The International Institute for Environment and Development in collaboration with CAFOD has published guidelines that policymakers can follow to improve the social outcomes of green economy strategies. The guidelines illustrate how a failure to address social justice can increase living costs and cause job losses for disadvantaged groups.

Policy debates around the green economy concept tend to focus on climate change and economic growth but ignore the impacts on society, particularly on people living in poverty and their dependence on natural resources.

The ten recommendations draw on a review by IIED and CAFOD of diverse national experiences. The review’s case studies show how inclusive green policies can both benefit society and protect the environment. 

Fishing exclusion zones and hunting restrictions, for example, may protect the environment but, if designed without social concern, can push people who depend on these resources further into poverty.  

“It would be dangerous to assume that green policies will automatically help to tackle poverty,” says Kate Raworth, visiting fellow in economics at IIED and co-author of the paper. “Indeed, without care, they could well do the opposite.”

The guidelines are intended to help steer policymakers towards integrated strategies that promote both social and environmental goals. Established examples of such approaches include:


new recycle design

new recycle design

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 which guarantees poor people – particularly women and ethnic minorities – 100 days’ work per year building community assets

·        South Africa’s Working for Water Programme, which employs 25,000 people each year to clear invasive species from waterways.

More ambitious still are policies that tackle the drivers of poverty and inequality whilst also greening the economy. Bangladesh’s Solar Homes Programme provides electricity to two million rural homes and empowers women as technicians to install and maintain the systems. IIED is tracking such innovations along with the Green Economy Coalition, of which it is a founder member.

The guidelines are for all stakeholders involved in the transition to a green economy, including national policymakers and international players such as UN agencies, development banks and donor agencies.

Among the recommendations are:

·        Look for opportunities to both achieve social benefit and protect the environment

·        Seek ways to tackle all areas of poverty including health, education, income, living standards, security and resilience

·        Consider ways to protect the environment beyond reducing carbon emissions

·        Involve local communities and minority groups and recognise the agendas of more powerful players

·        Be aware that some economic methodologies and pricing instruments can often overlook long-term social benefits

“Policymakers risk missing the chance to tackle poverty through the design of their national green strategies,” says Raworth. “These guidelines draw on a wealth of diverse country experience to ensure that any green transition is also a just transition.”

Download the paper by Kate Raworth, Steve Bass (IIED) and Sarah Wykes (CAFOD). 


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