Author page for John Stutz

John Stutz

John Stutz is Vice President and a founding member of the Tellus Institute. His work has addressed utility regulation, energy policy, waste management, and sustainable consumption. He has appeared as an expert witness before regulatory bodies throughout the US and Canada. A central theme of Dr. Stutz's research has been human well-being as it relates to values, affluence, and the environment. He is a founding member of the Sustainable Consumption Research and Action Initiative (SCORAI).

Previously, Dr. Stutz served on the faculty of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology; the State University of New York at Albany, where he received tenure; and Fordham University, where he was co-director of the program in mathematics and economics. He received a PhD in mathematics from Princeton University in 1969.

Tellus Publications (Selected)

Quantifying Sufficiency

John Stutz

There is concern about the adverse environmental impacts that arise from resource use associated with the provision of goods and services. Increased efficiency in resource use and adoption of sufficiency as a basis for consumption are possible responses. There has been a good deal of effort to enhance efficiency but little as yet to foster adoption of sufficiency. In part this reflects a difference with respect to quantification. There is a well-accepted approach for efficiency but not for sufficiency. This paper proposes an approach for sufficiency and illustrates it with a number of examples. It argues that adoption of this approach would enhance efforts to reduce resource use and provide an effective means to deal with rebound. Building on the foundation that the approach provides the paper recommends actions which provide a start toward deep societal change.

Two Cheers for Piketty

John Stutz

In Capital in the Twenty-First Century, Thomas Piketty provides a sweeping explanation of inequality, but his proposed remedies offer reform, rather than the fundamental change essential to guiding the global economy toward a just and sustainable future.

Explaining the Easterlin Paradox

John Stutz

Two factors, concern about relative rather than absolute income and adaptation to increasing affluence, are central to the explanations offered for the Easterlin Paradox. This paper addresses the range of behavior for well-being that these factors might produce. A framework for the creation of models in which the behavior of well-being depends on the mechanisms governing the operation of the two factors is presented. Using it models that produce the paradox under well-defined conditions are developed. So are models in which well-being varies with average income. The explanations for the behavior of well-being provided by both types of models are shown to be plausible. In light of these results, deciding whether the two factors do in fact explain the paradox will require a detailed understanding of the way in which they operate. Developing that understanding remains a challenge.

Response to 'Creating the Future We Want'

John Stutz

The recent book Creating the Future We Want presents a policy approach for addressing a range of sustainability challenges. However, the optimistic perspective of the authors is not always backed up with sufficient evidence, and the authors ignore alternative perspectives on sustainability, particularly those that highlight the fundamental limitations of growth as a tool for a sustainability transition.

Originally published in Sustainability: Science, Practice & Policy 8, no. 2 (Summer 2012): 1-3.

The Quality of Development Index: A New Headline Indicator of Progress

John Stutz

This paper introduces and applies a new Quality of Development Index (QDI). The QDI provides a national-level measure of progress that reflects changes related to well-being, community, and the environment. The paper argues generally for a more explicit linkage between indicators of progress and values, and for a larger role for such indicators in quantitative scenario-based visioning exercises. The report recommends use of the QDI in place of the Gross Domestic Product, the current de facto headline indicator of progress.

The Unhappy Hedge Fund Manager: Thoughts on Work and Well-being

John Stutz

Does being (very) well-off enhance our sense of well-being? This paper explores the role of well-being in the workplace by reconsidering the pervasive assumption that more income leads to greater happiness. It cites a number of examples in the current economic downturn where companies' offering of choices to employees about their form of compensation resulted in lower costs, greater work-life balance and employee retention, and a general increase in well-being. As firms seek to increase employee engagement, these types of cases can prompt us to rethink our assumptions about what the real hierarchies of needs are in our organizations and how rewards of all types affect performance.

The Three-Front War - Pursuing Sustainability in a World Shaped by Explosive Growth

John Stutz

This paper characterizes the pursuit of sustainability as a three-front war. Success requires reductions not only in the environmental impact per unit of economic activity, but also in the economic growth to which we have become accustomed and the inequality that has accompanied it. To explain the difficulty in responding to this threefold challenge, the paper reviews historical data on the evolution of the global economy. Based on this review the paper argues that the explosive growth experienced since 1950 has created a world in which rapid progress toward and beyond affluence is 'business as usual.' The pursuit of sustainability is difficult in large part because it takes place within this world shaped by explosive growth. An income transition is suggested as part of the effort to fight the three-front war.

