progress. The GDP measurement also excludes
activities that enhance well-being but are outside the market, such as parenting and
voluntary work (Hayward and Colman, 2012). The GNH index takes a different
approach. The balance between material and non-material development, the inclusion
of subjective measures representing mental, emotional and communal well-being as an
expression of culture, the multi-dimensional and interdependent nature of GNH factors
are key features that distinguish the GNH index from GDP measurements as an
indication of a countrys progress (GNH Centre, 2015; Helliwell et al., 2012).
In accordance with the nine pillars of the GNH index, Bhutan has developed 38
sub-indexes, 72 indicators and 151 variables that are used to define and analyze the
happiness of the Bhutanese people. These pillars formed the basis of the GNH index,
which comprises data gathered from nation-wide surveys, of which two have been
conducted to date (Ura et al., 2012). In 2008, GNH was made part and parcel of Bhutanese
policy making when it was enshrined in the Constitution of 2008: [] if the Government
cannot create happiness for its people, there is no purpose for the Government to exist.
(Ura et al., 2012). The State Planning Commission was renamed into the Gross National
Happiness Commission and was charged with reviewing policy decisions and allocation
of resources in accordance with the GNH philosophy. In order to ensure continuity of the
GNH philosophy and spread local and international awareness, the GNH Centre was set
up as an independent NGO. In a similar spirit, the Bhutanese government, with the help
of 71 leading international scholars, published a report Happiness: toward a new
development paradigm,which proposed a policy framework for creating societal
Downloaded by Mr Brian Keilson At 11:51 15 June 2016 (PT)
happiness worldwide (NDP Steering Committee, 2013). The purpose of this work is
mainly external: it is the follow up of the UN resolution on happiness in 2012 with the aim
of incorporating the goal of societal happiness into the UN Sustainable Development
Goals. The present king, Jigme Khesar Namgyel Wangchuck has followed in the
footsteps of his father by repeatedly lending support to the GNH concept: Today GNH
has come to mean so many things to so many people, but to me it signifies simply
development with values. Thus for my nation today GNH is the bridge between the
fundamental values of kindness, equality and humanity and the necessary pursuit of
economic growth. GNH acts as our National Conscience guiding us towards making wise
decisions for a better future(GNH Centre, 2015, p. 2). All these developments have
caused GNH to become a variety of activities: the nations socio-economic development
framework, a policy screening tool, an index and an educational awareness-raising
process both in Bhutan and in the wider world. However, in the process of
operationalizing GNH, the Bhutanese government had to make decisions that have been
subjected to criticism both from inside and outside the country.
Limitations of the GNH concept in Bhutan
While many considered GNH an inspirational development philosophy, the
implementation of a GNH policy was challenging because like many psychological
and social indicators, GNH is somewhat easier to describe qualitatively than to define
with mathematical precision (Mancall, 2004; Ura et al., 2012). For many years after
being first promoted by the king, the GNH concept struggled to be accepted by policy
makers and economists outside Bhutan due to the subjective nature of happiness, the
lack of a policy implementation framework, and an economic measurement system
(Bakshi, 2005; GNH Centre, 2015). Although there were some ad hoc and independent
surveys that attempted to measure the happiness or life satisfaction as a subjective
score, there was no exact quantitative definition of GNH in Bhutan up to 2008
(GNH Centre, 2015; Helliwell et al., 2012).
GNH was particularly critiqued by some western scholars because of its subjective
nature, which they believed would enable the government of Bhutan to use GNH as a
screen to cover up obvious shortcomings in governance and policy, such as the eviction
of Nepalese minorities from the country (McCloskey, 2012). Another critique was that
GNHs subjective approach hinders international comparisons. In contrast, GDP
measurements provide a convenient international scale that can be applied in all
countries. This coincided with a shift in Bhutan by the new administration that took
office in 2013 from spreading GNH globally to improving the well-being of people
within Bhutan, especially their economic well-being (Tobgay, 2013). A spokesperson of
the GNH commission explained this in an interview with the author, GNH is a great
ideology, but it is expensive to sustain. We should be concerned that we have enough
national income to sustain the policies and measures to implement GNH[1]. He referred
to the reality that Bhutan remains an economically underdeveloped country which
source of income is largely constricted to agriculture, tourism and hydro-power, while it
is moreover highly dependent on trade with and aid from its powerful neighbor India
(Mancall, 2004).
This illustrates the tension that existed between GNH and GDP from the very
beginning: can GNH be used as indicator for happiness when GDP and other
economic indicators are not fully integrated into GNH? Socio-economic factors make
up the pillar of Living Standardswithin the GNH concept, but to what degree does
this represent the integration between GNH and GDP? For example, what is the GNH
Downloaded by Mr Brian Keilson At 11:51 15 June 2016 (PT)
rationale behind the controversial policiestoconstructhydro-powerplantsforthe
delivery of energy to India? In the GNH ideology, can foreign currency ever make up
for the loss of environmental value caused by the construction and exploitation of
hydro-power? Likewise, there are concerns about the influx of traders and
construction workers from India and the mushrooming of hotels and guesthouses for
tourists, as a direct result of promoting the tourism industry (Desmet, 2013).
These questions illustrate the vulnerability of the GNH concept in Bhutan: policies
that are aimed at GDP but that have side-effects in terms of GNH, can remain
unaccounted for in the GNH index. In other words, economic policies that are not
positively correlated to the GNH index may still be implemented in the name of
national income generation. It is this unresolved tension between hardeconomic
needs vs softsustainable development needs that has preempted the realization of
sustainability goals in many western countries (Gilding, 2011; Sachs, 2015). In this
authors assessment, this tension can lead to rendering the GNH index in Bhutan
irrelevant for policy making.
The above review of the current status and limitations of GNH demonstrates that
GNH policy and the GNH index are work in progress.It can be concluded that at the
very least GNH is an innovative approach to national policy making for sustainable
development, from which lessons can be drawn pertaining to many aspects of
sustainability, especially as the paper shall discuss leadership for sustainability.
In order to do this, the paper first needs to place the GNH concept in the context of the
pursuit of sustainable development worldwide.
Innovative nature of GNH
The development of GNH comes at a time that the contemporary world faces a growing
threat of ecological collapse due to climate change, eco-system loss and rapidly
depleting natural resources, while concerns about persistent social issues such as
poverty, inequality, exclusion, corruption, human rights abuses and pandemics are
rising. In this context, ever since the introduction of the concept sustainable
development (Brundtland, 1987), we have seen attempts to capture the performance of
nations and companies in new frames, models and indicators, starting with concepts
such as the UN Development index and the Triple Bottom Line concept (Elkington,
1997; Epstein, 2014). What these frames have in common is that they go beyond
measuring economic performance in merely financial terms, but instead advocate
measuring a broader concept of value, generally comprising the social, ecological and
economic dimension of value, or triple value(Epstein, 2014; Sachs, 2015). On a global
scale, this trend is now being expressed in objectives such as UN Sustainable
Development Goals (Helliwell et al., 2012; UN Sustainable Development Knowledge
Platform, 2016).
The triple value concept corresponds largely to the concept of GNH. The GNH
pillars of socio-economic development, environmental conservation and cultural
preservation can be covered by definitions of economic, environmental and societal
value, respectively. Thus, in the authors view, GNH reflects the global trend to expand
the notion of value from a singular to a triple dimension.
However, upon close scrutiny of GNH and its various expression in Bhutan, GNH
goes a few steps further than the common understanding of sustainable development.
In a recent report the Government of Bhutan underpins GNH by a framework based on
a set of principles called new development paradigm (NDP Steering Committee, 2013).
These principles appear to present a number of distinct innovations to the
Downloaded by Mr Brian Keilson At 11:51 15 June 2016 (PT)
understanding of sustainable development as defined by triple value. This paper sums
them up as four innovative principles:
(1) GNH takes a holistic view on sustainable development by seeing ecology,
society and economy as mutually interdependent and by assigning different
levels of importance to them given different levels of interdependency. Without
environmental preservation and respecting planetary boundaries, there cannot
be a healthy society and without a healthy society, there cannot be a sustainable
economy. This goes beyond the CSR concept of Triple Bottom Line or
Triple P,which considers people, planet or prosperity equal. Therefore, in the
GNH view, planet (the environmental dimension) takes precedence over people
(society), and people over profit (economy).
(2) GNH is based on the recognition that all stakeholders that make up the economy,
society and eco-system (the first three pillars of GNH) have specific needs that can
be met. It is in the serving and balancing of those needs that sustainable value is
generated. GNH thus deviates from the notion that humanity is locked into an
inevitable conflict with nature, with his insatiable wants outstripping the supply
of scarce resources, and instead more optimistically assumes the possibility of
harmonious co-existence of mankind and nature.
(3) GNH adds a fourth dimension to economic, social and environmental value:
governance. This includes items such as political participation, institutional
trust, and government service effectiveness. The inclusion of good governance
as fourth pillar indicates the important role of balancing the three other pillars
given their different levels of interdependency. In this paper the dimension of
governance will be nuanced and discussed as a particular type of leadership.
(4) GNH defines as its overarching goal the pursuit of societal happiness. Not
merely in objectively ascertained material terms, or outerhappiness, but also
in the subjective experience of citizens, or innerhappiness. Most striking is
the inclusion of emotional balance, mental health and spiritual participation
(which in turn includes items such as reflection time, participating in activity
such as prayers), which in Bhutan are seen as expression of culture.
It underscores the importance of training people in happiness and mind-training
skills as prerequisite for experiencing genuine health and making them
co-responsible for realizing this experience (Helliwell et al., 2012).
These four principles are inter-related. The holistic worldview establishes a number of
critical interdependencies for collective well-being. The largest context is that of
healthy eco-systems, which provides the ultimate basis for societies and economies to
flourish. However, without flourishing societies it would be difficult to create economies
that prosper, so the societal context provides the basis for the economy. Governance
and leadership at collective and individual levels should balance these three
dimensions (Senge 2008; Ura and Galay 2004).
