Focusing on wellbeing in environmental policy practice

Published on the 9th of July 2024
How can central government ensure that its decision-making focuses in a targeted way on maintaining and enhancing ‘wellbeing’, with particular consideration for the domain of the living environment?
children playing in sand

Background and request for advice

In recent years, central government, provinces and municipalities have often stated that their policies are aimed at achieving wellbeing. The term ‘wellbeing’ expresses the idea that quality of life is about more than just money, material goods and services; it is also, for example, about the way we live together, the quality of the environment and how wellbeing is distributed.

There is a risk that this term conceals the fact that there are complexities, differing views of society and conflicting interests at play. Another risk is that the term is used to present ideas or concrete proposals as ‘good, because they contribute to wellbeing’, without making the underlying views or any additional negative consequences explicit. As a result, wellbeing becomes a fashionable concept with which we all identify but in which we also see confirmation of our own positions.

In this advisory project the Council will identify different ways in which we talk about and reflect on wellbeing and, in each case, will pinpoint what we are already doing well and what still needs to be done. It will also analyse the underlying values that are involved when it comes to policymaking and what importance is attached to them (by various actors).

Finally, the Council will look at how wellbeing is playing a role in decision-making and what is working well and less well. Here we are talking about the knowledge and information needed about aspects of wellbeing and their interrelationships, the preconditions that apply and the procedures involved in reaching decisions. The direction given during the implementation and realisation of projects and policies may also be covered here.

Based on these analyses, the Council will identify the main problem areas and offer the next government guidance on how to focus policy efforts on wellbeing, with particular consideration for the domain of the living environment.

The main question addressed in the report is:

"How can central government ensure that decision-making focuses in a targeted way on maintaining and enhancing wellbeing, i.e. taking into account economic, social and environmental aspects, current and future generations, impacts in other parts of the world and the distribution between groups of citizens? How can focusing policy efforts on wellbeing be made practically manageable for different applications and in different situations? And how can we ensure consistency in this process?"


Published on the 9th of July 2024.

Composition of the Council committee

Pallas Agterberg, Rli Council Member and chair of the committee
Jeroen Niemans, Rli Council Member
Erik Verhoef, Rli Council Member

External committee members:

Aniek Moonen, former chair of the Youth Climate Movement and co-chair of the Board of Trustees of WECF
Maarten van Poelgeest, partner at consultancy firm AEF

Information or response

To comment or for more information, please contact the project leader, Douwe Wielenga, at, or on +31 (0)6 2124 0809