Jennifer Hinton

Towards An Economy That Allows Life On Earth To Thrive
Fri 14 January 2022
12:00 CET (Brussels time)

Towards An Economy That Allows Life On Earth To Thrive

The profit motive is the engine of the capitalist economy. Yet, this engine is destroying the basis for life on Earth. The relentless pursuit of private financial gain is driving inequality, the global environmental crises, and even the decline of democracy around the world. This is not the result of a few bad apples, a handful of greedy business owners or uninformed CEOs making bad decisions. The widespread nature of this problem and the fact that it continues to worsen over time indicate that it is a systemic problem. Indeed, the pursuit of private financial gain is a key organising principle of the capitalist system. It is increasingly acknowledged that the global economy needs to be radically transformed in order to meet everyone’s needs within the ecological limits of the planet. But how?

Debates about how to change the economy often get stuck in the dichotomy of market-based versus government-based solutions. Meanwhile, political divides continue to grow as there is no clear way forward. After decades of the prominent but false narrative that there are no alternatives to capitalism, many people believe that we are stuck with capitalism, as a necessary evil.

However, history shows us that there are many diverse ways of organising the economy to meet human needs. In fact, businesses and markets don’t have to be capitalist at all. Existing not-for-profit forms of businesses show there are alternatives to the capitalist way of organising the economy that do not require a state-planned economy. We can have a not-for-profit market economy instead.

This talk gives an overview of the key problematic features and dynamics of the current economy (i.e., the for-profit economy), and offers a vision of how the economy can be transformed for sustainability. Building on existing not-for-profit business structures, Jennifer Hinton outlines how a not-for-profit market economy is a feasible pathway out of the dysfunctions of capitalism. With no private financial owners and a legal mandate to use all profit for social benefit, these businesses could provide the foundation of a truly sustainable and regenerative economy that the world so urgently needs.
Jennifer Hinton is a systems researcher and activist in the field of sustainable economy. Her work focuses on how societies relate to profit and how this relationship affects global sustainability challenges. Her relationship-to-profit theory uses systems thinking and institutional economics to explain how key aspects of business and markets drive social and ecological sustainability outcomes. She started developing this theory with the Post Growth Institute in the book How on Earth, which outlines a conceptual model of a not-for-profit market economy – the Not-for-Profit World model. She holds a double PhD in Sustainability Science and Economics. As an activist, she collaborates with civil society organisations, businesses, and policy makers to transform the economy so that it can work for everyone within the ecological limits of the planet. She is a researcher at Stockholm University and senior research fellow at the Schumacher Institute.