Ethics and energy: a comparative study of gross national happiness and sustainability

Document Type


Publication details

Lamberton, G 2009, 'Ethics and energy: a comparative study of gross national happiness and sustainability', International Journal of Environmental, Cultural, Economic and Social Sustainability, vol. 5, no. 2, pp. 151-164.

Peer Reviewed



Underpinning Bhutan’s development is a Buddhist tradition providing a strong ethical foundation to achieve the inherently spiritual goal of Gross National Happiness (GNH). Theoretical equivalence of GNH with sustainability enables ethical influences to be compared leading to the question as to whether Western versions of sustainability are inherently flawed due to the lack of a virtuous moral basis.
A set of sustainability indicators provide data for a comparative study of energy policy, consumption and impacts in Bhutan and Australia contrasting Bhutan’s history of preserving natural and cultural capital whilst making steady economic progress, with Australia’s strong economic performance but lack of progress towards sustainability.
The paper concludes with a discussion of the implications of Bhutan’s GNH project for Western developed economies struggling with the challenge of sustainability.