Press release 2018-11-29

Researchers reveal a future beyond GDP growth

Expectations of economic growth are deeply rooted in our society. At the same time, ever-increasing consumption and production trigger increased pressure on the Earth's resources. Researchers in the Beyond GDP Growth project present findings that emphasize how important social goals in terms of welfare, social and ecological sustainability can be achieved through other means.

– Current patterns of consumption are not sustainable; we need to find other models for creating a society that provides a good life for all without exhausting the earth's resources. Taking continued economic growth for given risks locking us into yesterday’s solutions and driving us farther away from sustainable development. We need preparedness and strategies to achieve sustainability goals, regardless of economic growth, says Göran Finnveden, Professor of Environmental Strategic Analysis at KTH and one of the project leaders.

The multidisciplinary Beyond GDP Growth project has developed four scenarios for Sweden 2050 that do not mandate economic growth, but instead are constrained to a number of politically adopted ecological and social sustainability goals. Scenarios focusing on a sharing ­– peer-to-peer – economy, circular economy, automation and local self-sufficiency. Common to these scenarios, unlike the established norm, is that they do not assume a linear increase of consumption and that they involve a redistribution of resources. Targeting not only economic issues but also power structures and production.

– Using these scenarios in studies and discussions, we have shown that it is possible to move towards sustainable development with sustained or increased well-being. But this welfare may need to be based on values other than those that prevail in today’s society, says Åsa Svenfelt, Sustainable Development Assistant at KTH and Project Leader.

The researchers have investigated how housing, people’s working lives, mobility, food production and socioeconomics can be organized in the future and what is needed to guarantee employment, adequate income and a fair allocation of resources. The findings show that commodity consumption and air travel must be drastically reduced if we are to reach climate targets. In all scenarios, new construction is also restricted, albeit to varying extents.

An important conclusion reached by the studies is that economic growth does not play a critical role when it comes to achieving social, ecological or economic sustainability goals.

– Lower growth in Sweden and other wealthy countries need not imply less welfare or reduced social sustainability. The problems usually associated with low or no growth – such as unemployment, financial instability and increased indebtedness – can largely be avoided by focused policies, says Mikael Malmaeus at IVL Swedish Environment Research Institute.

Download the report: A Future Beyond GDB Growth
Download the brochure/short version

For more information, please contact:
Göran Finnveden, KTH, goranfi@kth.se, +46 (0)8- 790 7318
Åsa Svenfelt, KTH, asa.svenfelt@abe.kth.se, +46 (0)8-790 8818
Mikael Malmaeus, mikael.malmaeus@ivl.se, +46 (0)10-788 65 80

Beyond GDP growth – scenarios for sustainable urban development led by KTH and conducted in collaboration with IVL Swedish Environmental Institute, VTI, Uppsala University, Södertörn University and Lund University. The project also includes a number of social actors, such as TCO, MSB, the Ministry of Industry, the Västra Götaland region and several municipalities. It is funded by the Formas Research Council.