Past Initiative News

The Global Future of Green Capitalism

Thursday, November 03, 2011

People around the world are embracing Green Capitalism because it is now possible to create a higher standard of living for every person and community by shifting from resource-wasting to resource-saving industrialism. In the 21st Century, people, places, and organizations will literally “get richer by becoming greener” – earning and saving more money by conserving and reusing resources more efficiently.

Global Urban Development (GUD) is designing and implementing Sustainable Economic Development Strategies to help enable Green Capitalism to succeed worldwide. This model adapts sustainable business concepts from experts including Paul Hawken, Amory and Hunter Lovins, Ray Anderson, Hazel Henderson, Peter Senge, Karl-Henrik Robert, Thomas Friedman, William McDonough, Daniel Esty, Elliott Hoffman, Aron Cramer, and the McKinsey Global Institute, as applied in various ways by companies such as GE, IBM, Toyota, Inter face, IKEA, DuPont, Disney, Wal-Mart, Google, Nike, Stonyfield Farm, Seventh Generation, Siemens, Cisco, Philips, Applied Materials, and Johnson Controls. Sustainable Economic Development Strategies apply these concepts to sub-national economies, including states, provinces, regions, districts, counties, cities, towns, villages, and neighborhoods.

Sustainable Economic Development Strategies generate 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, Sustainable Economic Development Strategies are the most cost-effective method of promoting renewable energy and clean technologies, protecting the environment, and preventing harmful impacts from climate change. A Sustainable Economic Development Strategy has four key elements, which GUD refers to as the Four Greens :

  • Green Savings — cutting costs for businesses, families, communities, and governments by efficiently using renewable resources and by reducing and reusing waste.
  • Green Opportunities — growing jobs and incomes through business development and expanding markets for resource efficiency, sustainability, and clean technologies.
  • Green Talent — investing in fundamental assets such as education, research, technological innovation, and modern entrepreneurial and workforce skills, because people are now the world’s most vital green economic resource.
  • Green Places — establishing sustainable transportation and infrastructure, and protecting and enhancing the natural and built environment, to create more attractive, livable, healthy, vibrant, prosperous, productive, and resource-efficient areas and communities.

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, Por tlanders have substantially reduced vehicle miles traveled and greenhouse gas emissions, while jobs, incomes, and investments have grown significantly since 1980.

Throughout 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 “Eco2 Cities” repor t. 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 ), has become a model for sustainable transportation and land-use planning in many cities and regions worldwide.

During June 7- 8, 2 011 in Curitiba, the Energy and Climate Par tnership of the Amer icas held an international conference, sponsored by the Brazil and U.S. Governments, on “Plan- ning for Sustainable Economic Development Across the Americas.” GUD worked with the American Planning Association, the City of Curitiba, and the U.S. State Department to organize this historic meeting exploring the potential benefits of state/provincial, regional, and local Sustainable Economic Development Strategies from Argentina to Canada.

GUD has worked with places including San Antonio, San Jose/Silicon Valley, Southwest Florida, Metropolitan Portland, Metropolitan Denver, and the State of Delaware, using our four-part framework for Sustainable Economic Development Strategies to save money, create jobs, raise incomes, grow businesses, and improve the environment. Recently GUD completed a Sustainable Economic Development Strategy, funded by the U.S. Department of Energy, for Sarasota County, Florida to become a “Center for Innovation in Energy and Sustainability.”

In March 2011, Global Urban Development published 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 document can be downloaded from our website at

By Dr. Marc A. Weiss, Chairman and CEO, and James Hurd Nixon, President, Global Urban Development

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