a. What is the Green Economy?
Green Economy was first mentioned in the UK by a group of environmental economists called Blueprint for a Green Economy . But the term became trendy only in 2008, at the beginning of
the financial crisis, thanks to the UNEP (United Nations Environmental Programme), analysing policies and investments in the green sectors. Nonetheless we still lack a common understanding on what is actually Green Economy, although the most widely accepted one is UNEP’s “one that results in improved human well‐being and social equity, while significantly reducing environmental risks and ecological scarcities. It is low carbon, resource efficient, and socially inclusive.” Another definition we get from the Green Economy Coalition (that is a group of NGOs, Unions and other groups carrying out grassroot work on green economy) “an economy that provides prosperity for all within the ecological limits of the planet .” As well as producing the 5 25 principles of Green Economy :
1. The well-being principle: A green economy enables all people to create and enjoy prosperity.
- Green economy is people-centred. Its purpose is to create genuine, shared prosperity.
- Focuses on growing wealth that will support wellbeing. This wealth is not merely financial, but includes the full range of human, social, physical and natural capitals.
- Prioritizes investment and access to the sustainable natural systems, infrastructure, knowledge and education needed for all people to prosper.
- Offers opportunities for green and decent livelihoods, enterprises and jobs.
- Is built on collective action for public goods, yet is based on individual choices
2. The Justice Principle: Green economy promotes equity within and between generations.
- Green economy is inclusive and non-discriminatory. It shares decision-making, benefits and costs fairly; avoids elite capture; and especially supports women’s empowerment.
- Promotes the equitable distribution of opportunity and outcome, reducing disparities between people, while also giving sufficient space for wildlife and wilderness.
- Takes a long-term perspective on the economy, creating wealth and resilience that serve the interests of future citizens, while also acting urgently to tackle today’s multidimensional poverty and injustice.
- Is based on solidarity and social justice, strengthening trust and social ties, and supporting human rights, the rights of workers, indigenous peoples and minorities, and the right to sustainable development.
- Promotes empowerment of SMEs, social enterprises, and sustainable livelihoods.
- Seeks a fast and fair transition and covers its costs – leaving no-one behind, enabling vulnerable groups to be agents of transition, and innovating in social protection and reskilling.
3. The Planetary Boundaries Principle: The green economy safeguards, restores and invests in nature.
- An inclusive green economy recognizes and nurtures nature’s diverse values functional values of providing goods and services that underpin the economy, nature’s cultural values that underpin societies, and nature’s ecological values that underpin all of life itself.
- It acknowledges the limited substitutability of natural capital with other capitals, employing the precautionary principle to avoid loss of critical natural capital and
breaching ecological limits.
- It invests in protecting, growing and restoring biodiversity, soil, water, air, and natural systems.
- It is innovative in managing natural systems, informed by their properties such as circularity, and aligning with local community livelihoods based on biodiversity
and natural systems.
4. The Efficiency and Sufficiency Principle: The green economy is geared to support sustainable consumption and production.
- An inclusive green economy is low-carbon, resource-conserving, diverse and circular. It embraces new models of economic development that address the
challenge of creating prosperity within planetary boundaries.
- Recognises there must be a significant global shift to limit consumption of natural resources to physically sustainable levels if we are to remain within planetary
- It recognizes a ‘social floor’ of basic goods and services consumption that is essential to meet people’s wellbeing and dignity, as well as unacceptable ‘peaks’
- It aligns prices, subsidies and incentives with true costs to society, through mechanisms where the ‘polluter pays’ and/or where benefits accrue to those who
deliver inclusive green outcomes.
5. The Good Governance Principle: Green economy is guided by integrated, accountable and resilient institutions.
An inclusive green economy is evidence-based – its norms and institutions are interdisciplinary, deploying both sound science and economics along with local
knowledge for adaptive strategy.
- Is supported by institutions that are integrated, collaborative and coherent –horizontally across sectors and vertically across governance levels – and with adequate capacity to meet their respective roles in effective, efficient and accountable ways
- Requires public participation, prior informed consent, transparency, social dialogue, democratic accountability, and freedom from vested interests in all institutions – public, private and civil society – so that enlightened leadership is complemented by societal demand.
- It promotes devolved decision-making for local economies and management of natural systems while maintaining strong common, centralized standards, procedures, and compliance systems.
- It builds a financial system with the purpose of delivering wellbeing and sustainability, set up in ways that safely serve the interests of society.