The governments role is to provide the interconnected conditions for its population
to achieve the various levels and dimensions of happiness material (outer) and non-
material (inner). Outer happiness without inner happiness is not considered sufficient
for obtaining true societal well-being, so both are needed. The goal of societal happiness
is made the joint responsibility of the government and the population. Citizens are
regarded as both co-creators and the beneficiaries of GNH, as evidenced by factors that
require the active participation of people and communities (Bakshi, 2005; Ura and
Downloaded by Mr Brian Keilson At 11:51 15 June 2016 (PT)
Galay, 2004). For example, the GNH index tracks the degree of taking part in happiness
skill training as a mean to achieving personal resilience and happiness, while also
stressing the necessity of good governance at a national level, for ensuring the
conditions that are conducive for happiness-training of the population (Ura et al., 2012).
The holistic worldview and the role of governance is illustrated in Figure 1.
This paper argues that the GNH concepts four principles imply and represent a type
of leadership that goes beyond conventional leadership definitions. Even though there
is no explicit mention of leadership in the GNH pillars and the GNH index, the central
role of governance and the various tasks assigned to it such as serving the needs of
stakeholders and engaging people in cultivating happiness can be regarded as
elements of leadership. It is a type of leadership that bears correspondence with the
emerging academic field that brings together sustainability with leadership
psychology (Metcalf and Benn, 2013; Schein, 2015; Tideman et al., 2013).
In order to fully understand the features of the leadership model behind the four
principles of GNH, which in this paper is defined as GNH leadership, it is necessary to
explore the roots of GNH in more detail. While GNH is founded on the empirical
research literature of happiness, positive psychology and well-being (Kahneman et al.,
1999; Ura et al., 2012), the Bhutanese make no secret of attributing the overall concept of
GNH to Buddhist philosophy (Desmet, 2013; Phuntshok, 2013; Ura et al., 2012). Even
though the view that the role of government is to provide the conditions for societal
happiness is not distinctly Buddhist (see, e.g. the inclusion of the pursuit of happiness
in the US constitution, and Aristotles idea of the state cultivating eudemoniaor
authentic happiness), the extent to which Bhutanese leadership has taken up the
pursuit of genuine happiness of society is unique to the tradition of Mahayana
Buddhism to which Bhutan belongs (Phuntshok, 2013). In other words, while this type
Source: The author’s own elaboration based on the GNH concept
Figure 1.
GNH worldview
Downloaded by Mr Brian Keilson At 11:51 15 June 2016 (PT)
of leadership may be regarded as new in the context of sustainable development, it is
rooted in an ancient philosophical tradition. The understanding of this tradition will
help to determine the scope and attributes of GNH leadership, before its application to
sustainability is investigated.
The roots of GNH leadership in Buddhist philosophy
The prospect of outer and inner happiness
Buddhism is based on the teachings of Gautama Buddha who lived 2,500 years ago in
ancient India. His key teaching was that suffering is caused by the mistaken way we
perceive the world around us and ourselves, causing attachment and aversion (Conze,
1958; Harvey, 1990). Because things appear to us through our senses as if they have the
power to provide us lasting happiness and comfort, we become attached to them and
crave to have more of them. Conversely, these sense objects can appear to us as
unpleasant or as threatening which causes aversion and hatred. But this craving and
aversion are a result of ignorance about reality. The reality of things is that they are
transient and impermanent and therefore cannot produce the lasting happiness or pain
that we hope or fear from them (Khyentse, 1993; Wallace, 1993).
Buddha made clear that real happiness does not come from acquiring or consuming
(or pushing away) material things. Happiness is a state of mind resulting from inner
mental causes, not from external material causes (Harvey, 1990; Khyentse, 1993; Ricard,
2006). Thus, Buddhism considers the path of mental or spiritual development more
reliable and effective than that of material development. What really matters is to
mentally detach oneself from matter, and strive for a state of what is called liberation
from personal suffering (stressed in the Theravadin tradition of South Asia (Conze,
1958), or enlightenment,which is considered the ultimate state of happiness and
fulfillment and includes an orientation toward the happiness of beings (stressed in
the Mahayana tradition of Central, North and East Asia (The Dalai Lama, 2002).
These high states are achieved by the cultivation of ones mind which along with
enhanced well-being for oneself brings about a range of positive qualities such as
kindness, compassion, tolerance and wisdom which give us the capacity to be of benefit
for others (Harvey, 1990; Khyentse, 1993; Wallace, 1993).
It is important to note that Buddhism does not reject matter and wealth as
inherently evil, but considers them useful (Payutto, 1992). First, material wealth
provides us with conditions that are conducive to spiritual practice and, second, it
allows us to practice generosity, which causes meritor positive karma, and ultimately
a happier society for all. Among the eight main requirements of the Buddhas path, the
Noble Eightfold Path (Conze, 1958), is the practice of right livelihood, which has been
defined as follows: One should abstain from making ones living through a profession
that brings harm to others, such as trading in arms and lethal weapons, intoxicating
drinks, poisons, killing animals, cheating, etc., and one should live by a profession
which is honorable, blameless and innocent of harm to others(Payutto, 1992, p. 35).
Right livelihood is based on right view, also referred to as wisdom, which is the antidote
to ignorance or a mistaken view of reality. Wisdom is the correct understanding of how the
phenomenological world exists and operates, namely as an interconnected system. Because
of the interconnected nature of reality, there cannot be a separate thing called the selfthat
exists independently from others and from nature (Loizzo, 2006; Wallace, 1993). It is
this illusory sense of self on which people generally place all their hopes and fears,
which causes them to revolve in an endless cycle of suffering, known as samsara.
Downloaded by Mr Brian Keilson At 11:51 15 June 2016 (PT)
Right view/wisdom, therefore, is concerned with discovering the true interconnected and
selflessnature of all phenomena. It is this insight that liberates people from samsara into
nirwana(Khyentse, 1993; Wallace, 1993).
The phenomenal world encompasses all phenomena, both inner and outer
phenomena. Thus, by definition, right view/wisdom includes a perspective on the
outer world of government, society and economics. The Mahayana (or Northern)
tradition of Buddhism that is followed in Bhutan in particular emphasizes the
fundamental interconnectedness of humanity we are intrinsically connected to each
other and to nature (The Dalai Lama, 2002; Khyentse, 1993). Given this inter-related and
interdependent nature of reality, Buddhists are concerned with the world around them;
you cannot work on developing your own minds while not trying to find ways to
diminish suffering in the outside world, even if this seems remote and difficult to change
(The Dalai Lama, 2002; Wallace, 1993). Thus, Buddhism provides a philosophical
framework for creating happiness for society at large. This is indeed what a number of
modern scholars has attempted to do by applying Buddhist views on contemporary
worldly issues including economics, politics and sustainability (The Dalai Lama and van
den Muyzenberg, 2009; Payutto, 1992; Schumacher, 1973; Thurman, 1997; Tideman, 2011).
Leadership as agent for societal happiness
Ever since the time of the Buddha, it has been common for emperors, kings and
merchants to attempt implementing Buddhist principles in government and economics.
Just as the Buddha had not rejected wealth, so did he not reject power as a useful means
to create conditions for societal happiness (Payutto, 1992; Thurman, 1997).
The first well-known case of a leader to embrace Buddhism was King Ashoka in
around 260 BCE, who was ruling over northern India. After a series of violent
conquests, he became repentant about his deeds of violence and he turned to Buddhas
teachings. He commemorated his change of mind by erecting pillars all around the
empire, which would be a remarkable source of inspiration for future generations
(Conze, 1958; Harvey, 1990). He promoted the Buddhist practice of conquering the
innerenemy, by transforming hatred and fighting into compassion and non-violence.
As a result, under his rule, Buddhism was granted an official status as an educational
and religious institution. The purpose of the empire thus became to promote the
practice of Dharma the path of mind transformation. In this way, as Thurman (1997)
phrased it (p. 109), Ashoka transformed military imperialism of the outer world into
compassionate imperialism of the inner world, the human mind.
Ashokas ethic has permeated Indian politics ever since. It is no accident that
Mahatma Gandhi, the modern father of non-violence in politics, chose Ashokas lion
pillar, surmounted by the Wheel of Dharma, as the symbol on the flag of the newly
independent India (Nikam and McKeown, 1974).
The next example of Buddhist-inspired leadership arose out of a teaching by the
second century Buddhist saint/scholar Nagarjuna known as Jewel Garland of Royal
Counsel(Nagarjuna, 2007). He gave this teaching to King Udiya Shatavahana, who
ruled an area of southern India (ca 150-200 CE). Nagarjuna instructed the king in what
he needed to know for his own personal development toward liberation and
enlightenment. Nagarjuna then advised King Udiyana on the basic principle of
enlightened social action, the altruism of great love and great empathy. O king! Just as
you love to consider what to do to help yourself, so should you love to consider what to
do to help others(Thurman, 1997, p. 167). He taught the king to look at his subjects
like children, including prisoners to be corrected so that they could return to society
Downloaded by Mr Brian Keilson At 11:51 15 June 2016 (PT)
and fulfill their opportunity for enlightenment. King Udiyana was able to implement
the principles of enlightened politics in his kingdom more completely than Ashoka,
because of the instructions on mind-training, wisdom and compassion. In the Buddhist
Mahayana tradition this is known as the ideal of the Bodhisattva, one who aspires
toward enlightenment for all living beings (The Dalai Lama, 2002).
Nagarjuna emphasizes that the only way to bring society to enlightenment, is that
when the leader lives a life in mind-training for enlightenment of him/herself (Loizzo,
2006, 2012). The ultimate aim of ruling society is to give people in society the
opportunity to develop their own mental qualities up to full enlightenment. More than
two third of the Jewel Garland contains personal instructions on wisdom
understanding the reality of selflessness and interdependence, which holds the key to
becoming a Bodhisattva engaged in altruistic action (Thurman, 1997).
