Green Economy vs Blue Economy vs Brown Economy: Differences, & Which Is Better?

In the guide below, we’ve provided a comparison of the Green Economy vs Blue Economy vs Brown Economy.

We’ve outlined a general definition of each, along with what some of the key differences between each might be.


Definitions Of The Different Economic Concepts

It’s worth mentioning that there’s no single definition for each of green, blue and brown economies

Different reports may have slightly different definitions for each of these phrases.

However, we’ve provided what might general definitions and descriptions of each below.

Each of these economic concepts describe varying levels of sustainability in relation to economic activity. 


There May Be No Such Thing As A 100% Green, Blue, Or Brown Economy

In reality, most economies might be hybrid economies containing all three of, or at least two of green, blue or brown economic practices.

For example, many economies might use both fossil fuels and also ‘cleaner’ renewable energy in their energy mix, just as one example of this in a particular sector (the energy sector).


What Is The Green Economy? (A Definition)

We put together a separate guide specifically about the ‘Green Economy’, including a definition.

As a short summary, a description of the green economy might be an economy where economic activity doesn’t have as significant of a negative impact on the environment and biodiversity, involves the sustainable management of resources, and looks to have a more positive social impact (or contribute to social well being or social interests in a specific way)


What Is The Blue Economy? (A Definition)

The ‘Blue Economy’ is a concept 

Sometimes it also goes by the name ‘The Ocean Economy’

It involves:

– Preserving and conserving marine environments (ocean/sea, and coastal) i.e. responsible and sustainable management of marine environments


– Using ocean resources sustainably, whilst still contributing to economic growth and providing economic opportunities from marine environments for income and employment (especially of local populations)

May cover economic sectors such as fishing and fisheries, ocean transport, ocean mining and extraction, marine tourism, and others


Some examples of activity that may contribute to a blue economy might be:

– Reducing pollution and degradation of marine environments

– Preventing the exploitation of marine habitats and organisms

– Regenerating marine habitats

– Protecting fishing populations from exploitation and overfishing, and regenerating aquatic populations

– Promoting and enforcing sustainable and non destructive fishing practices

Sustainable ocean aquaculture and fish farming


What Is The Brown Economy? (A Definition)

The ‘Brown Economy’ is a concept 

It describes economic growth that:

– May not prioritize reducing it’s negative effect on the environment, or it’s contribution to environmental damage and degradation


– May be more reliant on the use of fossil fuels like coal, natural gas, and petroleum.

These energy sources are seen less clean/less green, non-renewable, and potentially more polluting compared to other energy cleaner energy sources (like renewables for example)

Usually, there’s social and human cost to consider with a brown economy too


Green Economy vs Blue Economy vs Brown Economy – Main Differences

Some of the main differences between these three economic concepts/principles might be:


Green Economy

A green economy may prioritize sustainable development, sustainable economic activity, and social well being compared to a brown economy

A green economy may also use and rely more on cleaner and renewable energy sources (like renewables for example) compared to a brown economy


Brown Economy

A brown economy might prioritize economic objectives more than a green economy, or, it might at least not prioritize environmental sustainability or social objectives as highly

A brown economy may use more fossil fuels than a green economy, or, the negative impact of the use of fossil fuels, and also general pollution and degradation from production and consumption on the environment may be greater


Blue Economy

A blue economy may involve some practices that could be considered similar to green economy practices, however, unlike a green or brown economy, a blue economy is mainly focussed on economic activity that affects marine environments, and not necessarily land environments


Green Economy vs Blue Economy vs Brown Economy – Which Is Better?

There might be both objective and subjective ways to answer this question.

Without giving a definitive answer, we’ve provided some potentially relevant information below:


Green Economy

An economy that at least includes some green economy practices and features might be best for the future when considering the potential impact of economic activity on the environment and sustainability.

In particular, green economic practices might help address important issues going into the future, such as greenhouse gas emissions, and resource depletion.

Having said that, a green economy it not without it’s critiques and potential drawbacks.

Firstly, not every group may agree exactly what practices and what goals a green economy should be made up of.

This can be a problem when trying to effectively implement green economy policies and practices on a society wide scale.

Secondly, there might be restrictions in a green economy on the use of fossil fuels and various other activities that may lead to production becoming more expensive or more impractical in the short term or even long term.

This has potential to impact affordability and accessibility of certain products or services, but also impact products made with the use of fossil fuels.

So, there may be certain economic and practical drawbacks to some aspects of a green economy.


Blue Economy

Realistically, it might be accurate to say that a blue economy is best for economic activity that relates to marine environments.

A blue economy may not have application to land based economic activity that green and brown economies have.


Brown Economy

Obviously, a brown economy that relies on fossil fuels contributes to greenhouse gas emissions, and fossil fuels are finite – meaning that their supply may not last forever.

There can be a range of other environmental and sustainability issues related to brown economies.

However, what is worth pointing out is that brown economies have gotten more developed economies to the quality of life they are at now, and have helped advance societies in general.

And, there may be economic and practical benefits to brown economies, such as being able to produce energy for cheaper (and other products and services at a cheaper price), being able to produce certain important products using fossil fuels, providing income and employment, and other benefits.

The drawbacks to brown economic practices can’t be discussed without also identifying the practical, economic and social benefits they’ve delivered. 




1. Various ‘Better Meets Reality’ guides











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