Bhutan’s gross national happiness project: lessons from the East

Document Type

Conference publication

Publication details

Lamberton, G 2006, 'Bhutan’s gross national happiness project: lessons from the East', in R Attwater & J Merson (eds), Sustaining our social and natural capital: proceedings of the 12th ANZSYS Conference, Katoomba, NSW, 3-6 December, ISCE Publishing, Mansfield, Massachusetts, US. ISBN: 9780979168888.

Article available on Open Access


The small kingdom of Bhutan nestled in the eastern Himalayas has declared Gross National Happiness (GNH) as its national goal, clearly distinguishing its developmental path from nations fervently pursuing economic growth measured by increases in Gross National Product. Bhutan has a long history of preserving its natural capital, resisting the temptation to exploit rich mineral and forest resources, investing in the preservation of cultural traditions, social welfare and economic independence. Underpinning the Bhutanese objective of GNH is a strong tradition of Buddhist philosophy and practice leading to an alternative economic path which has much to offer the rest of the world in the global search for sustainability. This paper presents a proposal to examine the Buddhist and ethical underpinnings of GNH together with the accounting process of measuring progress towards this objective, leading to a discussion of whether the Western version of sustainability is inherently flawed due to the lack of a virtuous moral basis.