By combining the insight into the nature of the self with compassion and social
action, Nagarjuna added a new dimension not only to the evolution of Buddhism but to
the unfolding of Indian society itself. Inspiration from the Jewel Garland created the
basis for subsequent empires in India, run by the Gupta dynasty ( Jones, 2014), It
became an era of great religious tolerance, ethnic harmony, wealthy cities, powerful
monasteries, prosperity and peace. This era of peace lasted for many centuries almost
up to the end of the first millennium ( Jayapalan, 2001).
A next defining Buddhist scripture arose in the eighth century: The
Bodhisattvacaryavatara A Guide to the Bodhisattva Way of Life written by
Indian Buddhist monk Shantideva (Shantideva, 1997). This is perhaps the most widely
read and cited text in Mahayana Buddhism. Its outline is built on the six perfections:
generosity, ethics, patience, effort, concentration and wisdom. By emphasizing the
importance of overcoming ones negative emotions by conquering self-grasping and
transforming the mind into compassion, this work strengthened the ideal of the
Bodhisattva as an inner warrior(Trungpa, 1984). In essence, the Bodhisattva warrior
is committed to conquering the negative emotions and developing positive qualities, by
fighting the inner enemy of ignorance, selfishness, greed and anger, rather than any
outer enemies. However, rather than merely renouncing the outer world, Bodhisattva-
warriors often intentionally took on roles in the outer world as statesmen, teachers,
artists and writers, which allowed them to serve others while simultaneously engaging
in an inner practice to transform their own mind (Khyentse, 1993; Loizzo, 2006, 2012).
The Mahayana Buddhist tradition distinguishes two paths toward enlightenment:
take many lifetimes to result into full enlightenment. The fast path is based on the Buddhist
tantras, which can be practiced by practitioners inthecontextofastrongconnectionwith
and faith in their master. A central feature of tantra practice is the usage of imagination and
creativity (Hopkins, 1984; Loizzo, 2012). Negative emotions are transformed through the
visualization of Buddhist deities and images. A common meditational form is that of a deity
in classical royal attire, through which the meditator can cultivate his innate power to
transform his mind, in analogy to a king who can transform society through the power that
he wields (Trungpa, 1984). Buddhist tantric teachings were in fact first taught to kings and
leaders in order to suit their potential for creating social benefit while remaining in a
position of power (Hopkins, 1984; Mullin, 2001).
The Buddhist leadership tradition is present in Asia up to today
From India the ideals and practices of the Bodhisattva leader first spread to China and
East Asia, and later in several transmissions to the Tibetan plateau and the Himalayas,
Downloaded by Mr Brian Keilson At 11:51 15 June 2016 (PT)
including Bhutan (Harvey, 1990). In the eleventh century, when Buddhism disappeared
from India, the Mahayana Buddhist teachings were transplanted and preserved in
Tibet, from where it spread to Bhutan. This took especially form after the political
unification of Tibet under the leadership of a monk/philosopher, the fifth Dalai Lama
(seventeenth century), when the monastic academy was entrusted with both spiritual
and worldly powers (Mullin, 2001). Tibetan monasteries became powerful institutions
in shaping society up to the twentieth century when the invading Chinese communist
regime dismantled them (Loizzo, 2006, 2012). The political and religious institutions in
modern day Bhutan and the Indian Himalayas, which modeled themselves on the
Tibetan monasteries, have however survived up to the present day, where they
continue to be a pivotal instrument for the creation of Bodhisattva leaders and cultures
for societal happiness (Harvey, 1990; Phuntshok 2013). In fact, Bhutan has been
prophesized by the eighth century Buddhist master Padmasambhava, who introduced
Buddhism to the Himalayas and the Tibetan plateau, as safe custodian of the Buddhist
tradition to survive in times of global crises (Galay, 1999; Phuntshok, 2013) and when
Bhutan was established as unified nation in the seventeenth century by Zhabdrung, it
was explicitly rooted on Buddhist ideals (Mancall, 2004).
This historic overview shows that in the Buddhist tradition the creation of societal
happiness and leadership went hand in hand. Many Asian leaders have modeled
themselves on the Bodhisattva warrior, which according to historians have provided an
alternative to feudal and class leadership orthodoxies that were traditionally locked in
military warfare and power struggles (Loizzo, 2006; Thurman, 1997). They were
perhaps the first role models of sustainability leadershipas they created sustainable
value for the people that they ruled. By manifesting GNH, the fourth king of Bhutan,
Jigme Singye Wangchuk and subsequent Bhutanese leaders have continued the
tradition of Buddhist leadership until today (Mancall, 2004; Phuntshok, 2013).
Implications for sustainability leadership
A shift in paradigm
This historic overview demonstrates that leadership is a central component of
Buddhism and that the ideal of the Bodhisattva can be translated into a model of
leadership, which corresponds to GNH leadership. In fact, I argue that leadership in the
Buddhist context is firmly rooted on a number of principles, which are similar to the
four principles behind GNH.
First, the interconnectedness of all that lives (GNH principle 1), the recognition of which
makes selfishness futile and self-deceiving. Because Buddhism has shown the prospect of
lasting inner happiness by cultivating onescapacityforwisdomandaltruism,the
Buddhist leader knows that his own happiness is best served by serving the happiness of
others. Since everything is interconnected, altruistically serving the needs of others can be
regarded as enlightened self-interest in that itisthepathtogenuine(innerandouter)well-
being and happiness for everyone including oneself (GNH principle 2). From this it follows
that Buddhist societies such as Bhutan have sought to create leaders in religious
institutions who are equipped to altruistically serve others and thus foster a culture for
societal happiness. These leaders were placed in powerful (religious) institutions in order to
assure that governance contributed to the goal of societal well-being (GNH principle 3).
Since in Buddhism the notion of fundamental interconnectedness and overcoming
selfishness are means for experiencing inner happiness, the attainment of subjective well-
being is considered the overarching objective of leadership (GNH principle 4).
Downloaded by Mr Brian Keilson At 11:51 15 June 2016 (PT)
The review also reveals that GNH leadership could be defined in terms of distinct
attributes corresponding to those of the Bodhisattva. In general, these attributes are
compassion and wisdom; more specifically they can be defined as the six perfections of
generosity, ethics, patience, effort, concentration and wisdom. These attributes make
the leader perfectly suited to commit to creating societal happiness and well-being.
The metaphor of the leader as warriorseems suitable for taking on this task in
spite of complex challenges. Most significantly, since GNH leadership is so explicitly
rooted in the principle of interconnectedness, it can serve as model for any type of
leadership that has to deal with complex interconnected challenges.
Before exploring what this mean for sustainability, it is important to note that this
paradigm contrasts starkly with the premise of classical (and neoliberal) economic
thinking, in which people are viewed as individual agents who make their own rational
choices for maximal personal gain in an anonymous market and who are pitted
competitively against each other and nature the premise of the homo-economicus
(Gintis, 2000). However, it is exactly this premise which stills dominates much of
economic thinking today that has been challenged by research in various disciplines,
most notably the field of behavioral-economics and neuro-economics (Gowdy, 2009;
Kahneman, 1979). From these fields a more positive image of mankind is emerging,
indicating that human beings are wired toward pro-social behavior and capable of
transforming themselves and their circumstances into the creation of sustainable value
and well-being in harmony with each other and with the natural environment
(Siegel, 2009; Singer, 2001/2009; Singer and Ricard, 2015).
In the subsequent section, the paper explores what GNH leadership has to offer to
the field of sustainability. Sustainability is a complex phenomenon occurring at many
levels of organization, ranging from macro-, meso- to micro-levels (Metcalf and
Benn, 2013). GNH obviously has implications for the understanding of leadership on a
national or macro-level. For example, in the field of national policy making for
sustainable development and domains such as national accounting, where it already
inspired a wide range of initiatives in the world, usually at academic and local
administrative levels (GNH Centre, 2015). Since changes at national levels, such as
introducing a new system of national accounting, are very difficult to realize, thus far
Bhutan is the only country where GNH has been applied on a national level.
In exploring its relevance for sustainability leadership, this discussion will give special
attention to the dimension of leadership of organizations (the micro-level), especially
business organizations, as it is considered to be here that GNH leadership can be
applied most directly and easily and sustainable value can be created most effectively.
The paper will first explore the parallels between the principles behind
sustainability as it has been evolving in organizations and the principles behind GNH.
Sustainability in (business) organizations
Sustainable development was originally conceived from a macro-level perspective for
(inter)national policy making (Brundtland, 1987). Soon, it expanded into business
sustainability (the micro-level), as companies and their stakeholders recognized that
they had a role to play in transitioning to a more sustainable world. Later it was applied
to more diffuse sustainability transitions,for example of industries and value/supply
chains (the meso-level).
Business sustainability has evolved in stages, from the early days in the 1990s when
CSR emerged as main concept, often equated with reputation management and
philanthropy (Laszlo and Zhexembayeva, 2011; Porter and Kramer, 2006, 2011;
Downloaded by Mr Brian Keilson At 11:51 15 June 2016 (PT)
van Tulder et al., 2014), to a more integrated approach, where sustainability and CSR
are regarded as a function of core business, without which the company could incur
unexpected financial and societal risks and comprise its societal license to operate.
Recently, leading companies have started to view sustainability as a means for
competitive advantage, allowing them to recognize societal issues and translate them
into business opportunities, which can be regarded as the next phase in sustainable
business (Porter and Kramer, 2011; WBCSD, 2011).
This is evidenced by a number of leading global firms who have committed
themselves to sustainability. The CEO of Unilever, Paul Polman, explains why he put
sustainability at the top of his business agenda: Most businesses operate and say how
can I use society and the environment to be successful? We are saying the opposite
how can we contribute to society and the environment to be successful?(Forum for the
Future, 2011, Mirvis, 2011). Feike Sijbesma, CEO of the global life- and material
sciences firm DSM expresses a similar view: As a business, we are aware that we
cannot be successful in a society that fails. Therefore, it has become natural for us to
take responsibility for more than our business, but also for society and nature
(Sybesma, 2013). There is a growing amount of anecdotal evidence of CEOs who have
demonstrated a similar commitment to sustainability leadership (Elkington and Heitz,
2014; Mackay and Sisodia, 2013; Nidumolu et al., 2012; Zoeteman, 2013).
