Going green: The promises of a green economy and (potential) pitfalls

The concept of a green economy is central to my thesis framing question- can businesses be a force for good, or do the inherent resource demands render that implausible? Proponents of a green economy suggest that not only is it possible, but that greening our economy would result in both greater economic growth and improved healthy of ecosystems. The green economy, as described by contributor Les Levidow in the Companion for Environmental Studies, is the decoupling of economic growth from resource burdens. With a green economy, economic growth would increase while reducing environmental risks and healing damaged ecosystems. In 2008, the United Nations Environmental Programme (UNEP) proposed a Global Green New Deal agenda which included expanded public services, regulated private-sector actors, and promotion of resource distribution in an effort to not only green the economy but redistribute wealth and access. The green economy moves beyond notions of sustainable development as it proposes there are no resource limits or limits to growth.

Major criticism of the green economy revolve around implementation. First, skeptics doubt the possibility of decoupling economic growth from resource burdens through greater efficiency. They believe economic ambitions will have to be impacted. Second, critics worry that the movement would only further monetize and exploit the biophysical world for money.The value of the non-human world would simply shift to its relation to economic growth, not inherent worth. Third, if profits can increase exponentially without burdening resources then redistribution of those earnings becomes essential- without redistribution of this wealth we would continue with the unequal and harmful economics system of today. Redistribution and retribution would have to be enforced by law, globally, and this seems unlikely. Finally, a major critique suggests the green economy would only supplement our current system, not assist in a total transformation. Rather, the green economy sub-sect would become an option rather than a new way of being.

The concept of a green economy is essential to my thesis framework. Voluntary standards are one method that businesses have adopted who want to do better in the human and non-human communities they impact. And with the ability to brand this action to consumers, they actually do earn a profit on it. However, only certain business owners and certain consumers engage in such movements. It is entirely voluntary and without legal recognition. The certification I am examining, Certified B Corp, does straddle the line between voluntary and legal status- the movement is working to pass legislation to protect businesses missions through changes to leadership and investors. This can be seen in two lights: as a niche market system, a supplement to the ‘brown’ economy, or as a step to total transformation of our economy as we know it.


Levidow, Les. 2018. Green Economy in “Companion to Environmental Studies,” Eds. Castree, Hulme, Proctor. Routledge: London and New York pp 199-203.

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