Sustainable development is built on the triple bottom line: economic growth, environmental stewardship, and social development – or prosperity, planet, people. Without careful attention to all three, we cannot create a sustainable world.
In the 25 years since sustainable development was coined as a term
, there has been progress, but the pathway to sustainable development must now be more inclusive green growth.
Progress has often come at the expense of our natural wealth. We have destroyed and depleted our natural assets to the point where we run the risk of undermining the precious gains.
At the same time, while globally the planet is flatter and more equitable, within countries the gap between rich and poor has grown unsustainably.
Think about this: 1.3 billion people still don’t have access to electricity
, a billion go hungry
every day, some 900 million still don’t have access to safe, clean drinking water
, and more than 2.5 billion lack access to sanitation
. Meeting these needs during a period of unprecedented urbanization and with climate change making the future ever more complex, demands growth that protects the natural resources upon which the poor especially depend. We cannot balance our economies or the health of the planet on the backs of the poor.
The answer is growth that is efficient in its use of resources. It avoids locking in irreversible environmental damage and which public policy steers to ensure inclusivity. Embracing this kind of inclusive green growth doesn’t mean no growth or even slow growth, and certainly not a reversal of growth. It means a step change in the way we manage economies.
For example, when countries value their natural wealth and ecosystems alongside GDP, they can see the true value of natural capital
that we have taken for granted for too long. To make different investment decisions, we need different data and evidence.
Green growth, like all good growth policies, requires getting prices right. It requires addressing policy and market failures, creating tradable property rights, and removing inappropriate subsidies. It means increasing efficiency and recognizing inefficiency in the current growth patterns we are experiencing. It means finding creative strategies that work for each country and helping policy makers answer the Monday morning question: What do I do differently?
Thinking holistically about growth can get us back on the path to sustainable development.
Vice President for Sustainable Development