What does “green” mean?
With terms like green jobs, green business, and green economy appearing in heavy rotation throughout popular discourse, the notion of green is clearly widespread – but is it truly well-understood?
Since this study involves looking at key contributing industries in Canada’s green economy and the requisite skills and competencies that go along with green occupations in these industries, much of our analysis depends on a clear understanding of what differentiates green jobs and industries from those that are not.
Over the course of refining a definition of the green economy and green employment, we’ve come across 6 key components that fall under the “green” umbrella. Each of these areas not only contributes to the idea of green, but also offers insight into how the emergence of the green economy affects Canadian businesses and employment.
Accordingly, the idea of green (and by extension, the green economy) encompasses:
1. Economic prosperity based on sustainable development
A major driver behind the concept of the green economy is the notion that the environment and the economy do not have to be two mutually exclusive and contradictory objectives. Consequently, the shift to greener practices involves making environmentally-conscious decisions that still support long-term increases in profit and significant returns on investment
2. New technologies, industries and areas of growth
This aspect of green is one of the most popular when people think of the green economy. As a growing number of governments, businesses and consumers commit to conserving resources and reducing environmental impact, innovative new technologies and industries have proliferated. From wind power to green roofs, the growth of the green economy has depended on the ongoing development of creative solutions to environmental challenges.
3. Valuing natural capital and assets
One of the most powerful components of the green economy is the idea that natural resources have a value when left in their original state, and not only when they have been developed for industrial use. Thus, it has become increasingly important for businesses and policy makers to establish what the economic value is of natural assets, as well as to consider how environmental degradation presents a form of economic loss that must be counted against whatever profits are generated through the unmitigated use of natural resources.
4. Minimizing harmful environmental impact and increasing efficiency
This is the most essential part of what it means to be green. Businesses who claim to produce green products or use green processes must demonstrate how these products and processes generate less waste, minimize emissions, use resources more efficiently, reduce environmental risk and/or improve health and safety. Establishing what the standards are for these green activities is essential for avoiding green washing, in which organizations make superficial and inadequate attempts to demonstrate environmentally-responsible practices.
5. Creating lasting social and ethical benefits
The development of the green economy represents a valuable opportunity to do things right, this time around. As a result, green has also come to be associated with corporate social responsibility and the triple bottom line (people, planet, profits) in which environmental and economic concerns share equal importance with fair and ethical social decisions. In this manner, the adoption of green practices often coincides with the development of fair trade, equitable living wages, and alternate forms of employee compensation that acknowledge the importance of work-life balance and a healthy lifestyle.
6. Increased environmental awareness and the adoption of an environmentally-responsible lifestyle
Going green does not start at the level of big businesses and governments -- it starts with the choices of individual consumers and voters. Through spreading awareness of environmental issues and a marked increase in green marketing, green living has become a major, mainstream concept. A rapidly growing number of people are choosing to purchase green products, reduce waste in their homes, and support environmental policies. In turn, the combined impact of these decisions has shaped large-scale policy and business planning.
What are your thoughts on these 6 components of green? Are there any additional concepts that you would add?