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Vanity Fair New Establishment Summit - Portraits, October 7, 2015
Federica Marchionni, CEO of Lands End, is photographed at the Vanity Fair New Establishment Summit at Yerba Buena Center for the Arts on Oct. 7, 2015 in San Francisco. Michael Kovac—Getty Images Portrait

It’s Time for a New Measurement of Prosperity

Ideas
Marchionni has been CEO of Land’s End and president of Dolce & Gabbana

It is not unusual that in a family there is at least one member who is struggling—at school, at work, within the family or the community. And yet, normally, the family never gives up helping their relatives, even if they know that there is little chance of success. They help simply out of love and because they feel a moral duty as parents, brothers or sisters. With a lot of frustration and disappointment at times, still they look after the weakest member of the family to make sure he or she is fine. The interaction is often minimal but even the most fragile bonds are bonds nevertheless.

Every country, every society, every community has their own unsuccessful people. Will they ever turn out differently? Maybe. Maybe not. But with the same sense of commitment, a country, a society, a community needs to provide support to these people. They should not be rejected or treated as a waste of society since they, too, are a product of our society. They must be treated with understanding and compassion.

Politicians and economists measure the costs of these people for society. But we should challenge our perspective and start looking at ways to measure costs and results. We should indeed challenge Gross Domestic Product as the only way to measure the country's progress and instead find additional index to measure the success of a country. As Mark Thoma wrote at CBS MoneyWatch wrote, both Christine Lagarde, the managing director of the International Monetary Fund, and Nobel Prize-winning economist Joseph Stiglitz have been quite vocal in recent years about how GDP is a poor way of assessing the health of our economies and that we need to find a new approach and new measure. At the World Economic Forum last year, the discussion was centered on the digital age and the failure of standard GDP statistic over time. Studies have also challenged GDP measures, since they do not consider things that improve the quality of life but includes growth even caused by disasters (i.e. rebuilding after an hurricane); it also isn't adjusted for pollution or free products and services, because neither have a price. Most recently, prominent economists released a book, Rethinking Capitalism: Economics and Policy for Sustainable and Inclusive Growth, that focuses on the challenges that developed countries are facing for the limitations of orthodox economics.

We should, indeed, rethink and have a new approach. We need to do everything we can to provide support to the weakest members of our society. This of course has a cost—but we should instead view it as an investment. And what is the return on that investment? Humanity.

Humanity should be a value for our society and our community, and we should use it as a key qualitative indicator in addition to GDP. Progress has been made in measuring other factors which impact our lives and economy but definitely we need more researches and rethink how to measure our well-being.

Most importantly, globally, we should find ways to incentivize the countries that score high rates of Humanity. And work with those that do not.

Read more articles from the TIME/Fortune Global Forum at the Vatican on the role of business in solving the world's greatest problems.


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