Based on the explanations of 5 principles of green economy and aforementioned definitions, green economy can be summarised as an economy that takes into account human sphere and
planetary boundaries, and aims for every part of the economy to be just and inclusive.
b. What is sustainability and sustainable development?
Sustainability is a buzzword in almost everybody’s mouths these days, and a keyword in the non-profit sector, everybody wants it, does everybody know what it means? Back in 1987 the
UN stated that “humanity has the ability to make development sustainable to ensure that it meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet
their own needs.
Sustainability is often understood as a common thread uniting economic, social and environmental spheres, and it is actually a principle supported by those three pillars, and should any of these pillars show weakness then the whole system is weak and impared.
The three pillars are also known as People, Profit and Planet, and the goal is to motivate businesses and policymakers to focus not only on profit but on long-term well-being.
Sustainability is composed of two words, sustain and ability, the ability to maintain and to support. In the context of our planet we can understand that it concerns the ability to maintain
life on Earth, the well-being of its life and economy without compromising the needs of future generations.
There is also another term we should pay attention to, that is sustainable development, most commonly used as Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) by the United Nations. Who developed 17 SDGs, an urgent call to action for global partnerships, to end poverty and other inequalities alongside strategies to improve health and education, while fostering economic
growth, in parallel with tackling the climate crisis and preserving our biosphere.
Today pollution levels are higher than ever, our biosphere is facing mass extinction and entire areas of the planet are at high risk of becoming inhabitable, and this is already happening. It is important to recognise that we need to change our ways before it’s too late. A sustainable approach that takes into account the well-being of people, and ecosystemic diversity and needs of the economy is inevitable, and unfortunately, though progress is made we are still far from one-solution, and the pathway still shows some contradictions. Such as the economic
growth-centred development, an implicit aspect of sustainability, still fails to address what specifically needs to be developed, how and for whom, and how can economic growth be
sustainable l and at the same time socially and environmentally sustainable.
Can the economy be ever-growing on a planet grounded on sustainability? We don’t have theanswer quite yet, and we are working on it.
c. Tips for building a green business
Green business today is definitely a buzzword, but actually it comes with quite a big responsibility and commitment to follow the principles of sustainability (People, Planet and
Profit) and to avoid “Greenwashing”; that is the marketing strategy adopted by some companies to promote an ecologically responsible image with the public, no supported by reality and facts, in other words, pretending to be green.
Here you can find 8 tips for making your business green(er) inspired by the overview written by Enevo :
- Make an audit of your business idea, looking into different fields, such as waste generated, energy consumed, use of water, social responsibility and see how you match the 6 R rule : Refuse, Reduce, Resuse, Repeair, Rot and Recycle.
- Waste collection and recycling : All the waste generated is sorted and accordingly separated, and ensure team and customers follow the same behaviour, encouraged by
signs and trainings.
- Energy efficient tools and appliances: regardless if you are providing services or producing goods, there are many high quality appliances out there to optimise the
energy consumption, and reduction. (or just switch it off when it is not used 🙂 )
- Be up in the clouds: It is possible today in many places to open a business online without any paper work and digitally sign documents, reducing greatly the use of paper.
- Green Transportation : Foster the use of public transit, bycicles, walking, over personal fossil fuel transportation, reducing the use of cars and airplanes, measuring the
carbon footprint of your team and identify ways to reduce it.
- Green Materials : ensure the materials you purchase are sustainable, tracking down your value chain and ask suppliers for information concerning their resources.
- Product Life Cycle : how much are the products you use and/or sell reusable, repairable, can it be recycled? If not make some steps back to your product-design
- Communicate your Greeness : Let stakeholders and customers know about your efforts, today stories sell and you want for people around to cheer for you. Tell and demonstrate how your business is green, many out there will appreciate it, and don’t greenwash.
Indeed setting up a green business can sound like a hassle and extra work when compared to a regular business, taking into consideration electricity consumption, appliances, supply-chain, transport, waste, can be pretty overwhelming. And definitely this is not the easy way, nonetheless we can’t anymore afford in terms of ecology to continue with business as usual, because this is what has brought us on the brink of distaster. Green entrepeneurs are tasked we reinventing and rethink the economy and how to do business, it a burden indeed, yet a necessary one, and it needs patience, resilience and vision, to keep on improving the quality of our life and of the generations to come and live a good life on the planet that we deserve.