This trend toward sustainable business appears to be driven by the recognition of
the increasing interconnectedness between business, society and eco-systems. This
deviates from earlier CSR/sustainability definitions, which suggested that economic
outcomes are antecedents of social outcomes, or the other way round (Visser, 2010). It is
now argued that business and society are interdependent and cannot function without
each other. (Senge, 2008; van Tulder et al., 2014) The notions of the Triple Bottom
Line(Elkington, 1997) and Bottom of the Pyramid(Prahalad and Hart, 2002) carry a
similar message: every firm should look at decisions and opportunities through the lens
of joint economic and social (and environmental) value creation. According to Sisodia
et al. (2007) successful companies necessarily need to create profit, but in their choices
of how to do so, they also need to build people and society. For these companies profit is
not the sole end; rather, it is a way of ensuring that returns will continue and value will
be captured for all stakeholders.
Porter and Kramer (2011) have defined this new orientation as creating shared
value, in which the firm seeks to translate societal needs into business opportunities,
thus creating shared value between society and business. Porter and Kramer (2011)
state: If capitalism is to survive, business should rediscover and redefine its purpose of
creating shared value with society(p. 64). Dyllick and Muff (2015) describe this as
Business Sustainability 3.0, which presupposes the recognition that ultimately not only
consumer needs reflect societal needs, but that societal needs also depend on the
fulfillment of ecological needs. In Business Sustainability 3.0 eco-system needs are
considered more fundamental than societal needs, which in turn are considered
more fundamental than economic needs. Snower (2013) describes this as the new
interconnectedness paradigm in economic thinking.
This line of thinking is almost identical to GNH principle 1, which is grounded in the
reality that the economy, society and eco-system are intractably interconnected. This
close resemblance indicates that business sustainability is an inevitable process of
adjusting to a new reality.
With new demands from stakeholders on hand, there is an adjustment of the entire
business model from shareholder to multi-stakeholder value, incorporating social and
Downloaded by Mr Brian Keilson At 11:51 15 June 2016 (PT)
environmental value into economic value indicators. Stakeholder engagement is regarded
as the essence of sustainable development (Gilding, 2011; van Tulder et al., 2014).
Organizations that successfully focus on creating value for all stakeholders (next to
shareholder, but also for employees, suppliers, customers, nature and society) seem to
perform better in financial terms, especially in the long run (Eccles et al., 2011; Sisodia
et al., 2007). In other words, sustainability has come to represent a next stage in business
thinking and organizational capacity.
This is supported by research showing that firms progress on the path toward a
stakeholder value orientation on the basis of a number of progressive stages of
development (Googins et al., 2007; van Tulder et al., 2014; WBCSD, 2011). The stages of
development posited from an elementary to an increasingly more engaged,
innovative, integrated and, at its most creative edge, a game-changing approach to
sustainability and CSR emerge from continuous interaction between a firm and its
environment that stimulates organizational learning. At each stage, a companys
engagement with societal issues is progressively more open and its dealings with
stakeholders are more interactive and mutual (Laszlo and Zhexembayeva, 2011;
van Tulder et al., 2014).
It is clear that sustainability is no longer limited to the environmental dimension at
this stage, but it also includes a strong social dimension, both internal and external to
the organization (Dyllick and Muff, 2015). The focus then is on building high quality
partnership with all stakeholders. This implies that effective sustainability/CSR
strategies should be geared toward serving (instead of ignoring) the needs of internal
and external stakeholders and creating shared value with them (Googins et al., 2007,
van Tulder et al., 2014). It is obvious that this mindset focussing on the needs of all
stakeholders resembles the mindset behind GNH principle 2. Even though the context
and scope of sustainability and GNH differ, they have in common that they require a
major shift in mindset and attitude of the practitioner. The difference is that GNH
explicitly defines happiness as overall goal of sustainability. By emphasizing
happiness of stakeholders, GNH leadership appeals to the principle of enlightened
self-interest, which is a necessary driver in the process toward sustainability. When
stakeholders are not intrinsically motivated, they may not succeed in progressing on
the stages toward sustainability. Just as unhappy customers will not be inclined to
pay for the product, sustainability efforts will halt when they ignore inner drivers
of stakeholders.
Obviously, in order for organizations to progress toward stakeholder value
creation, there needs to be concordant changes in governance, including structures
and measurement systems. Currently, many organizations adhere to a singular
shareholder value orientation simply because this is what they are incentivized to
measure and generate (Dyllick and Muff, 2015; Epstein, 2014). When companies
progress along stages of sustainability and CSR, the organizational structures,
processes and systems used to manage corporate responsibilities will need to become
more sophisticated and aligned with measuring incentives, spanning more than
financial value but triple value. (Porter et al.,2012;vanTulderet al.,2014).
An important feature of business sustainability then is to develop indicators for
measuring sustainable performance. In fact, both business itself and watchdog
bodies demand clear standards and measurements (Epstein, 2014; WBCSD, 2012).
While we have clear and commonly accepted indicators for capturing economic value, the
race is now on to develop robust measurements for natural and social value, so we can
measure sustainable value comprehensively (Epstein, 2014; Porter et al.,2012).
Downloaded by Mr Brian Keilson At 11:51 15 June 2016 (PT)
This corresponds to the GNH philosophy in Bhutan, where the focus of GNH on
subjective well-being has not precluded the necessity of creating a measurement for
happiness in the GNH index that captures nine value domains, as discussed above.
The GNH index, therefore, can be a source of inspiration for companies to measure
sustainable value, which necessarily includes subjective and qualitative measures.
This need for governance, including structures and indicators, matches with GNH
principle 3.
In spite of the need to measure GNH, in the view of GNH the market and workplace
are not a mere trading place for financial transactions, but a mechanism for the creation
of relationships for the fulfillment of needs. While this obviously raises technical
questions from the perspective of current economic thinking (e.g. how does one value,
price and compare these needs?), it is an interesting thought experiment that can help
companies to innovate toward sustainability services and products. This line of
thinking corresponds to the shift from away from the worldview of the individualistic
homo-economicus who is merely interested in transacting for his personal gain, to a
worldview of mutually beneficial relationships. It may be a stretch to regard all societal
and environmental as needs that can be met in some sort of market exchange, but if one
adds governance/leadership (conform GNH principle 3) as provider of conditions for
fairness and far-sightedness, this scenario is more feasible.
Whilst organizations move from stage to stage in the process of sustainable
transformation responding to a number of internal and external factors, a key role is
played by the mindsets and attitudes of the top leadership of the organization (Mirvis,
2011; Zoeteman, 2013). Mindsets are defined as the deeply ingrained attitudes and beliefs
that create our worldview and shape our lives. Sustainability requires mindsets that
work with the dynamic interplay between companiesleadership and their context the
drivers, conditions, events and stakeholder expectations that influence and shape
the sustainability journey.
Sustainability progress develops in gradual step-by-step stages when the leadership
mindset broadens in scale and scope as conditions change and capabilities are built in
response to these changes (Metcalf and Benn, 2013). Sustainability mindsets therefore
necessarily enhance the capacity of handling complexity, stimulating creativity and
fostering resilience, not only among leaders, but also among employees and other
stakeholders. This shows that sustainability has an innerdimension which is
somewhat similar to the GNH domain of providing people with happiness skills and
mind-training and thus making them active participants in the process. The need for
inner sustainability, or sustainability mindsets, corresponds to GNH principle 4.
This will be discussed in more detail in the section on leadership below.
If one would apply these features of sustainable organizations visually, a figure
emerges that resembles the GNH worldview (Figure 2).
Sustainability leadership theory
The foregoing analysis indicates that sustainable organizations can only evolve on the
basis of leadership that can deal with increasing complexity and interdependency among
business stakeholders and direct its efforts to meeting the future needs of these
stakeholders (Metcalf and Benn, 2013; Senge, 2008). By serving these needs, business will
create long-term sustainable triple value,that is, value for the organization as well as for
the social and natural environment in which it operates. This leadership orientation
presents a radical departure from the current predominant leadership orientation of
creating short-term singular value, primarily for shareholders.
Downloaded by Mr Brian Keilson At 11:51 15 June 2016 (PT)
In view of the many parallels between GNH and sustainability principles, it is clear that
GNH leadership has much to offer to the necessary reorientation of leadership. GNH
leadership can enrich the growing literature describing the various leadership qualities
required for overcoming the sustainability challenges. This type of leadership has been
defined in terms such as ecological leadership, societal leadership, sustainable/
sustainability leadership and (complex) systems leadership (Gitsham, 2009;
Lueneburger and Goleman, 2010; Metcalf and Benn, 2013; Schein, 2015; Senge, 2008;
Tideman et al., 2013). Along with Schein (2015), who has defined a new psychology for
sustainability, this paper uses the term sustainability leadership.
Among the many leadership theories that have emerged (from the great man/traits
theory, skills theory, behavioral theories, to situational, charismatic/transformational
and self-leadership), the academic field of transformational leadership seems best
suited for application to sustainability leadership (Bass, 1998; Burns, 1978; Conger and
Kanungo, 1998). While transformational leadership is directed at leaders and followers
creating the resources to serve the unmet needs of people, sustainability is a process of
serving unmet needs of all (present and future) stakeholders, including society and
eco-systems. Transformational leaders focus themselves and all stakeholders on
transcending short-term self-interests and moving into long term, shared personal and
organizational goals, including those of stakeholders (Conger and Kanungo, 1998).
As such, transformational leadership ties to the concept of enlightened self-interest
that appears to drive leading sustainability companies in serving long-term
multi-stakeholder interests (Googins et al., 2007; WBCSD, 2011). Both transformational
leadership and sustainability in business are aimed at creating a shared value framework
serving the needs of all stakeholders in a particular value chain.
Transformational leadership, therefore, is considered a suitable intellectual basis to
explain how leadership can change organizations toward sustainability. The features
of transformational leadership resonate with those of GNH leadership as well given its
emphasis on transcending self-interests and serving others. However, this paper posits
Governance & Leadership
Figure 2.
