Building a well-being economy: Spotlight on Chavalit Tsao

Author and entrepreneur Frederick Tsao advocates for a new world order, helping readers reassess community, the self, and the role of businesses within the social ecosystem

In One Choice, One World, author and visionary Frederick Tsao argues for a shift in global consciousness from a worldview centered on profit and the individual accumulation of wealth and possessions to one that fosters connection, common purpose, and collective well-being. Tsao’s wide-ranging experiences in life and business—he’s the fourth-generation steward of his family’s business, IMC Pan Asia Alliance Group—have helped inform his worldview.

Born in Hong Kong, educated in the West, and a world traveler, Tsao says his mindset has been influenced by his exposure to diverse cultures. “As a baby boomer and a young entrepreneur, I trekked around the world and became sensitive to diverse cultures,” he says. “I questioned the nature and role of business and seriously considered sustainability and existential questions for my own business.”

In One Choice, One World, Tsao lays out a road map, he says, for “a renewed economic model of social transformation and integration.” Observing how unchecked market economies focus squarely on profit maximization, Tsao envisions a different model that measures progress in terms of the needs and interests of humanity. “We have an ethical challenge before us,” Tsao says. “Business needs to reinvent its ethical role in this new social economic system. The sustainability crisis today is created primarily by businesses; therefore, they need to lead the world out of this crisis.”

While Tsao sees wealth disparity as a symptom of pervasive flaws in today’s economic ecosystem, he is not advocating simply for a redistribution of resources. “I am not chanting the mantra of Robin Hood: to take from the rich and give to the poor,” he says. “Instead, I am advocating for a fundamental revamp of the economic model to facilitate social transformation and integration.”

Embracing and implementing such a model would involve a significant existential shift away from equating happiness with the accumulation of material possessions. While on the surface, these goals may seem idealistic, Tsao points to the United Nations as an example of an economic system that is shifting from measuring the economy’s growth via gross domestic product (GDP) to the recognized economic philosophy of gross national happiness (GNH), first introduced in Bhutan in the 1970s. Under GNH, an economy’s growth and success are measured according to nine domains of happiness and the collective security and wellness of its citizenry. Tsao believes that institutions that adopt GNH, paired with the principles of environmental, social, and corporate governance (ESG), will begin to change the overall health of the economic ecosystem and, in turn, humanity at-large.

Tsao suggests that the interconnectivity between Earth, the universe, and human beings has never been more apparent than in our age of globalization and technological innovation. This fundamental concept—that all of existence is part of a single system—is essential to both personal and societal transformation. “There is one choice,” he says. “Journey into our inner world to find purpose and meaning in life—cultivate our being, which informs our doing.”

While social tensions and political divisions may seem irreconcilable, from Tsao’s perspective, the growth of human civilization has always been contingent upon collaborating on common goals. Emotional responses too often shape perceptions, while true progress emerges from a place of calm neutrality and from embracing commonalities. “We need one common worldview,” Tsao says. “One common ground, for us to have common sense, so we put together common efforts to resolve our common challenges.”

Ultimately, Tsao hopes One Choice, One World will inspire readers to reassess their assumptions about community, personhood, and the role of businesses within the social ecosystem. Transforming business and global economic models requires first changing minds and perspectives. And Tsao is optimistic about humanity’s potential to embrace a new world order—one in which individual needs are met and citizens collectively adopt the role of shared stewards of the planet. At its core, Tsao’s worldview begins with a simple and deeply essential vision: “When I am well,” he says, “everything is well; and when everything is well, I am well—the I and the we are inseparable.”

This article was originally published in Publishers Weekly.