At the International Conference on GNH in Thimphu yesterday, Centre for Bhutan Studies (CBS) and Gross National Happiness Research (GNH) proposed GNH of Business Assessment Tool to certify businesses.

Close to 200 participants from 29 countries are attending the three-day conference.

The proposed tool is expected to systematically assess a business establishment’s effort to integrate GNH values into its operations.

The tool was developed based on the framework of GNH and its nine domains. The nine domains assess two components – worker happiness (psychological wellbeing, health, time use, education, and living standards), and organisational conditions for happiness (good governance, cultural diversity, community vitality, and ecological diversity).

Senior researcher with CBS and GNH, Tshoki Zangmo, said that worker happiness is included in the assessment because from a GNH standpoint people should be at the heart of every organisation. “There are numerous studies which show that workers’ happiness lead to good performance rather than good performance enabling the business to invest in workers’ happiness.”

Tshoki Zangmo said that organisational condition for happiness looks at the basic practices and operations. “To integrate GNH, business organisational values must be transformed so that it ultimately influences practices.”

Proposed GNH of Business describes organisational conditions for happiness as a construct to evaluate the internal arrangements and commitments made by a business for the promotion of workers’ wellbeing, environment, and society at large. “The concept is anchored by the view that businesses share a symbiotic relationship with communities and environment.”

A pilot survey was conducted from September to October this year to develop the tool. The survey involved 540 workers from 41 business firms in five districts – Thimphu, Chukha, Paro, Wangdue, and Punakha.

Senior researcher with CBS and GNH, Karma Wangdi, said that according to the current assessment criteria adopted, none of the 41 business firms earned the GNH certificate.  Most businesses scored under ‘below average’ or ‘average’ categories. “Only three out of 41 business entities managed to score enough to be in ‘good’ category, which is also much below the minimum required to earn the GNH certificate.”

The survey found that in the overall happiness score of the businesses, the top performers were from service sector. Production sector scored the lowest.

Karma Wangdi said that among the assessment score of the nine domains, the production sector scored higher than service sector only in the cultural domain. “This is because unlike business entities under service sector, some business under production sector producing arts and crafts related products pulled the sector up.”

In absence of an accreditation body, CBS and GNH was appointed as a certification agency. Prime Minister Tshering Tobgay said that in the next few months, CBS and GNH would improve the certification tool based on the inputs and feedback from the conference and from discussion with stakeholders. “The tool will have to be continuously reviewed and refined to test its validity, reliability, and relevance.”

He said that the assessing would begin with the public corporations under Druk Holding and Investments, and identify areas of improvements. “Once this is done, it is our hope that private companies and businesses will follow suit.”

Prime Minister Tshering Tobgay said that businesses would have to understand that prosperity at the expense of environment and community is not sustainable. “Their inclination towards inefficient use of human and ecological capital may give rise to social conflict and turmoil as vital stakeholders are shut out from sharing the fruits of growth.”

Karma Cheki