Sustainability in
Downloaded by Mr Brian Keilson At 11:51 15 June 2016 (PT)
that GNH leadership can significantly enhance the field of transformational leadership
in general and the new field of sustainability leadership in particular.
In terms of theoretical contributions from GNH leadership, it is evident that both the
scope of GNH leadership as illustrated by the four GNH principles and its attributes of
wisdom and compassion (which are also described as the six perfections of the
Bodhisattva), can deepen and refine the emerging theory of sustainability leadership.
The most significant insight seems to be the fact that GNH leadership is so explicitly
rooted in the principle of interconnectedness, which enables the concept to serve
as model for leadership that has to deal with complex interconnected challenges such
as sustainability.
The model of GNH leadership is especially relevant given the fact that it is based on
well-documented insights of Buddhist psychology, which is increasingly translated
and integrated into western science. In fact, the exchange between Buddhism and
psychology and neuroscience has given rise to a new academic field described as
contemplative science (Goleman, 1997, 2003; Siegel, 2009; Wallace, 2006; Loizzo, 2012).
An additional advantage is that GNH leadership is still being practiced and can be
observed in Bhutan. Even though until recently Bhutan was quite inaccessible as it
severely restricted foreign tourism, in the last decade Bhutans leadership has
welcomed intellectual exchange with foreign experts. Bhutans recent report on the new
development paradigm in support of formulating the UN Sustainable Development
Goals (NDP Steering Committee, 2013), which included contributions from 71 foreign
scholars, is a case in point. GNH is no longer a domestic experiment, but a platform for
intellectual innovation across the world.
Sustainability leadership practice
Since GNH leadership is based on a system of practice of personal transformation and
mind-training (the Bodhisattva path), it also is relevant for the development and
practice of leaders. Would it be possible for sustainability leaders in the modern
context, to learn how to transform their minds in accordance to the Bodhisattva path,
with the aim to create value on personal, organizational and societal levels, and thus
become sustainability warriors? Are the Buddhist leadership practices relevant and
achievable for modern day sustainability leaders?
It is obvious that sustainability leadership requires people to have exceptional
qualities given the complex challenges involved (Metcalf and Benn, 2013). If leaders
would develop the six perfections of generosity, ethics, patience, effort, concentration
and wisdom, they would most probably come close to meeting that requirement. The
qualities of generosity and ethics will help leaders to connect well with people and
attract followership. Given the fact that sustainability is a process in stages with ups
and downs while overcoming dilemmas, the qualities of effort, patience, concentration
and wisdom are indispensable too. At the very least, these qualities would help leaders
to become role models for the desired change and thus become more effective leaders
by inspiring others.
This paper suggests that sustainability leadership can gain most by mastering the
perfection of wisdom, defined as understanding outer and inner reality. The objective
of both Buddhism and leadership of sustainability is to deal with reality in such a way
that it serves as basis for creating long-term sustainable or triple value. The way that
these traditions define value may differ, but both are concerned with the same reality.
Human minds that are capable of understanding and operating in accordance with
reality are bound to be more effective than those who are not. In Buddhism this is called
Downloaded by Mr Brian Keilson At 11:51 15 June 2016 (PT)
the perfection of wisdom: Bodhisattvas train in wisdom to overcome mistaken views
and develop their understanding of inner and outer reality (Loizzo, 2012).
Contemporary Buddhist scholar David Loy (2015, p. 1) describes this in the
following way: Bodhisattvas have a double practice as they deconstruct and
reconstruct themselves, they also work for social and ecological change. Actually,
these are two sides of the same practice. As we start to see through the delusion of our
separateness, our deep-rooted, self-preoccupied habits dontsuddenlydisappear.
We need to develop less self-centered and more compassionate ways of living in the
world, but how do we do that? By devoting ourselves to the well-being of others,
including the health of the earths eco-systems. Such concerns are not distractions
from personal practice but deeper manifestations of it.From this it follows
that human minds endowed with the perfection of wisdom are better placed in
positions of leadership.
The practice of wisdom starts by training the mind, which allows the mind to
become more calm and stable. These qualities enable the mind can learn to observe and
understand both the inner and outer reality more accurately (Goleman, 1997, 2003;
Wallace, 1993). With regard to pursuing sustainable development, an open perceptive
undistorted mind is actually indispensable. One can only perceive the shifts in the outer
context that drive the need for sustainability when one has opened ones mind to it.
Context awareness is thus considered an essential first step in sustainability leadership
(Tideman et al., 2013). Subsequently, one needs to understand the relationship between
the shifting context and peoples way of thinking their minds. Much of what drives
these shifts has been created by human behaviors and their underlying mindsets and
beliefs, as was discussed before. Therefore, in order to determine the most effective
strategy to an address a particular sustainability challenge, it is necessary to unpack
the underlying mindsets, mental models and belief systems that have caused it
(Marshall et al., 2011). In short, the GNH model shows us that the practice of
sustainability leadership cannot be fully successful without a contemplative practice
that helps leaders to train and develop their minds.
This paper has reviewed GNH as an expression of leadership and its implications for
sustainability leadership. While GNH in Bhutan is still work in progress,its
underlying philosophy and the process of developing the GNH index obviously
enriches the understanding of national-level leadership for sustainability, including
governance, policy making, national accounting and education for sustainable
development. The review of the roots of GNH, especially its background in Buddhist
philosophy, has provided a new perspective on the leadership dimension of GNH.
In fact, GNH leadership with its focus on the principles of interconnectedness, serving
stakeholders needs, governance and cultivating societal well-being including the inner
dimension of subjective happiness, can be regarded as an innovation in leadership of
sustainable development. Thanks to insights of modern science, the GNH principles
seem to correspondent to a new economic paradigm, replacing the flawed image of the
homo-economicus with a much more sophisticated and hopeful view of human beings
in relation to their environment.
As the paper described, sustainability can be conceived as an inevitable trend
arising out of the increasing interrelatedness and interdependency between business,
society and eco-systems, and in that regard converges with the principles behind GNH.
Downloaded by Mr Brian Keilson At 11:51 15 June 2016 (PT)
Because of that convergence, GNH leadership principles can deepen our understanding
of how to design and implement effective sustainability strategies, both at macro-levels
and micro-levels.
With regard to building sustainable business organizations, the GNH leadership
model encourages business leadership to define the purpose and strategy of the
business from the viewpoint of the larger interconnected economic, ecological and
societal context in which it operates and onwhichitisdependentforitsownlong-
term success, and identify needs in that larger context that the organization could
serve. By linking sustainability with stakeholder happiness and enlightened
self-interest, GNH gives impetus to ideas such as creating shared value and Business
Sustainability 3.0.
The review of GNH has also demonstrated that since all people search for
sustainable happiness, it is helpful to view sustainability leadership as a process of
enhancing the well-being and happiness of all stakeholders and make them active
participants in this respect. The example of GNH implies also that if people want to
genuine and sustainable well-being, it is not sufficient to only provide the external
conditions for happiness. Equally important is it to equip people with the skills to
cultivate the inner, subjective experience of happiness, as this experience is considered
more reliable and durable than happiness dependent on external causes.
GNH leadership is also relevant in the recognition that sustainability represents a
gradual yet fundamental shift in the orientation of leadership on many levels.
For leaders in business this entails a shift away from pursuing purely financial profits
for shareholders, to the sustainable well-being of all stakeholders. Both the history of
Buddhist leadership and research in sustainability points to the important role of
leadership and governance in driving, measuring and overseeing this transformational
reorientation. Moreover, the GNH index can be a source of inspiration for creating
comprehensive sustainable performance indicators by capturing multiple dimensions
of value.
GNH leadership, as it is practiced in Bhutan and being based in Buddhist
psychology, can greatly contribute to the emerging theory of sustainability leadership,
which is generally built on the transformational leadership literature. The six
perfections of the Bodhisattva can be regarded as leadership qualities that represent
both theoretical and practical enhancements of sustainability leadership. The most
important contribution of GNH leadership is the fact that it is so explicitly rooted in the
principle of interconnectedness, which is linked to the perfection of wisdom. This
enables the concept to serve as model for leadership that has to deal with complex
interconnected challenges such sustainability.
Lastly, the Buddhist views on training the mind can help practitioners of
sustainability leadership to become sustainability warriors.While much of the
current global sustainability crisis is unprecedented, it appears that the interconnected
and interdependent worldview that solutions to the crisis are calling for has been
recognized and practiced by leaders in Buddhist-inspired civilizations such as Bhutan.
The preservation of the contemplative traditions like the Bodhisattva path suggests
that the leadership practice we need to employ in order to deal with this new paradigm
may already exist.
1. The interview took place in Thimpu, Bhutan on March 30, 2015.
Downloaded by Mr Brian Keilson At 11:51 15 June 2016 (PT)
Bakshi, R. (2005), Gross National Happiness, Resurgence, available at:
21083/gross_national_happiness (accessed March 19, 2015).
Ban Ki-moon (2012), Speech of UN Secretary General, UN Press Release, April 2, available at: (accessed March 5, 2016).
Bass, B.M. (1998), Transformational Leadership: Industrial, Military, and Educational Impact,
Erlbaum, Mahwah, NJ.
Bernanke, B. (2010), The economics of happiness, speech delivered, commencement ceremony,
the University of South Carolina , Columbia, SC, May 8, available at: www.federalreserve.
gov/newsevents/speech/bernanke20120806a.htm (accessed July 28, 2015).
Brundtland, G.H. (1987), Our common future: report of the World Commission on environment
and development, United Nations, New York, NY.
Burns, J.M. (1978), Leadership, Harper & Row, New York, NY.
Conger, J.A. and Kanungo, R.N. (1998), Charismatic Leadership in Organizations,
Sage Publications, Thousand Oaks, CA.
Conze, E. (1958), A Short History of Buddhism, Unwin Paperback, London.
The Dalai Lama (2002), The Meaning of Life from a Buddhist Perspective, Wisdom Publication,
Boston, MA.
The Dalai Lama, van denMuyzenberg, L. (2009), The Leaders Way: The Art of Making the Right
Decisions in Our Careers, Our Companies, and the World at Large, Kindle, New York, NY.
