Ten ways to secure social justice in the green economy

News, 25 April 2014
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.

Schemes such as this provision of a solar panel, provided by Grameen Shaktri, to rural Bangladesh homes are tackling the drivers of poverty and inequality while also greening the economy (Photo: Marufish)

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:

  • India's National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme, 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 while 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).

Contacts for interviews:

Steve Bass (steve.bass@iied.org)
Tel: +44 (0)20 3463 7399

Kate Raworth (kate.raworth@ouce.ox.ac.uk)

Dr Sarah Wykes (policy)
Tel: +44 (0)207 095 5432 or 07500 075598

Lucinda Devine
Head of UK News
Tel: +44 (0)20 7095 5459


Teresa Corcoran
Press officer

International Institute for Environment and Development
80-86 Gray’s Inn Road
London WC1X 8NH, UK.
Tel: +44 (0)20 3463 7399
Fax: +44 (0)20 3514 9055

Email: mike.shanahan@iied.org

Notes to editors

The International Institute for Environment and Development (IIED) is an independent, non-profit research institute. Set up in 1971 and based in London, IIED provides expertise and leadership in researching and achieving sustainable development (see: www.iied.org).

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