A Policy Compass for Ecological Economics in the Digital Age


  • Michèle Friend George Washington University


Policy compass, policy decisions, qualitative accounting, ecological economics, environment, sustainability


A policy compass indicates the direction and degree of success of a policy in both very general qualitative terms and in robust statistical terms. I propose to modify the compass to reflect the underlying suppositions of ecological economics: that society is dependent on the environment, and that economic activity is dependent on society. We can think of this as three concentric circles, the economy being the smallest.

Any formal institution[1] can develop a policy compass to examine the discrepancy between what the institution would like to do (its mandate) and the actual performance and situation it finds itself in, where the latter is determined through an aggregation of statistical data and facts. These are made robust and stable using meta-requirements[2] of convergence. They can be aligned with some of the fundamental conceptual and normative thinking of ecological economics with this new adaptation of the compass.

In this paper, the general policy compass is explained, followed by an adaptation for ecological economics. The policy compass is original, and so is the adaptation.  The compass is inspired by the work of Satish Kumar, Stanislav Schmelev, Anthony Friend, Georgescu-Roegen and Rob Hoffman. In the conclusion, I discuss the accompanying conception of sustainability.

[1] An institution is any of: a convention or habit, a norm or valued social practice and a formal institution. The latter has a formal structure and distinguishes itself from the other two by including explicit rules and a mechanism for re-enforcement or correction. The legal system, universities, banks, city councils, hospitals, libraries and so on are all formal institutions. 


Author Biography

Michèle Friend, George Washington University

Associate professor, Department of Philosophy, George Washington University, Washington D.C.., U.S.A. 

Specialising in: philosophy of mathematics and logic, philosophy of science, philosophy of economics and qualitative accounting.



How to Cite

Friend, M. (2019). A Policy Compass for Ecological Economics in the Digital Age. Proceedings of the 61st Annual Meeting of the ISSS - 2017 Vienna, Austria, 2017(1). Retrieved from https://journals.isss.org/index.php/proceedings61st/article/view/3047



SABI: Systems Applications in Business and Industry