Desmet, M. (2013), Bruto Nationaal Geluk: Bhutan Inspireert de Wereld, Lannoo, Tielt.
Doppelt, B. (2012), The Power of Sustainable Thinking: How to Create a Positive Future for the
Climate, the Planet, Your Organization and Your Life, Earthscan, London.
Dyllick, T. and Muff, K. (2015), Clarifying the meaning of sustainable business. introducing
a typology from business-as-usual to true business sustainability,Organization &
Environment, available at:
Eccles, R., Ioannou, I. and Serafeim, G. (2011), The impact of a corporate culture of sustainability
on corporate behavior and performance, Harvard Business Review Working Paper
No. 12-035, Boston, MA.
Elkington, J. (1997), Cannibals with Forks: The Triple Bottom Line of 21st Century Business,
Capstone, London.
Elkington, J. and Heitz, J. (2014), The Breakthrough Challenge, 10 Ways to Connect Todays Profits
with Tomorrows Bottom Line, Jossey-Bass, San Francisco, CA.
Epstein, M.J. (2014), Making Sustainability Work: Best Practices in Managing and Measuring
Corporate Social, Environmental, and Economic Impacts, Berrett Koehler, Sheffield.
Forum for the Future (2011), Interview with Paul Polman, available at: www.forumforthefuture.
business-can-too (accessed July 31, 2015).
Galay, K. (Ed.) (1999), Gross National Happiness a set of discussion papers, Center of Bhutan
Studies, Thimphu.
Gilding, P. (2011), The Great Disruption: How the Climate Crisis will Transform the Global
Economy, Bloomsbury, London.
Gintis, H. (2000), Beyond homo economicus: evidence from experimental economics,Ecological
Economics, Vol. 35 No. 3, pp. 311-322.
Downloaded by Mr Brian Keilson At 11:51 15 June 2016 (PT)
Gitsham, M. (2009), Developing the Global Leader of Tomorrow, EABIS & Ashridge University,
GNH Centre (2015), GNH Centre Bhutan: gross national happiness in action, available at: www. (accessed July 31, 2015).
Goleman, D. (1997), Healing Emotions: Conversations with the Dalai Lama on Mindfulness,
Emotions, and Health, Shambhala, Boston, MA.
Goleman, D. (2003), Destructive Emotions: How Can We Overcome Them? A Scientific Dialogue
with the Dalai Lama, Bantam Dell, New York, NY.
Googins, B.P., Mirvis, P.H. and Rochlin, S. (2007), Beyond Good Company: Next Generation
Corporate Citizenship, Palgrave-McMillan, New York, NY.
Gowdy, J. (2009), Economic Theory Old and New: A StudentsGuide, Stanford University Press,
Palo Alto, CA.
Gross National Happiness. Centre for Bhutan Studies, available at: www.grossnationalhappiness.
org (accessed July 31, 2015).
Harvey, B.P. (1990), An introduction to Buddhism: Teachings, History, and Practices, Cambridge
University Press, Cambridge.
Hayward, K. and Colman, R. (2012), The economic value of voluntary work, Monograph No. 2,
National Statistics Bureau, Thimpu.
Helliwell, J., Layard, R. and Sachs, J. (2012), World Happiness report, Columbia University Earth
Institute, New York, NY.
Hopkins, J. (1984), The Tantric Distinction, Wisdom Publications, Boston, MA.
Jayapalan, N. (2001), History of India, Vol. I, Atlantic Publishers, New Delhi.
Jones, R.H. (2014), Nagarjuna: Buddhisms Most Important Philosopher, Jackson Square Books,
New York, NY.
Kahneman, D. (1979), Prospect theory: an analysis of decision under risk,Econometrica, Vol. 47
No. 2, pp. 263-291.
Kahneman, D., Diener, E. and Schwarz, N. (Eds) (1999), Well-Being: The Foundations of Hedonic
Psychology, Russell Sage Foundation, New York, NY.
Khyentse, D. (1993), Enlightened Courage: An Explanation of Atishas Seven Point Mind Training,
Snow Lion, Ithaca, NY.
Laszlo, C. and Zhexembayeva, N. (2011), Embedded Sustainability; The Next Competitive
Advantage, Greenleaf Publishing, Sheffield.
Loizzo, J. (2012), Sustainable Happiness: The New Mind Science for Well-being, Inspiration and
Compassion, Routledge, New York, NY.
Loizzo, J. (2006), Renewing the Nalanda legacy: science, religion and objectivity in Buddhism
and the West,Religion East & West, Journal of the Institute for World Religions, No. 6,
pp. 101-121.
Loy, D. (2015), Buddhist must awaken to the ecological crisis,Lions Roar, available at: (accessed March 4, 2016).
Lueneburger, C. and Goleman, D. (2010), The change leadership for sustainability demands,
MIT Sloan Management Review, Vol. 51 No. 4, pp. 48-55.
McCloskey, D.N. (2012), Happyism: the creepy new economics of pleasure,The New Republic,
June 28, available at:
economics-happiness (accessed July 30, 2015).
Mackay, J. and Sisodia, R. (2013), Conscious Capitalism: Liberating the Heroic Spirit of Business,
Harvard Business Review Press, Boston, MA.
Downloaded by Mr Brian Keilson At 11:51 15 June 2016 (PT)
Mancall, M. (2004), Gross national happiness and development: an essay, in Ura, K. and Galay, K.
(Eds), Gross National Happiness and Development, Center of Bhutan Studies, Thimpu,
pp. 1-50.
Marshall, J., Coleman, G. and Reason, P. (2011), Leadership for Sustainability: An Action Research
Approach, Greenleaf Publishing, Sheffield.
Metcalf, L. and Benn, S. (2013), Leaders for sustainability: an evolution of leadership ability,
Journal of Business Ethics, Vol. 112 No. 3, pp. 369-384.
Mirvis, P. (2011), Unilevers drive for sustainability and CSR changing the game, in Albers, S.,
Mohrman, S. and Shani, A.B. (Eds), Organizing for Sustainability, Chapter 2, Emerald
Group Publishing Limited, Vol. 1, pp. 41-72.
Mullin, G.H. (2001), The Fourteen Dalai Lamas: A Sacred Legacy of Reincarnation, Clear Light
Publishers, Santa Fe, NM.
Nagarjuna (2007), Precious Garland: Buddhist Advice for Living and Liberation (Trans. by
J. Hopkins), Wisdom Publications, Boston, MA.
NDP Steering Committee (2013), Happiness: toward a new development paradigm, Report of
the Kingdom of Bhutan, Thimpu.
Nidumolu, R., Kramer, K. and Zeitz, J. (2012), Connecting heart to head: a framework for
sustainable growth,Stanford Social Innovation Review, Winter 2012, available at: www. (accessed March 4, 2016).
Nikam, N.R. and McKeown, R. (1974), The Edicts of Ashoka,UniversityofChicagoPress,Chicago,IL.
Payutto, P.A. (1992), Buddhist Economics; A Middle Way of the Market Place, Buddhadhamma
Foundation, Bangkok.
Phuntshok, K. (2013), The History of Bhutan, Random House, London.
Porter, M. and Kramer, M. (2006), Strategy & society: the link between competitive advantage
and corporate social strategy,Harvard Business Review, Vol. 83 No. 4, pp. 66-67.
Porter, M. and Kramer, M. (2011), The big idea: creating shared value,Harvard Business Review,
Vol. 1, January-February, pp. 64-77.
Porter, M.E., Hills, G., Pfitzer, M., Patscheke, S. and Hawkins, E. (2012), Measuring shared value:
how to unlock value by linking social and business result, conference report, available at: (accessed March 4, 2016).
Prahalad, C.K. and Hart, S.L. (2002), The fortune and the bottom of the pyramid,Strategy
+Business Issue, Vol. First Quarter 2002, No. 26, available at:
(accessed March 4, 2016).
Ricard, M. (2006), Happiness: A Guide to Developing Lifes most Important Skill, Little Brown,
New York, NY.
Sachs, J.D. (2015), The Age of Sustainable Development, Columbia University Press, New York, NY.
Schein, S. (2015), A New Psychology for Sustainability Leadership; The Hidden Power of Ecological
Worldviews, Greenleaf Publishing, Sheffield.
Schumacher, E.F. (1973), Small is Beautiful, Economics as if People Mattered, Harper & Row,
New York, NY.
Senge, P.M. (2008), The Necessary Revolution: How Individuals and Organizations are Working
Together to Create a Sustainable, World. Broadway Books, New York, NY.
Shantideva (1997), A Guide to the Bodhisattva Way of Life (Trans. by V.A. Wallace and B.A.
Wallace), Snow Lion, Ithaca, NY.
Siegel, D. (2009), Mindsight, The New Science of Personal Transformation, Random House,
New York, NY.
Downloaded by Mr Brian Keilson At 11:51 15 June 2016 (PT)
Singer, T. (2001/2009), Understanding others: brain mechanisms of theory of mind and
empathy, in Glimcher, P. (Ed.), Neuroeconomics: Decision Making and the Brain, Academic
Press, London, pp. 251-268.
Singer, T. and Ricard, M. (2015), Caring Economics: Conversations on Altruism and Compassion
between Scientists, Economists and the Dalai Lama, Picador, New York, NY.
Sisodia, R.S., Wolfe, D.B. and Sheth, J.N. (2007), Firms of Endearment: How World-Class
Companies Profit from Passion and Purpose, Prentice Hall, New York, NY.
Snower, D. (2013), Redefining success, Opening Address at Caring Economics Conference,
available at: (accessed March 4, 2016).
Sybesma, F. (2013), We need to redesign our economy, Huffington Post Business, June 11,
available at:
2597564.html (accessed July 12, 2013).
Thurman, R. (1997), Inner Revolution; Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Real Happiness, Riverhead
Books, New York, NY.
Tideman, S.G. (2011), Gross national happiness, in Laszlo, Z. (Ed.), Ethical Principles and
Economic Transformation A Buddhist Approach, Springer, Dordrecht, pp. 133-153.
