Economy for the Common Good – Our Future?

Economy for the Common Good – Our Future?

„Germans wish for a new economic order – to Germans, growth and money are not so important – the environment and social equality are much more so” Die Zeit 8/15/2012


Renowned German weekly newspaper “Die Zeit“ wrote on 8.15.2012: „Germans wish for a new economic order – to Germans, growth and money are not so important – the environment and social equality are much more so. (…) In the face of the European crisis, eight out of ten German citizens want a new economic order. This insight is the result of a survey by EMNID, the eminent opinion-research institute, which was conducted on behalf of the Bertelsmann Foundation.(…) Two out of three of those surveyed mistrust the capacity for the market to heal itself. Capitalism isn’t concerned with social equality, for the protection of the environment, or for the careful management of resources”.[1]

And in a press release from the Bertelsmann Foundation on 8.16.2012, vice chairman Liz Mohn explained: “In light of the financial crisis in recent years, the discussion about the concept of growth has become more complex:It’s no longer just about quantity, but much more about quality: We need solutions to how growth can be responsibly and sustainably organized. For this to happen, we must not only be ready and willing to make small reforms, but real change.“[2]


Start of the economy for the common good

Christian FelberViennese Philologist Christian Felber had since long been sensitive to the issue of humanity, so on October 6th, 2010, he started the movement for the Economy for the Common Good (ECG). He explains: „For me, The ECG provides a sensible and meaningful alternative. Not as the one, true solution, but as an open and collaborative model that can be fed inspiration by other models and different approaches. A model that is above all, based on humanity, solidarity, and building of trust. These values are like guiding stars for a meaningful coexistence in private, social, and economic life. A system of democracy lies in the heart of the common good because it provides a voice for all citizens, equality amongst people, and expression of humanity.“[3]

The current state of the movement according to the “Wiener Zeitung”, an Austrian newspaper: „(…) So far more than 1,300 companies, nearly 4,000 individuals, approximately 60 politicians and 164 associations in 18 countries of the world. In addition to the five core countries of Spain, Italy, Switzerland, Germany and Austria, there are also countries in North and South America, Eastern Europe, Scandinavia and Australia/New Zealand. Among the supporters, to name a few, are the Waldviertler Sonnentor from Austria (…) and Munich’s Sparda-Bank. In addition to generating a financial balance sheet, they also generate a common good balance sheet as well.“[4]


What is the goal of the economy for the common good?

It is beyond the scope of this book, but I hope that I was able to sufficiently describe most facets of the Economy for the Common Good to you.Felber continues his explanation: „The Economy for the Common Good describes the basic elements of an alternative economic order. Central to this vision are processes of change on the following levels:

  • In the economy, human values such as cooperativeness and respect should be rewarded -– the same values that make interpersonal relationships work.
  • The economy should correspond with the already present basic laws of western democratic values and goals.
  • Economic successcannot bemeasuredsolelyinmonetary terms(financial profit, grossdomestic product), but in terms of actual service that help society (e.g. Factors that benefit the quality of life).
  • The balance sheet for the common good will be the main balance sheet of all businesses. As many social, ecological, democratic, and solidarity-based businesses are proactive and organize themselves in this manner, the better the balance sheet results will be.
  • Companies with a positive balance sheet for the common good will receive legal benefits, like for example, lower taxes or cheaper credit.“ (Felber 2011)


The common good balance sheet as a management tool

Felber explains how many companies today voluntarily follow similar approaches in order to meet the needs and expectations of its clientele.They react by„Proving that they also support the common good and operate in socially responsible ways by using product labels (Organic farming, Fair trade), environmental management systems (EFQM, Balanced Score Card), codes of conduct, and sustainability reports (GRI). The problem is: All of these CSR instruments are non-binding. (…) As soon as they come into conflict with the main balance sheets, they are worthless.“[5]

Therefore, the balance sheet for the common good isn’t a measure of something new, but of what is already in place, and provides it in a meaningful, measurable, transparent, and sustainable framework. The foundation is measured by five vitally central values, the most of which are anchored in various constitutions: Human dignity, solidarity, justice, environmental sustainability and democracy. It’s a very practical question, of how these values are lived up to by thestakeholders and other relevant groups. This also includes suppliers, lenders, employees, owners, customers, products, services, partners and the social environment. At present, there are 18 public welfare indicators being measured, such as, how useful a product is and how humane the working conditions are, how ecologically things are being produced, how cooperative and united is one business working with another, how democratic are issues being decided upon, and how are the earnings divided, and are woman being payed equally as much as men? On the next page you’ll see the current Common Good Balance Sheet. For the second time, the SpardaBank of Munich has just published its own Common Good Balance Sheet.


[1] Die Zeit (2012): Deutsche wünschen sich neue Wirtschaftsordnung, in Zeit online from 8/15/2012,download on 8/28/2013 at
[2] Bertelsmann Stiftung (2012): Umfrage: Bürger wollen kein Wachstum um jeden Preis, Pressemeldung from 8/16/2012, download on 8/28/2013 at
[3] Felber, C. (2011): Vorwort zum Wohle aller: Die Sparda-Bank München und die Gemeinwohlökonomie – Broschüre der Sparda-Bank München, download on 8/28/2013 at
[4] Eder-Kornfled, R. (2013): 1300 Unternehmen unterstützen bereits alternatives Wirtschaftsmodell: Menschliche Werte in der Wirtschaft messbar machen, Wiener Zeitung am 31.7.2013, P. 25
[5] Felber, C. (2012): Gemeinwohl-Ökonomie, Deuticke, Wien, P. 38 – 42

Photo from Christian Felber by Michael Thurm


weekly excerpt from the book THE NEXT WAVE IN BUSINESS
wishing you a week of partnership
truly yours, Stefan Götz+


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