Work and Well-Being

John Stutz

In an economy focused on growth and individual gain, it is difficult to question the primacy of compensation among the indicators of welfare and create space for a broad discussion of the factors that contribute to well-being. Yet doing so is essential to corporate redesign. Earnings are but one contribution to a worker’s well-being. A long and satisfying work experience, rich in opportunity and fulfillment, depends on a host of tangible and intangible factors. The current economic crisis provides a rare opening for rethinking the linkage between well-being and work.

Paper Series on Corporate Design

Allen White, Marjorie Kelly, Rich Rosen, John Stutz

Edited by Allen White.
  • Beyond the Crisis: Policies to Foster Long-Termism in Financial Markets
    Rebecca Darr and Judith Samuelson
  • Toward a Bretton Woods II: Aligning a New Global Financial Architecture with Sustainable Development
    Paul Epstein
  • Tomorrow’s Owners: Stewardship of Tomorrow’s Company
    Mark Goyder
  • The Origins and Costs of Short-Term Management
    Kent Greenfield
  • Not Just for Profit: Emerging Alternatives to the Shareholder-Centric Model
    Marjorie Kelly
  • Markets at Risk: The Limits of Modern Portfolio Theory
    Steve Lydenberg
  • How Should the Economy be Regulated?
    Richard Rosen
  • Work and Well-being
    John Stutz

Climate Change, Development, and the Three-Day Week

John Stutz

Among the efforts to take affluence seriously are various proposals to reduce CO2 emissions while still permitting development to occur. Under these proposals, there are direct or indirect economic benefits for the less developed nations and substantial costs for the developed countries. As one might expect, developed countries either reject such proposals outright or provide only half-hearted support. One could enhance the appeal of the climate and development proposals by adding a call for a reduction in working hours. Addressing climate change, fostering development, and promoting a shorter work week is a policy package with benefits for the majority of the residents of the developing and developed countries.

Sustainable Solid Waste Management Using a Base-of-the-Pyramid Approach

John Stutz

This chapter discusses a range of arrangements and concerns associated with waste management in developing nations. The first three sections provide general background, discuss the standard form of privatization and introduce an alternative. The fourth section introduces the base-of-the-pyramid (BoP) approach and explains how it provides a framework within which the two apparently antagonistic approaches—standard privatization and the sustainable alternative—can be combined. The final two sections describe the combination and explain how it addresses past failures and problems. The final section also provides a brief general discussion of sustainability in the BoP context.

Originally published in Prabhu Kandachar and Minna Halme, eds., Sustainability Challenges and Solutions at the Base of the Pyramid (Sheffield, UK: Greenleaf Publishing, 2008).

A Failed Experiment: Why Electricity Deregulation Did Not Work and Could Not Work

Marjorie Kelly, John Stutz

The massive national experiment in electricity deregulation—launched by over a dozen states more than a decade ago in the wake of the Reagan revolution—has failed on multiple counts. Intended to reduce electricity rates, deregulation instead increased rates. For the ten months through October 2006, average rates in deregulated states were 55 percent higher than in regulated states. Volatility has also increased, and reliability has decreased. This report explains why deregulation failed.

What Does Happiness Look Like? The Well-Being Mandala

John Stutz

Whether a Great Transition occurs is, to a great extent, a matter of choice. “Push” (necessity, avoidance of risk/harm) and “pull” (pursuit of attractive options) will guide our collective decisions. Well-being is an important pull. Our understanding of well-being will, in part, shape the choices we make, individually and collectively, as we create our future. A broad, sophisticated understanding of well-beng is essential if we are to choose wisely. Accordingly, this paper reviews various perspectives on well-being and offers its own conception: the well-being mandala, a nested image of various facets of personal well-being residing inside broader social and environmental well-being.