Tideman, S.G., Arts, M.C.L. and Zandee, P.D. (2013), Sustainable leadership; toward of workable
definition,Journal for Corporate Citizenship, No. 49, pp. 17-33.
Tobgay, T. (2013), Interview with Bhutans prime minister,New York Times, October 5,
available at:
leader-prefers-more-concrete-goals.html?_r=0 (accessed March 4, 2016).
Trungpa, C. (1984), Shambhala: The Sacred Path of the Warrior, Shambhala Publications,
Boulder, CO.
UN Sustainable Development Knowledge Platform (2016), available at: https:// (accessed March 4, 2016).
United Nations (2012), Resolution 66/281 on Happiness, UN General Assembly, July 12,
New York, NY.
Ura, K. and Galay, K. (Eds) (2004), Gross National Happiness and Development, Center of Bhutan
Studies, Thimphu, available at: (accessed July 30, 2015).
Ura, K., Alkire, S., Zangmo, T. and Wangdi, K. (2012), An Extensive Analysis GNH Index, Centre
for Bhutan Studies, Thimpu.
van Tulder, R, van Tilburg, R., Francken, M. and Rosa, A. de (2014), Managing the
Transitions to a Sustainable Enterprise; Lessons from Frontrunner Companies,
Earthscan/Routledge, London.
Visser, W. (2010), The age of responsibility: CSR 2.0 and the new DNA of business,Journal of
Business Systems, Governance and Ethics, Vol. 5 No. 3, pp. 7-24.
Wallace, B.A. (1993), Buddhism from the Ground Up, Wisdom Publications, Boston, MA.
Wallace, B.A. (2006), Contemplative Science: Where Buddhism and Neuroscience Converge,
Columbia University Press, New York, NY.
WBCSD (2011), Collaboration, innovation and transformation a value chain approach,
WBCSD report, World Business Council for Sustainable Development, Geneva, December.
WBCSD (2012), Measuring impact framework: a guide for business, WBCSD report, World
Business Council for Sustainable Development, Geneva.
White, A.G. (2007), A Global Projection of Subjective Well-being: A Challenge to Positive
Psychology?, University of Leicester, Leicester.
Zoeteman, B.C.J. (2013), Whats behind the leadership shift in sustainable development from
politicians to CEOs?,Environmental Development, Vol. 8, pp. 113-130.
Downloaded by Mr Brian Keilson At 11:51 15 June 2016 (PT)
Further reading
The Dalai Lama, Cutler, H.C. (1998), The Art of Happiness: A Handbook for Living, Riverhead
Books, New York, NY.
The Dalai Lama (2005), The Universe in a Single Atom, Random House, New York, NY.
Doppelt, B. (2003), Leading Change Toward Sustainability: A Change-Management Guide for
Business, Greenleaf Publishing, Sheffield.
Goleman, D., McKee, A. and Boyatzis, R. (2002), Primal Leadership; Leading with Emotional
Intelligence, Harvard Business Press, Boston, MA.
Kasser, T. (2003), The High Price of Materialism, The MIT Press, Boston, MA.
Myers, D. and Diener, E. (1995), Who is happy?,Psychological Science, Vol. 6 No. 1, pp. 10-19.
Senge, P.M. (1990), The Fifth Discipline: The Art and Practice of the Learning Organization,
Doubleday Currency, New York, NY.
Tideman, S.G. and Arts, M.C.L. (2013), Empowered leadership: qualities and mindsets to create
post-crisis economic, social and ecological value, in Hoogenboom, B. (Ed.), Gorillas,
Markets and the Search for Economic Values, Nyenrode University Press, Breukelen,
pp. 317-326.
Unilever Sustainable Living (2012), Unilever Sustainable Living report, available at: www. (accessed March 5, 2016).
World Bank (2012), Inclusive green growth, World Bank Annual Report, The World Bank,
Washington, DC.
About the author
Sander G. Tideman is a Senior Research Associate, Rotterdam School of Management, Erasmus
University and the Managing Director, Mind & Life Institute Europe. He was an Advisor to the
Centre for Bhutan Studies on Gross National Happiness in 2003-2004. Sander G. Tideman can be
contacted at:
For instructions on how to order reprints of this article, please visit our website:
Or contact us for further details:
Downloaded by Mr Brian Keilson At 11:51 15 June 2016 (PT)
... Besides, Payutto (1988) argues that writing of "Small is Beautiful" and the interest of western economists in Buddhist economics is a response to the crisis. Likewise, Tideman (2016) mentions that the development of GNH comes at the stage that the world commences to face environmental and societal issues. ...
... GNH in Bhutan commenced as a holistic approach to sustainable development, which signifies a unique way of measuring the economy of the country. According to Tideman (2016), GNH is indeed a few steps ahead of the common understanding of sustainable development, which is based on triple values comprising of social, ecological and economic dimension -Triple Bottom Line concept. GNH, as a sustainable approach prioritises the environmental dimension over society [people] and society takes precedence over profit [economy]. ...
... GNH, as a sustainable approach prioritises the environmental dimension over society [people] and society takes precedence over profit [economy]. This indicates that GNH holistically views sustainable development as a mutual interdependence among environment, society and economy (Tideman, 2016). On the other hand, the Triple Bottom Line concept of corporate social responsibility considers people, planet and prosperity equally. ...
Full-text available
Roles and responsibilities of the business community towards society are underexplored and least understood by the business community as well as by the society in general. In the absence of any guideline on the societal responsibilities of the business community in Bhutan, an intellectual gap possibly exists between the ideology of Gross National Happiness and the roles of the business community. Thus, this review explores the tangible societal responsibilities of the business community. It also discusses the long-established arguments on the roles of business to society beyond profit-making and maximizing its financial well-being. Using keywords such as the business community, well-being, social responsibilities, Buddhist economics, western economies, and sustainable business, 114 articles were retrieved from the web-based resources. The data generated thus were analysed using the constant comparison analysis of QUAL approach. The finding indicates that the societal responsibility of the business community is an oxymoron conceptually. The paper also addresses the principles of Gross National Happiness as an approach to promoting an active and sustainable business community. However, in- depth research is necessary to understand the roles and responsibilities of the business community in the context of Gross National Happiness.
... The GNH proposes an approach that measures social progress while disregarding material production. This allows the GNH to overcome the disadvantages of GDP on the economic policy debate and to provide a vision of economic performance that enables a strong vision of sustainability [101,[104][105][106]. However, the main weakness of using a happiness-based indicator is that happiness is a subjective, contextual and culturally shaped notion that is defined differently across different societies [107]. ...
... Furthermore, it could be challenging to measure GNH consistently. Although Bhutan does not have an explicit CE policy, and there are no cases where the GNH has been applied as an indicator to measure performance of CE practices, the political impact of GNH index had important implications for the sustainability performance of Bhutan as this indicator encourages a more convivial perspective to develop the economy as it does not demand an increase in economic production [101], [106]. ...
Full-text available
The circular economy has the potential to promote systemic change towards a sustainable future. However, the dominance of technical and market-oriented considerations has placed the circular economy as part of an eco-modernist agenda, which retains growth in gross domestic product as the overarching priority. In this context, we analyse 12 existing macroeconomic indicators, developed and implemented by governments and international organisations, and determine if they could enact alternative notions of circularity. Specifically, we focus on the performative role that indicators can play in both defining and surmounting such reductionist views, thus helping us to address the world we want to create. We find that many of these indicators are agents of the status quo, but that some could disrupt the omnipotence of GDP thereby getting the macroeconomic conditions right for a more ambitious understanding of the circular economy.
... At the same time, it embodies new values and principles of regulation of economic, social, and environmental processes. During the 66-th Session of the United Nations (UN) General Assembly in 2012, the international conference "Defining a New Economic Paradigm: The Report of the High-Level Meeting on Wellbeing and Happiness" was held with the aim of incorporating the goal of societal happiness into the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) (Tideman, 2016). Happiness becomes an up-to-date issue in SD agenda after its acceptance as one of the important goals with UN resolution 65/309 (Happiness: towards a holistic approach to development (NDP Steering Committee and Secretariat, 2013) and resolution 66/281 which accepted March 20-th as International Day of Happiness (UN, n.d.;UN, 2012). ...
... Good governance domain in this context includes the ST values and principles which go together with other national and international specific laws regarding the tourism industry. Individuals that take leadership responsibilities have the opportunity to learn specific skills, knowledge and behavior necessary for governing groups and organizations (Demircioglu, 2014;Southworth, 2013;Tideman, 2016). Education and training programs provided by the company, such as leadership, office management and others, could also enhance their governing skills. ...
Full-text available
The continuous commitment of companies from different sectors to demonstrate ethical demeanor of their business activities and bring about development of the respective economy, while maintaining the society’s wellbeing, has seen enormous activism in the last years. This has been very much evident in the tourism sector where the responsibility towards the society takes many forms, ranging from initiatives to promote activities for cleaner environment to programs for supporting quality of life and fair payment for employees and their families. Given this shift in policy making and execution of tourism market players, this paper aims to critically evaluate the extant sources of literature in the field of sustainable management of tourism, happiness concept in sustainable development and tourism, and on this premise – to blueprint a conceptual model that can serve entities in the industry for effective running of their sustainability courses of action. Happiness was accepted as one of the important goals of Sustainable Development with some United Nations resolutions. In this relation, happiness became an up-to-date topic in the Sustainable Development agenda as a way for holistic measure of success on the national and international levels. So, the authors would like to propose Business Gross Happiness as an indicator for companies in the sustainable tourism industry to measure their success in their course to sustainable development goals.
... The concept of service is also found in the three distinct leadership concepts: The Ubuntu leader and followers who empower each other (Ntibagirirwa 2012; Van den Heuvel 2007;; the Boddhisatva leader that shepherds his people with wisdom and compassion (Tideman 2016;Tshering 2008;; and the Native American indigenous leader, who's vision reaches seven generations beyond (Clarkson et al 1992; ...
