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The Global Future of Green Capitalism

by Marc Weiss

Green Capitalism generates substantial economic and employment growth and sustainable business and community development by demonstrating that innovation, efficiency, and conservation in the use and reuse of all natural and human resources is the best way to increase jobs, incomes, productivity, and competitiveness.  In addition, Green Capitalism is the most cost-effective method of promoting renewable energy and clean technologies, protecting the environment, and preventing harmful impacts from global warming. Through Green Capitalism we can now create an even higher standard of living for every person and community throughout the world, by shifting from resource-wasting industrial development to resource-saving industrialism. In the 21st Century, people, places, and organizations will literally “get richer by becoming greener,” earning more money by using fewer resources and reusing more.

Global Urban Development (GUD) is currently designing and implementing Sustainable Economic Development Strategies to enable Green Capitalism to succeed worldwide. This model adapts sustainability concepts from business experts including Paul Hawken, Amory and Hunter Lovins, Ray Anderson, Peter Senge, Karl-Henrik Robert, William McDonough, Daniel Esty, Aron Cramer, and the McKinsey Global Institute, as applied in various ways by companies such as GE, IBM, Toyota, Interface, IKEA, DuPont, Wal-Mart, Google, Nike, Seventh Generation, and Apple.

This model has three key elements:

1)  Green Savings—cutting costs by using renewable resources and by reducing and reusing waste; 2)  Green Opportunities—growing businesses and jobs by expanding markets and increasing incomes; 3)  Green Talent—investing in fundamental assets including technology, infrastructure, and most importantly, modern entrepreneurial and workforce skills, because people are now the world’s most vital economic resource.

Fortunately, there are success stories in which business sustainability principles have guided economic development.  People in the State of California saved $56 billion on energy costs between 1973 and 2006, primarily from policies requiring higher energy efficiency standards for new buildings, new electrical appliances, and new motor vehicles, combined with financial incentives for utility companies, businesses, and households to conserve energy and use renewable resources.  Consumers reinvested much of this savings in the state's economy, generating 1.5 million new full-time jobs with a total annual payroll of $45 billion. Similarly, people in metropolitan Portland (Oregon/Washington) save more than $2 billion annually due to land-use and transportation changes over the past three decades.  By modestly increasing population and building densities and developing light-rail transit, together with mixed-use communities built to promote walking and bicycling, Portlanders have substantially reduced vehicle miles traveled and carbon dioxide emissions, while jobs, incomes, and investments have grown significantly since 1980.

Across the world, from Singapore to Stockholm, urban regions have improved their economies by becoming more sustainable. Some of these places are profiled in the World Bank’s recent “Eco2 Cities” report.  Curitiba, Brazil is a leading example of a city with a successful four-decade economic development strategy based on growing businesses, jobs, and incomes by improving urban quality of life through innovative land-use and transportation planning and related environmental and social initiatives.  One of Curitiba’s innovations, Bus Rapid Transit (BRT), became part of the model for Bogota’s much larger TransMilenio public transportation system.

GUD is working with places including San Antonio, Silicon Valley, Southwest Florida, Metropolitan Portland, Metropolitan Denver, and the State of Delaware, using our three-part framework for Sustainable Economic Development Strategies to save people money, create jobs, raise incomes, grow businesses, and improve the environment. Currently GUD is creating an economic development strategy, funded by the U.S. Department of Energy, to enable Sarasota County, Florida, to become a “Center for Innovation in Energy and Sustainability.”

In July 2010 Global Urban Development published Climate Prosperity: A Framework for Sustainable Economic Development Strategies, describing in detail the key elements of the various strategies, and explaining how to design and implement such approaches most effectively.  This 35-page document can be downloaded from our website.

Dr. Marc A. Weiss Chairman and CEO, Global Urban Development; and Chair, Climate Prosperity Alliance

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