Family walking in city

Comprehensive Wealth

The Comprehensive Wealth project encourages governments and citizens to move “beyond GDP” as the fundamental measure of societal progress.

Wealth is, simply put, the sum total of the assets we own as a society. It is important because it represents the resources we have at hand today to ensure that social and economic activities continue in the future. For this reason, measures of wealth provide an important lens through which to regard future prospects for well-being.

In the past, wealth was defined to include only produced and financial assets. In recent years, however, our understanding has broadened considerably and it is now defined to also include natural, human and social capital. Collectively, these five asset categories have come to be known as 'comprehensive wealth'. Each is important in its own right because each is an input into the broad “societal production function” for well-being.

A key question is whether the size of the comprehensive wealth portfolio is growing over time. If it is, then national development is likely sustainable and well-being should be stable or increasing. If it isn’t, development is on an unsustainable path and well-being will certainly decline at some point. This is why measures of comprehensive wealth are increasingly understood to be crucial to assessing societal progress.

The principal objective of the comprehensive wealth project is to encourage governments to move “beyond GDP” as the fundamental measure of societal progress they report on and use in policy planning. After first preparing and carefully communicating a report measuring comprehensive wealth in Canada, this project is expanding to countries around the world to help shift the focus of the public and governments toward a more balanced perspective on progress.