... And thus, a different type of leader emanates. The concept of service is also found in the three distinct leadership concepts: The Ubuntu leader and followers who empower each other (Ntibagirirwa, 2012;Van den Heuvel, 2007); the Boddhisatva leader that shepherds his people with wisdom and compassion (Tideman, 2016;Tshering, 2008); and the Native American indigenous leader, who's vision reaches seven generations beyond (Clarkson et al., 1992). This ties in with notions of servant-leadership enabling others to perform better, out of a deep desire to help others (Greenleaf, 1977). ...
Full-text available
The United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) require leadership to fulfil their promise in 2030. While much has been written about the need for and types of leadership necessary for achieving the SDGs, limited literature exists describing the leadership styles and models appropriate for achieving the SDGs. In this essay, several leadership styles are introduced as candidates for enhancing the UNESCO competencies for achieving sustainable development. System leadership and servant leadership concepts converge well with the UNESCO competencies for sustainability leadership, with the latter adding the extra dimensions of listening, healing, awareness, persuasion, stewardship, and personal growth. These extra dimensions of servant leadership are similar to those in Buddhist Boddhisatva leadership (shepherding), which can be associated to Gross National Happiness (originating from Bhutan), aiming at balancing material and spiritual wealth and the cultural, economic, social, and good governance dimensions of sustainable development. Other knowledge and leadership systems of the Global South have a somewhat different perspective than Western ones, advocating collective agency (encompassing and going beyond individual agency). This is demonstrated in people empowering Ubuntu leadership (South Africa) leading the community; whereby the community consists of the ancestors and unborn; and a person exists only through respect for the other as well as Earth. Indigenous leadership councils aim at balancing seven generations of ancestors and future generations, which can be associated with Buen Vivir (originating from the Quechua, and embraced in Bolivia and Ecuador), for achieving biocentric harmony with nature within the community of life.
... Wangchuk's statement that 'Gross National Happiness is more important than Gross National Product' was meant to be a clear rejoinder to such presumptions of Bhutan's inferiority (Elliott 2015). 5 For example, see Tideman (2016); Allison (2012); Burns (2011); Kelly (2012), or Schultz (2017). A common theme in media coverage and academic analysis of GNH has been the novelty of Bhutan's prioritization of happiness as a national goal and the ways in which the adoption of GNH principles by the international community could radically reorient fields like international development studies and sustainability management. ...
Full-text available
This article synthesizes and clarifies the significance of the last half-century’s developments in Bhutan’s politics within the frame of Buddhist political thought. During this time, Bhutan has held a curious position in the international community, both celebrated as a Buddhist Shangri-La defending its culture in the face of globalized modernity, and at times, criticized for defending its heritage too conservatively at the expense of ethnic minorities’ human rights. In other words, Bhutan is praised for being anti-modern and illiberal and denounced for being anti-modern and illiberal. As an alternative to understanding Bhutan vis-à-vis this unhelpful schema, and in order to better grasp what exactly is underway in Bhutan’s political developments, I read Bhutan’s politics from within the tradition of Buddhist political literature. I argue that the theory of governance driving Bhutan’s politics is an example of Buddhist modernism—both ancient and modern, deeply Buddhist and yet manifestly inflected by western liberalism. To elucidate Bhutan’s contiguity with (and occasional departures from) the tradition of Buddhist political thought, I read two politically-themed Buddhist texts, Nāgārjuna’s Precious Garland and Mipham’s Treatise on Ethics for Kings, drawing out their most relevant points on Buddhist governance. I then use these themes as a lens for analyzing three significant political developments in Bhutan: its recent transition to constitutional monarchy, its signature policy of Gross National Happiness, and its fraught ethnic politics. Reading Bhutan’s politics in this manner reveals the extent to which Buddhist political thought is underway in this moment. Bhutan’s Buddhist-modernist theory of governance is a hybrid political tradition that evinces a lasting commitment to the core values of Buddhist political thought while at the same time being responsive to modern geopolitical and intellectual influences.
... Many governments and organizations, such as those in France, the United Kingdom, China, and the United Nations, have recently claimed to be promoting people's happiness (Frey & Gallus, 2016). In 1972, the fourth King of Bhutan, Jigme Singye Wangchuk, was the first to propose the concept of Gross National Happiness (GNH), in which societal happiness was regarded as the theme of national efforts and policies (Tideman, 2016;Verma, 2017). In the report of the 19th National Congress of the Communist Party of China (CPC) published 2017, it was pointed out that the contradiction between unbalanced and inadequate development and the people's ever-growing need for a better life is the principal contradiction in Chinese society. ...
Traditional media (e.g., newspapers, radio, and television) and new media (e.g., the Internet, SNS, and mobile devices) are equally important in individuals’ access to political news about governmental performance and social problems. This study is aimed at examining the effects of political news media use on civil happiness. The mediation effects of public trust in government (GT) and their perceived social risks (PSR) are considered. Specifically, GT concerns people’s trust that government functions in the public interest and fulfills its promises, while PSR is individuals’ perception of the risks of social problems. A total of 3,561 samples were used in the final data analysis. In line with theoretical arguments, the empirical evidence showed that the influence of political news exposure through traditional media (PTMU) and new media use (PNMU) on happiness differed. For example, PTMU increased happiness by enhancing GT, but it was not the case in PNMU. PNMU decreased happiness by enhancing PSR; however, its effect on PTMU was insignificant. The results suggest that the accessibility of political news should be enhanced, and the level of public trust in the government should be increased to promote civil happiness.
... According to Inoguchi & Fujii (2012) this notion of QOL with objective approach represents the conditions under which people live and subjective approach is basically how people feel about these conditions. The dynamic nature of QOL has been studied in several countries as a social phenomenon; for example, Portugal (Sousa Gomes et al., 2010) Scandinavian countries (Erikson, 1993), Germany (Hoebel et al., 2013), Bhutan (Ura & Galay, 2004;Tideman, 2016). Past studies have associated QoL with happiness. ...
The article’s goal is to examine the impact of legal regulations on social capital on example of Poland. Due to specific conditions of Poland’s history of the last 200 years, legal institutions were not supposed to contribute to creation of social capital and in fact made it difficult. Our objective is to investigate the role of positive law in social capital building process. In the authors’ view, the relationship between statutory law and social capital is a complex one. On the one hand, a large stock of social capital supports statutory law, which can therefore be applied more effectively. Moreover, in such a situation, legal regulations do not have to be too detailed and casuistic. On the other hand, inadequate legal regulations may reduce the resource and quality of social capital, while well thought-out regulations can, in turn, support social capital. After review of literature referring to the relationship between the law and social capital, factors influencing social capital are discussed. It is followed by a short history of social capital evolution in Poland. After WWII, Polish legal system contributed to stressing the differences between identified groups, each of them enjoying different privileges. Due to bureaucratic character of this law, it did not help to strengthen social capital. Final section deals with general issues of the law-making process. We are presenting a tentative proposal to expand regulatory impact assessment (RIA) methodology, used in Poland and other OECD countries, by aspects important from social capital perspective. In our opinion, social capital building aspects were formally and practically forgotten during legislative process. Our suggestions on how to deal with social capital in the law-making processes are meant to propose corrective measures.
Full-text available
The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)—a normative (non-binding) global international environmental agreement (IEA)—claim to be universal as they were multilaterally negotiated between UN member states. However, is giving the Global South a seat at the table truly inclusive development? This article looks at a cross-cultural comparison of the African philosophy of Ubuntu (specifically in South Africa), the Buddhist Gross National Happiness (Bhutan) and the native American idea of Buen Vivir (e.g. Ecuador) and how they view the SDGs, how they view ‘development’, ‘sustainability’, goals and indicators, the implicit value underpinnings of the SDGs, prioritization of goals, and missing links, and leadership. Viewed through the lens of the three cosmovisions of the Global, the SDGs do not effectively address the human–nature–well-being interrelationship. Other cosmovisions have an inherent biocentric value orientation that is often ignored in academic and diplomatic circles. These claim to be more promising than continuing green development approaches, based in modernism. On the positive side, the SDGs contain language of all three worldviews. However, the SDGs are not biocentric aiming to respect nature for nature’s sake, enabling reciprocity with nature. They embody linear growth/results thinking which requires unlimited resource exploitation, and not cyclical thinking replacing growth with well-being (of all beings). They represent individualism and exclude private sector responsibility. They do not represent collective agency and sharing, implying that there is a need for ‘development as service’, to one another and to the Earth. Including these perspectives may lead to abolishing the word ‘development’ within the SDGs, replacing it by inter-relationship; replacing end-result-oriented ‘goals’ with process thinking; and thinking in cyclical nature, and earth governance, instead of static ‘sustainability’. The glass can be viewed as half full or half empty, but the analysis shows that Western ‘modernism’ is still a strong underpinning of the SDGs. Bridges can be built between Happiness, Ubuntu and Buen Vivir in re-interpreting goal frameworks, global governance and the globalization process. This article is largely based on Van Norren 2017 (Development as service, a Happiness, Ubuntu, and Buen Vivir interdisciplinary view of the Sustainable Development Goals. Doctoral dissertation, Tilburg University, Tilburg, The Netherlands, 2017). Interview findings are numbered with A (Africa); B (Bhutan); E (Ecuador); S (SDGs).
Most companies today have some commitment to corporate social responsibility, but implementing these initiatives can be particularly challenging. While a lot has been written on ethical and strategic factors, there is still a dearth of information on the practical nuts and bolts. And whereas with most other organizational initiatives the sole objective is improved financial performance, sustainability broadens the focus to include social and environmental performance, which is much more difficult to measure. Now updated throughout with new examples and new research, this is a complete guide to implementing and measuring the effectiveness of sustainability initiatives. It draws on Marc Epstein's and new coauthor Adriana Rejc Buhovac's solid academic foundation and extensive consulting work and includes best practices from dozens of companies in Europe, Asia, North America, South America, Australia, and Africa. This is the ultimate how-to guide for corporate leaders, strategists, academics, sustainability consultants, and anyone else with an interest in actually putting sustainability ideas into practice and making sure they accomplish their goals.