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Different bodies of theory and practice – to a certain extent different movements – are weaving together to form the emerging field of Sustainable Economic Development (SED).

New paradigms for how to do business form the core of SED.  The new paradigms take five basic forms:

  1. Green Business – in which businesses seek to reduce their adverse environmental impacts and, to the greatest extent possible, expand their positive environmental impacts.
  2. Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) – made up of businesses that are seeking to reduce negative impacts and enhance positive impacts not only on the environment, but also on all their stakeholders, including their customers, workforce, supply chain, shareholders, the communities where they are located, and the larger society.
  3. Clean Tech (Green Tech) – companies with business models that are attempting to make a market rate of financial return while addressing the full array of environmental problems by producing technologies to address clean energy, energy efficiency, green production processes, pollution prevention, conservation and restoration of natural ecologies, and various kinds of support systems.
  4. Creating Shared Value (CSV) – in which businesses use the craft of business to create business models to solve a wide range of social and environmental problems and make a market rate of financial return at the same time.
  5. Socially Responsible Investment (SRI) – where investment firms, including mutual funds, brokerages, banks, venture funds, angel investors, and all the other aspects of the investment eco-system screen the companies they invest in to make sure they are Green, and/or CSR, and/or CSV companies.

Taken together, these new business paradigms are sometimes referred to as Sustainable Business.  At the most basic level, then, when cities or counties or states decide to develop and implement an SED Strategy,  they are deciding to cultivate Sustainable Businesses by encouraging them to start-up and grow in their jurisdictions and by encouraging them to move to their locations.

New paradigms for place-making are also integral to SED.  Collectively, these are sometimes referred to as Eco-Smart Development, which can be either in-fill or green field real estate development that incorporates strategies that seek to make the developments:

  • Carbon neutral.
  • Resource efficient, reducing, re-using, and recycling materials.
  • Energy safe, generating of energy from solar, wind, and other renewable sources.
  • Human scale.
  • Multi-modal in transportation, balancing walking, biking, transit, and electric and hybid vehicles.
  • Smart, incorporating information technology to produce smart buildings, a smart grid, and smart transportation.
  • Low impact, in relation to water and land use.
  • Bio-regional, preserving and restoring natural ecologies and incorporating parks and open spaces.

At the most general level, then, SED can be summarized as the encouragement of Sustainable Businesses in Eco-Smart Developments.