Aug 4, 2021

UK Wellbeing law

The “Wellbeing of Future Generations Bill” has completed the first stage of a 12 stage journey to becoming UK law [1].  Inspired by a similar law in Wales, the proposed bill, will require public bodies to improve “the economic, social, environmental and cultural wellbeing of the United Kingdom by taking action, in accordance with the future generations principle”.  We think this is an interesting development that will have a range of implications, but most immediately, the “S” part of ESG investments.  But first, the nuts and bolts of the bill.

Public bodies will have to set and achieve wellbeing objectives that have regard to national wellbeing goals.  The wellbeing goals will be established by public consultation, but proposed goals are:

  • A prosperous UK – and within environmental limits
  • A more resilient UK – maintain healthy ecosystems with a capacity to adapt to change including climate change
  • A healthier UK – physical and mental wellbeing is maximised
  • A more equal UK – society that enables people to fulfil their potential
  • A society of cohesive communities – well connected and safe
  • Vibrant culture – protects culture, languages and heritage
  • A more responsible United Kingdom – make a positive contribution to global wellbeing

To monitor progress, the Secretary of State will have to publish annual wellbeing indicators.  They will also have to publish likely future trends and risks. New roles of Comptroller, Auditor General, Commissioner and Joint Committee on Future Generations will be created to enforce, scrutinise, advise and ultimately impose sanctions on public bodies that fail to make improvements.

Metrics and indicators

Following the mantra that you can only manage what you measure, the fact that annual indicators will be a requirement is an excellent step forward.  As well as environmental metrics, wellbeing metrics will have to be established.  For those organisations who take their lead from Government thinking, and who have to provide “social” metrics for ESG investment, this new bill may provide a steer.

Social value metrics are notoriously poor in ESG investments [2].  This is particularly surprising because the science of “measuring” wellbeing is reasonably well established and the UK Government has been publishing (but not using!) wellbeing statistics for the last decade [3].

It’s not clear how long it will take for the bill to become law (if ever), but the fact that it has had a first reading is encouraging.

Whilst we wait for a standard set of social/wellbeing metrics to be established, there is no excuse for excluding environmental metrics from strategy development, monitoring, baselining and ESG investment statements.  Get in touch to see how we can help.


[1] Wellbeing of Future Generations Bill- see the Bill.

[2] Social factors in ESG reporting- see our blog post.

[3] we occasionally review these statistics and include them in a Maslow framework to estimate “average long term wellbeing” – see our blog post.


* indicates required