Principles and Indicators for a Green Economy



Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, June 2012

The controversy surrounding proposals for the green economy reflects fears that a superficial response will not address fundamental concerns about justice, equity, and social and environmental responsibility. Some relevant principles have already been adopted in the 1992 Rio Declaration and elsewhere. We call for an explicit statement of the principles underlying a green economy for a socially-just and sustainable society, recalling previous principles and extending them where necessary. We also need new indicators reflecting a broader view of development than just material well-being.

The green economy should:
- further a dynamic and thriving social order that is just, fair and equitable to all;
- foster an attitude and understanding of a world-encompassing trusteeship wherein each individual and nation-state has responsibilities to the planet, its peoples, and to future generations;
- be strongly altruistic and cooperative in nature;
- provide meaningful employment;
- help to eradicate poverty in the world while reducing extremes of wealth;
- ensure sustainable environmental management;
- provide the peoples and institutions of the world with the means to achieve the real purpose of development: that is, the cultivation of the limitless potentialities latent in human consciousness for the betterment of the world.

The dominant economic indicators such as GDP do not provide signals for sustainability, and even sustainable development indicators miss some of the most important driving forces necessary to move on a trajectory towards sustainability. In particular, the underlying materialistic assumptions of most economic thinking do not reflect the values of a majority of the peoples of the world. The development by Bhutan of Gross National Happiness is an example of what can be done at the national level. Recent research has shown the practicality of values-based indicators at the project or group level (

It is urgent to develop indicators reflecting the values and ethics underlying individual and collective choices and behaviour necessary to achieve sustainability, while incorporating and adapting to the diverse cultural, ethnic and spiritual traditions of nations and peoples. Such indicators should reflect a more complete vision of the goals and purpose of a sustainable and ever-advancing civilization and of desires for happiness and prosperity.

Efforts should be extended in every country to encourage research and public debate on rethinking prosperity and happiness in the context of human well-being and community development in a sustainable society, as the basis for developing national indicators of progress towards these goals. At the international level, values-based and ethical indicators should be added to the indicators of sustainable development prepared under the Commission on Sustainable Development. Civil society organizations should explore the relevance of values-based indicators of education for sustainable development for use at all levels in their organizations, communities, projects and businesses.

New indicators of development should be designed to focus on the individual as well as the community, since human progress really takes place at both the individual and collective levels. The best measure of development should be how well each human being, individually and in the context of community, is enabled to fulfil her or his potential for a prosperous and rewarding life, a refined character, and service in advancing civilization.

* The International Environment Forum ( is a Bahá'í-inspired professional organization for environment and sustainability in the science and technology major group, with members in over 50 countries.

Last updated 9 June 2012