The Green Economy: Definition, Examples, Pros & Cons, & More

In the guide below, we discuss the ‘Green Economy’ concept.

We outline what it is (i.e. provide a general definition), gives examples of how it works and what ‘green’ practices might be, list some potential pros and cons, and provide other relevant information.


What Is The Green Economy? (A Definition)

The ‘Green Economy’ is a concept 

There’s no one single definition for a green economy – different groups might have different definitions

However, a general description of a 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)


Principles Of A Green Economy

Some of the potential principles of a green economy, or green economic activity, might be:

– Decreased negative impact of economic activity on the environment, or decreased environmental degradation

Part of this might involve the concept of decoupling economic activity from environmental degradation


– Decreased contribution of economic activity to certain environmental issues

Some of the main issues might be greenhouse gas emissions, different forms of pollution, reduction or loss of biodiversity, and so on

Being lower carbon, and reducing pollution, might be two key goals for a green economy in this regard


– Assigning economic value to natural capital and ecological services that were previously ignored or not accounted for


– Properly tracing and identifying where groups and companies are currently externalising environmental costs and impacts (and other external costs and impacts) onto society, and assigning accountability for these costs  

This type of impact might be considered a ‘liability’ as opposed to an ecological asset


– The sustainable management of resources in order to protect natural resources and address resource depletion

Examples of resources might include important resources like water and land, but there are others too


– Achieving social goals, or improving social well being

Protecting worker’s rights is one example of this


Why Might The Green Economy Be Important?

The green economy, at least as a concept, may be important in:

– Helping conserve the environment and biodiversity

– Helping manage natural resources in a sustainable way

– Helping protect certain basic human rights, and contribute to human well being


Examples Of ‘Green Economy’ Practices

Practices or features that might form part of a green economy might include, but aren’t limited to:

– Using cleaner/greener, and more renewable sources of energy for energy generation, such as renewables

This is compared to fossil fuels (like coal, natural gas and petroleum)

Energy efficiency and energy conservation may also be considered


– Using cleaner/greener, and more renewable forms of transport fuels (as well as alternative vehicles) in more sustainable transport


– Using other sustainable practices

Like sustainable farming, sustainable forestry management, and others 


– Making use of other sustainability concepts

Such as zero waste, and also a circular economy, just as a few examples.


– Using green standards and sustainability standards, as well as certifications, for different parts of the economy 


– Consider utilizing green/sustainable/socially responsible investing


– Measuring ecological impact and ecological footprints through ‘green indices’, ‘green indexes’, and other tools


Transitioning To A Green Economy summarises/lists 10 conditions that might help in transitioning to a green economy


Potential Pros & Cons Of A Green Economy

Potential Pros

May Have Some Sustainability & Environmental Benefits

Helping to manage resources in a more sustainable way is one example.

The other key examples are helping to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, along with various forms of pollution.


May Have Some Economic Benefits

Some types of green technology may get cheaper than non-green technology in the long term.

Some reports for example indicate that some renewable energy sources may get cheaper over time.


Potential Cons

Differing Definitions & Views On A Green Economy

Definitions, goals and guidelines for a green economy aren’t the same amongst all groups and individuals.

This may make it harder to effectively implement and operate some green economic practices.

Some reports go as far as to say the concept of a green economy ‘only gives false hope’, and doesn’t have the fundamental power to properly be implemented and have great effect

The complexity of some of the issues it’s trying to address may play a factor in this, as well as the difficulty/challenges of implementing some green practices

Some also say it may divert attention away from real drivers of environmental issues, with population growth and other drivers being examples


Some Argue Other Sustainability Concepts Are Better Or Might Be More Effective

Such as a circular economy or zero waste concepts

These concepts may better target certain sustainability goals


May Impose Restrictions On Certain Freedoms & Choices

Like for example:

– Businesses may be more restricted the products and services they can provide, and the prices they can offer them at

– Consumers may have less choice of products and services, and less access to some more affordable options


Some argue markets should be free-er than this, and regulations and restrictions should not have a large impact


May Present Practical Drawbacks

There may be practical or technical challenges in offering some greener products or services.

As just one example, much has been reported about various potential implementation, compatibility and performance issues related to renewable energy when trying to introduce and operate it in conjunction with an existing electricity grid and existing energy sources.

As another example, some green products may have inferior quality or performance compared to other more traditional products.


May Present Economic Challenges & Drawbacks

Transitioning to greener products and technology may initially be expensive, especially if research, developing and marketing of green products and technology is considered.

Additionally, some greener products and technology may not be able to compete with less greener products and technology from a cost and profit point of view without subsidies or economic protection of some kind.

Subsidies themselves are a cost to governments and the taxpayer.

There may also be some risk and disadvantage for smaller businesses looking to switch to or operate under green economic practices – there may be more financial risk for them in switching, or, they may not have the financial resources to compete and operate as effectively with larger businesses in some instances.


Some Reports Indicate It Might Extend Governmental Or Corporate Control & Power

In various sectors and industries

Regulations and other tools may be used for increased financial and political power of corporations and governments


Green Growth vs A Green Economy – What’s The Difference?

Green growth is a part of the green economy.

It’s simply economic growth that is considered sustainable.

This might involve economic growth that is decoupled from environmental degradation and resource use in various ways.


Green Economy vs Blue Economy vs Brown Economy

We put together a separate comparison guide of these three economic concepts here.


A Green Economy vs A Circular Economy

We put together a separate guide on what a circular economy is, which also includes other relevant information.

It might be accurate to say that the main difference between these two types of economic concepts is that:

– A circular economy may have a a more specific focus on waste reduction and waste management compared to a green economy

– A green economy may have a more specific focus on minimizing the use of fossil fuels and reducing their impact on emissions, along with some other key focusses and goals.




1. Various ‘Better Meets Reality’ guides







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