Bhutan proposes a Buddhist approach to business

Bhutan proposes a Buddhist approach to business

SAM Staff,
Guests, speakers, and dignitaries from Bhutan and around the world gather to share their research, experiences, and proposals at 7th International Conference on Gross National Happiness, Photo: Craig Lewis

Aiming to draw up a new, sustainable paradigm for business and entrepreneurship founded on Buddhist values and principles and driven by compassion, the Kingdom of Bhutan this week launched the 7th International Conference on Gross National happiness in the capital Thimphu, under the theme “GNH of Business.”

More than 400 guests and dignitaries assembled for the forum, including almost 200 academics, entrepreneurs, and experts from 29 countries, to share ideas, approaches, and experiences of social and environmental responsibility in the corporate context from across the globe.

While Bhutan, a small Vajrayana Buddhist nation nestled in the foothills of the Himalayas between India and China, has a population of just 780,000 people, the country has significant experience in maintaining the delicate balance of managing economic growth in a sustainable manner, famously encapsulated in its conservative “Gross National Happiness” (GNH) approach to national development.

The three-day forum, launched by Bhutanese prime minister Dasho Tshering Tobgay, aimed to build on this success, by translating economic principles to the business world.

PM Tobgay proposes a Buddhism-inspired model for sustainable corporate development.

He said, “Integrating GNH will essentially require businesses to value society and well-being over profit, and orient [their operations] toward responsible behaviour.

“From a GNH standpoint, business is a vital pillar of our society; one that must make an equal contribution, if not more, to improve its happiness.”

The remote Himalayan nation has achieved international renown for its Gross National Happiness (GNH) philosophy, which was first introduced in the late 1970s by Bhutan’s fourth king, Jigme Singye Wangchuk, drawing inspiration from the kingdom’s traditional Buddhist culture.

International academics, entrepreneurs, and teachers offered a broad range of presentations demonstrating scientific research into the efficacy of compassion-based models of corporate activity, and highlighting projects, initiatives, and organisations founded on similar values to the GNH model that are already flourishing and bringing positive, sustainable transformation to communities around the world-from rural Japan, Korea, Thailand, and Malaysia to India and Bangladesh; from the Netherlands and the Czech Republic, to the United States, Argentina, and even Machu Picchu in Peru.