Economic Development

Sustainable Economic Development is based on the premise that a sustainability revolution is taking place – a transformation from an old economy that is high pollution, high carbon, waste intensive, and ecologically disruptive, to a new economy that is low pollution, energy/resource efficient, low or zero carbon, and ecologically supportive.

Businesses, cities, and regions that lead this economic transformation will prosper, because the new economy will outperform and eventually replace the old one in the long run. Businesses, cities, and regions that lag are in danger of being left behind.

Our time is somewhat analogous to 100 years ago when the oil and automobile industries emerged together and everything changed – the way cities and regions grew; the way transportation took place; which industries succeeded and which failed.

Historic Analogies

In the 1920s, Detroit became a world headquarters of the automobile industry and a rapidly growing, highly prosperous city and region, while, at the same time, Tulsa became known as the “Oil Capital of the World”.

This time is also somewhat analogous to the information technology (IT) revolution 20 years ago when a complex of related technologies – the personal computer, the cell phone, and the internet – emerged and everything changed again, with San Jose/Silicon Valley becoming one of the leading economic regions in the world.

This time it is the Clean Tech industries – energy conservation, resource efficiency, renewable-energy generation, pollution prevention, and waste minimization and recycling – that are the engine of transformation.

Sustainable Enterprise

A new way of doing business is emerging out of this transformation –sustainable enterprise – and the way all businesses operate is changing significantly. As clean enterprises grow and interact with each other as suppliers and customers, and as they all become greener, a clean economy is developing. The new Clean Tech industries are at the heart of this economic transformation. While some businesses are specializing in producing and distributing them, all businesses are coming to use them.

Many of the leading larger corporations in the U.S. are embracing the perspective that clean green business is good business. Recognizing the economic opportunities inherent in going clean and green, many well known corporations are taking very significant actions. For example:

  • According to its 2010 Sustainability Progress Report, Wal-Mart – the largest corporation in the world for the last two years, according to Fortune – has committed to an environmental responsibility program, targeting 100% renewable energy, zero waste, and the sale of sustainable products. Wal-Mart has invested $500 million in sustainability, increased building and fleet efficiency by 15%, built a set of experimental green stores, and is requiring its suppliers to go green through its Sustainable Value Networks.
  • In its 2010 report, GE indicated that its Ecomagination initiative now has 60 products generating $85 billion in revenue, with overall corporate greenhouse gases reduced by 20% from 2004 levels.
  • DuPont reports on its social and environmental progress using the Global Reporting Initiative reporting format and is independently monitored by Environmental Resource Management. DuPont has saved $3 billion while reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 72% over a decade. DuPont is aggressively developing sustainable products for buildings and construction, transportation, agriculture and nutrition, and communication.
  • In its 2010 Sustainability Report, Interface, Inc., the world’s largest manufacturer of commercial and residential modular carpet and broadloom, shows that it has grown $200 million (to over $1 billion) without increasing resource consumption, and the company has avoided $250 million in waste management bills.

Other major U.S. corporations with comprehensive clean and green programs include: Dell, Johnson Controls, Hewlett Packard, Johnson and Johnson, Coca Cola, H.J. Heinz, Google, Random House, Nike, Starbucks, TimeWarner, UPS, Whole Foods, Xerox, Target, Walgreens, and many others.

Sustainable Economic Development

Sustainable Economic Development utilizes this perspective that is working with businesses and applies it to cities, counties, regions, and states.

Three Forms of Capital