The Role of Well-Being in a Great Transition

John Stutz

John Stutz analyzes available data on well-being, focusing on the three components of welfare, contentment, and freedom. He offers a vision of a future in which society has embraced the lessons learned from such analysis, particularly the importance of time affluence, and outlines a strategy to achieve a heightened quality of life through value changes, coalition building, and policy action.

Essay #10 in the GTI Paper Series: Frontiers of a Great Transition

Economic Benefits and Feasibility of Strategies to Reduce Petroleum Consumption in California

John Stutz

This report analyzes the economic benefits and the feasibility of implementing Proposition 87, California’s Clean Alternative Energy Act (CAEA), which will create a modest extraction fee on oil produced in California and use the proceeds (estimated at $4 billion over one decade) as research and production incentives for alternative energy, alternative vehicles, energy efficient technologies, and education and training. Based on our analysis, the CAEA will achieve the expected savings of 4 billion gallons of petroleum in 2017, and total savings of 10 billion gallons over ten years between 2007 and 2017. In achieving these savings, the CAEA will reduce greenhouse gas emissions and local air pollution while stimulating the California economy.

Economic Possibilities for our Grandchildren: Progress and Prospects After 75 Years

John Stutz

In 1930, as the Great Depression was beginning, John Maynard Keynes wrote the essay Economic Possibilities for Our Grandchildren. In it, he looked 100 years ahead to a future in which learning to live well had replaced the struggle for subsistence as the basic problem facing humanity. The future discussed by Keynes is now only twenty-five years away. Beginning with current data on income, the paper shows that progress beyond the struggle for subsistence has been limited to the developed countries and will likely remain so through 2030. Among these countries, overwork, rather than living well, is increasing. This paper calls for a fundamental change in values—away from overwork and toward living well—among the developed countries that might have positive feedback effects on the prospects of developing countries as well.

Can We Get There From Here? The Challenge of Restructuring the Electricity Industry So That All Can Benefit

John Stutz, Bruce Biewald, Daljit Singh, Tim Woolf

The California Public Utilities Commission (PUC) has announced its intent to restructure the electricity industry in this state. The primary objective of this report is to investigate whether small customers will have a reasonable opportunity to benefit from industry restructuring. While it is not possible to predict whether small consumers will benefit from restructuring, the report investigates whether there are plausible scenarios under which small consumers are likely to benefit. In particular, it analyzes the extent to which the requirement of real-time pricing (RTP) to participate directly in wholesale markets is likely to limit individual small consumers from potentially enjoying benefits from a competitive market.

Can Electric Utility Restructuring Meet the Challenges It Has Created?

Rich Rosen, Freyr Sverrison, John Stutz

Over the past five years, portions of the US electric utility industry have experienced a sweeping series of changes referred to as restructuring. These changes affect both the structure of the organizations involved in the electric utility industry and the institutional arrangements by which decisions involving planning and pricing are made. As change usually does, restructuring creates many challenges. This report identifies some of the challenges created by restructuring and then discusses the extent to which restructuring has met, or can likely meet, the challenges it has created.

Source Reduction in Massachusetts

John Stutz, Carolyn Gilbert

Source reduction, also often called "waste prevention," is defined by the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) as "any change in the design, manufacturing, purchase, or use of materials or products (including packaging) to reduce the amount or toxicity before they become municipal solid waste." This project addresses source reduction in Massachusetts, focusing on three areas: the application of methods developed by Tellus for the US EPA to quantify the aggregate amount of source reduction for MSW generated in Massachusetts; description and quantification of specific source reduction efforts, such as backyard composting, source reduction in Massachusetts; and identification and documentation of successful source reduction programs or efforts implemented elsewhere which might be appropriate for adoption in Massachusetts.

Aligning Rate Design Policies with Integrated Resource Planning

John Stutz

In recent years, the managers and regulators of public utilities have increasingly adopted the principles of integrated resource planning (IRP) as a means of providing energy services to customers at the lowest total cost to society. This report, prepared for the Committee on Energy Conservation of the National Association of Utility Commissioners, evaluates the interplay between IRP and rate design, two major tools for influencing consumer demand and lowering the total costs of utility systems.

Available for purchase at