What Exactly Is Green Economy & Why Does It Matter

ecology and the economy

Since the 1900s and the advent of the Industrial Revolution, society has taken on the role of a ravenous machine that feeds on natural resources unendingly. Driven by excess choice and consumerism, the current state of the environment and society as a whole face multiple challenges. Predominant among the former are issues such as climate change and collapsing biodiversity. Meanwhile, social fragmentation plague nations as we sacrifice our communities for the sake of progress and quality of life.

In present-day economics, the capitalistic system we have founded the society on is flawed in many ways. It incentivises profits, which in turn leads to overconsumption. This gain-first mentality has significantly eroded the environment, with the human race forsaking its balance and co-existence with nature.

The general consensus amongst the many argues that there needs to be a change to the current economic institutions. Mankind’s relationship between the environment and the economy doesn’t have to be mutually exclusive. It is not a zero-sum game – there is a way for our ecology and the economy to thrive harmoniously. That is the goal of a Green Economy.

A Deeper Look at Green Economy

It might surprise you to learn that the concept of a Green Economy has been propagating in the zeitgeist for the past decades. The World Resources Institute coined the Green Economy as an “alternative vision for growth and development; one that can generate growth and improvements in people’s lives in ways consistent with sustainable development.”

The core philosophies of Green Economy are built upon a balanced and realistic model that considers environmental and social externalities. Focusing on accounting for all facets other than profit and aiming for a long-term sustainable future, Green Economy is a concept that advocates for resource efficiency and social inclusivity.

In more textbook terms, let’s briefly break down the five principles that constitute a Green Economy: Well-Being, Justice, Planetary Boundaries, Efficiency and Sufficiency, and Good Governance.

“Well-Being” in this scenario aims to re-prioritise goals beyond mere monetary wealth. Health, happiness, education and community are pillars of this principle in order to create a sense of genuine and shared welfare equivocally. This leads to the following principle, “Justice” – an emphasis on equality and human rights, not preferential treatment based on social class or superficial characteristics.

Following this, “Planetary Boundaries” hopes to defend the intrinsic worth of nature by protecting our currently dwindling biodiversity.

Next, “Efficiency and Sufficiency” presents a more pragmatic way to achieve parity between economic and environmental goals. By aligning financial incentives with the true cost to society and the environment, this principle wants to build towards a low-carbon, diverse, and circular chain of operations.

Last but not least, “Good Governance” requires institutions to take democratic accountability and be transparent with all information. Extending to informed consent, these institutions should encourage public participation and inclusivity with all stakeholders inherent in the ecosystem.

The Role of Green Economy

After all these discussions about the Green Economy, what about its role in the current geopolitical climate?

The Green Economy is meant to serve as more of a macro-economic approach to sustainable economic growth. Long gone are the days where nations could mindlessly pillage rainforests and oil reserves to propel their GDP by double digits. No, the chickens have come home to roost, and now more than ever, we must be more conscious about how we approach economic growth.

Utilising the Green Economy’s thesis helps to foster fiscal growth and development while preserving precious natural assets. On top of that, it has the crucial benefit of fostering a resilient economy that can weather multiple cycles of depreciation, making our planet a better place to live in. Ultimately, this change in trajectory will also give rise to new green jobs without heavily compromising existing employment opportunities.

How Can Companies Play a Part in Promoting Green Economy

The buck stops with you. How can you effect this change and advocate for a Green economy as a small business or a multinational corporation? The first few steps are the trickiest, but reform begins by systematically reviewing the current supply chain. Make deliberate and intentional changes to redesign manufacturing processes or embrace relevant new technologies. An example of this would be adopting solar panels and alternative sources of fuel, as opposed to relying solely on natural gas. 

On a more individual and personal level, advocate for change and causes and make the most of your voice. Although you might feel a lack of agency, acting as just one person, the truth is – change begins on the ground, and soon one person becomes ten and ten becomes hundreds. The scale of change increases exponentially from then on out.

The transition to the Green Economy system will bear challenges, and it will be a lengthy, if not arduous, process. Despite that, it is completely necessary if we want to continue our existence on this gorgeous blue marble we call home. Some people might place their faith in future life out there amongst the stars, hoping to colonise alien planets. Me? I place my faith right here – in the community and people around me, working together for a better future.