Greening growth


Growing one’s economy AND protecting the environment. They’re not mutually exclusive. In fact, green and growth go together.  If you have never had electricity, solar power offers growth and green, for example. But what will it take to make green growth happen for everyone?


“Never underestimate the power of a grandmother”—so says Sanjit Bunker Roy, founder of the Barefoot College in India, which trains the poor and illiterate, mostly women, to install and maintain solar energy equipment to bring electricity to remote rural communities, across India and to date 17 other countries, chiefly in Africa. Why favour the illiterate and (older) women? Because they are anchored in their communities and likely to remain, says Bunker Roy.

This kind of pragmatic, grass roots approach to the double challenge of bringing modern technology and improved living standards to the developing world without creating a greenhouse gas nightmare is just one example of the innovative thinking needed to meet the green growth challenge.

Such initiatives prove that everyone has a contribution to make, but change is needed at all levels. Innovative thinking from business has seen the Consumer Goods Forum, bringing together 400 of the world’s largest consumer product makers such as Coca-Cola, Nestlé, Unilever, commit to zero net deforestation by 2020.


But business and individuals alone cannot make green growth happen. Government needs to create the policy framework that encourages them to change their ways – and for that, governments will need to be more innovative too in the way they think about what progress means for their citizens. “In the end, we are talking about a revolution in the economy and that is the province of finance ministers and heads of state,” as WWF Director James Leape puts it.

We all want access to clean water, clean energy, clean air, adequate food supplies and the means to afford them. But climate change, rising demand for scarce or finite resources from precious metals to water and agricultural land and a rising world population make it clear that unless we change our ways, we cannot be sure that our children and grandchildren will have even a chance to aspire to these basic elements of life.

“Imagine 5 billion Asians in 2050 living like Americans,” says Chandran Nair, founder and chief executive of the Global Institute for Tomorrow (GIFT). “This is not possible”;  the developing world will have to find new ways of growth and development that are sustainable. 

Clearly we need a new, greener model of growth if the world is to recover from the world’s worst economic crisis in half a century, which has left hundreds of millions out of jobs, and almost a billion without enough to eat. But what is the best way to achieve new growth?

That is where the OECD Green Growth Strategy comes in. The Strategy, delivered to senior ministers of 40 countries at the OECD annual ministerial meeting in May 2011, provides a practical framework for governments to boost economic growth and protect the environment.

Green growth makes economic as well as environmental sense. In natural resource sectors alone, commercial opportunities related to investments in environmental sustainability could run into trillions of dollars by 2050. The Green Growth Strategy shows how to make that happen, and will include new indicators to measure what works best.

“Green and growth can go together,” says OECD Secretary-General Angel Gurría. “With the right policies in place, we can create jobs, increase prosperity, preserve our environment and improve the quality of life.  All at the same time.”

“We need to make growth greener….it is about how we all behave every day of our lives, what we eat, what we drink, what we recycle, re-use, repair, how we produce and how we consume."

OECD Secretary-General Angel Gurría
OECD Week 2011: Better Policies for Better Lives
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“Humankind has awakened to the realisation that we share a common destiny….that is why green growth has been rapidly disseminated over the world”.

Lee Myung-bak, President of Korea
Global Green Growth Summit in Seoul
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“The world desperately needs a new growth paradigm….the solution lies in green growth”

Han Seung-soo, Former Prime Minister, Korea
Chair of the Board of Directors, Global Green Growth Institute (GGGI)
OECD Forum 2011


“We rely on environment ministers to be the champions for this agenda in their cabinets, but in the end we are talking about a revolution in the economy and that is the province of finance ministers and heads of state”

James Leape, Director-General, WWF
OECD Forum 2011


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