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The Green Economy: Accelerating the Transition

The idea of a green economy is fast becoming a key component of mainstream economic discourse, offering a blueprint for the transition to a more efficient and equitable economy that makes better use of natural resources to achieve sustainable growth. A green economy in the context of sustainable development and poverty eradication is one of the key themes for the forthcoming Rio+20 UN Conference on Sustainable Development.

On 15th April 2011 the SEED Initiative, with UNEP, hosted a high-level symposium on the green economy in Pretoria, South Africa, where speakers and panellists from government, civil society, industry bodies, international organizations and academia exchanged information about the barriers to transitioning to a greener economy and ideas about how to create better enabling conditions not only to stimulate green investment and create jobs, but also to help an increasing number of local social and environmental entrepreneurs to establish and scale up their activities.

The Symposium was coupled with a celebration of the thirty 2010 SEED winners in an international award ceremony, generously supported by Hisense, the SEED corporate awards sponsor. The winners demonstrated their initiatives in a marketplace, so allowing participants in the symposium to see first-hand some practical ways of accelerating the transition to a green economy in the developing world.

Some of the 2010 SEED Award winners

Achim Steiner, UN Under-Secretary-General and UNEP Executive Director, explained the lessons provided by the entrepreneurial SEED winners:

“The SEED winners underline how the green shoots of a Green Economy are sprouting across the developing world. Governments and public policymakers can learn a lot from how these entrepreneurs have catalyzed creative solutions to local challenges and in doing so generated livelihoods, employment, environmental benefits and ways of eradicating poverty within and outside their communities.

“Next year’s Rio+20 meeting is an opportunity to scale-up and accelerate these kinds of transitions. Our SEED winners offer valuable insights and knowledge on what works and how best this can be realized.”

The symposium included panel discussions and presentations from:

  • Enoch Godongwana, Deputy Minister of Economic Development in South Africa;
  • Achim Steiner, UNEP Executive Director;
  • Agostinho Zacarias, UN Resident Coordinator UNDP Resident Representative;
  • Roeland van de Geer, EU Ambassador to South Africa;
  • Imraan Patel, Chief Director, Department of Science and Technology;
  • Susan Steinman, Director, Centre for Social Entrepreneurship and Social Economy, University of Johannesburg.

The symposium was designed to look at the big policy drivers and to connect these to the green economy at the local level, drawing on the experience of practitioners and those who set out to assist emerging green enterprises to flourish. By bringing those together, SEED hoped to uncover new ideas for how to build linkages between the national, regional and international policy drivers, and grassroots efforts to grow new green enterprises and to green existing ones.

SEED will publish a report of the symposium in the coming weeks.

Further reading

The SEED Initiative is a global network founded in 2002 by UNEP, UNDP and IUCN to contribute towards the Millennium Development Goals and the commitments made at the Johannesburg World Summit on Sustainable Development. SEED works through a global network of partners, supporters and associates. The UK, represented by Defra, is a Partner of SEED and currently holds the position of SEED Board chairman.

SEED identifies, profiles and supports promising, locally-driven start-up enterprises working in partnership in developing countries to improve livelihoods, tackle poverty and marginalisation and manage natural resources sustainably.

The Initiative also develops learning resources for the broad community of social and environmental entrepreneurs, informs policy- and decision-makers and aims to inspire innovative, entrepreneurial approaches to sustainable development.

For more information please visit or contact: Constance Hybsier, Programme Manager,

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