The Green Economy: What’s in a Name?

Angie - Test Knowles, | August-26-11



The Green Economy - What's in a Name?


The “green economy” - as a term, as a topic, and as a vision of economic opportunity - is everywhere. From popular media to research reports, the concept of the green economy has garnered enough attention to reach “buzzword” status.


Yet at the same time that everyone seems to be talking about the green economy, they are also discussing the lack of definitional consistency. Descriptions about what the green economy means or encompasses often differ widely.


As an interesting look at some of this variability, I decided to gather a few examples of the different ways the green economy has been recently defined.


Depending on the source, the green/clean/low-carbon economy is…


… “a fast-growing economic development model that focuses on the creation of green jobs, the promotion of real, sustainable economic growth, and the prevention of environmental pollution, global warming, resource depletion, and ecological degradation”( in the Globe Foundation’s British Columbia’s Green Economy: Building a Strong Low-Carbon Future, 2010, page 6).


… “one that results in improved human well-being and social equity, while significantly reducing environmental risks and ecological scarcities” (based on UNEP’s webpage for the Green Economy Initiative launched in 2008).


… “economic activity—measured in terms of establishments and the jobs associated with them—that produces goods and services with an environmental benefit or adds value to such products using skills or technologies that are uniquely applied to those products” (according to the Brookings Institution’s Sizing the Clean Economy: A National and Regional Green Jobs Assessment,  2011, pages 13-14).


… “the aggregate of all activity operating with the primary intention of reducing conventional levels of resource consumption, harmful emissions, and minimizing all forms of environmental impact. The green economy includes the inputs, activities, outputs and outcomes as they relate to the production of green products and services” (from ECO Canada’s own study, Defining the Green Economy, 2010, page 3).


All these different approaches to defining the green economy go much further than simply coming up with an appealing, evocative description. How the green economy is defined has a profound implication for the way that it is also measured and assessed.


The process of establishing a shared, consistent definition of the green economy is complicated enough to warrant significant additional research, including the Developing Canada’s Green Economy project currently underway.


What are your own perspectives on the way that the green economy is discussed? What would a comprehensive definition of the green economy look like?