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Sustainable Development’ and Economic Growth’ Relationship Essay


The level of economic growth differs from country to country depending on the desired needs of the population. The various growth recipes involved include; growth by brute force and smart growth. The former involves quantitative growth based on the high level of input, such as labour and capital.

On the other hand, the latter is a qualitative growth based on the level of technology and institutional change, which ultimately results into high productivity. Economy is capable of improving when focus is made on infrastructure development and education.

There is also involvement of trade liberalization, deregulation as well as privatisation of productive institutions, which provides foreign benefits on knowledge (Hopwood, 2005). The study employs qualitative research comparing data and works from different literatures researched on sustainability and economic growth.

The discussion covers opinion based on both developing and developed nations of the world. Qualitative method within this particular area is more diverse and emphasizes particularity over-generalizations

How is economic growth defined?

Economic growth refers to positive percentage change within an economy’s real GDP measured subsequently over a period of time. Production of goods and services capable of satisfying population’s needs represents a good reflection of economic growth. Economic growth has for a long time, been considered as the engine behind the development of modern societies.

Marketing, the level of production and consumption are the main instruments of measuring the economy as well as being used as a central organizing principle (Hopwood, 2005). The recent development is characterized by dominance of the free-market capitalist system, which is considered the most successful political-economic system in modern globalized world. Real GDP is used as a good measure for economic prosperity and progress.

Is sustainable economy achievable?

Economy is known to be one of the sub-systems of the environment since all the requirements for building economy originates from the environment and the resulting waste return to the same environment. Economic growth is measured as the increase in the level of Gross Domestic Product (GDP), which is always described in terms of market value of goods and services within a period of time in a given economy.

Economic growth requires more resources, which results into more wastes. There are no possibilities for perpetual economic growth because of the limited resources within the earth. The ability of a country to experience economic growth over successive periods of time depends on its sensitivity towards sustainability. Sustainable status is possible when a country has got the ability of maintaining stocks of renewable resources.

The extraction level should not exceed the levels of regeneration. The reason as to why economic growth is dependant on sustainable development is because GDP normally depends on natural capital.

Decrease in the availability of resources prevents anticipated growth of various economies meaning that sustainable development is a prerequisite to economic growth. The changing interest of consumers is also one of the good indicators revealing the necessity of sustainability in economic growth (Hopwood, 2005).


Sustainability could be defined by considering conditions through which countries view production and manufacturing processes together with the products since such a perception leads to increased production based on responsibility.

Organizations are currently considering the act of being strategic towards sustainable development while at the same time making choices on lucrative processes capable of contributing positively towards more sustainable society (Sharma and Vredenbrug, 1998). The aim is to avoid the risks associated with destruction and at the same time pursue profitable dynamics.

Country’s GDP has long been used in measuring the standards of living, but most importantly is that in the developed nations many dynamics affecting quality of life such as the environment are not possible to measure using market dynamics.

This is since there is a possibility that ensures such parameters loose value in the occurrence of economic growth. Therefore, any initiative of sustainable development should encompass the three dimensions of environmental, economic and social aspects (Ekins, 2005).

Preferred alternative to Economic Growth

Stability within the economy is an indication of positive economic growth over a period of time. Stable economy aims at maintaining stable level of resource consumption as well as stability in population growth.

Steady economy is characterized by features such as; sustainable scale, fair distribution, efficient allocation and quality standard of living. Sustainable economy could be made possible through various channels some of which are discussed below.

Limiting the level of resource use as well as waste production and bringing the two to fit within the ecological limits provides a steady-state. Renewable resources should be used in a responsible manner such that their exhaustion should not exceed their regeneration.

And at the same time, the non-renewable resources should not be exploited beyond the limits where their wastes cannot be absorbed within the environment. The best way to ensure effective sustainability is to utilize organizations as well as individuals at the local level.

Stabilizing the population assist in the process of achieving economic stability, since the level of consumption is determined by the rate of consumption. The higher the population growth rate, the higher the rate of consumption.

Development of non-coercive policies helps in incentive development, which satisfies the existing population. Achieving sustainable economic growth also requires reduction of the gap between the rich and the poor within the society. Appropriate policies dealing with inequality are required to deal with problems within stagnant economies. This could further be achieved through progressive taxation as well as social programs.

Sustainable development

Sustainable development could be defined as the nature of development that meets the needs of the present without in any way compromising the capability of the future generations to meet their own needs.

The definition caters for the needs of the world poor, which could be met through trade and economic growth as well as restrictions brought by technological advancement and social set-up on the environment’ ability to meet present and future population requirements (Arrow,1995, 520-521).

Sustainability can be defined through different approaches namely thermodynamic, capital-based and human approaches. Thermodynamic approach looks at sustainable development as development confined within the limits of earth’s carrying capacity. This is where the quality of life is improved within the carrying capacity of supporting ecosystems.

Capital-based approach views the environment as a form of capital asset, which can be increased through replenishing and at the same time decreased through consumption. Human approach involves the process of considering sustainability as means of improving people’s lives (Hopwood, 2005).

Possibility of achieving sustainable economy

There are several environmental issues always addressed by the economic status of a region or country. The economic status could be realised based on the population growth and the level of exhaustion of natural resource as well as natural capital.

The concepts of sustainable development and economic growth are interconnected with the aim of protecting the available wealth of the earth and at the same time creating more opportunities towards satisfaction of human needs. Climatic changes can be traced back to countless rises in pollutants capable of interfering with future global ecosystem. Saving nature is likened to saving humanity from extinction.

When evaluated in terms of productivity and consumption, economic growth is said to rise considerably with the increase in the rate of pollution. However, setting up institutions with the aim of educating people on the issues concerning environment and life provides central point to sustainable development.

This is based on the fact that transformations within the work area provide positive results. Sustainable economics plays a vital role in the process of production and consumption (Figge, 2005).

Possible hindrances in the process of achieving sustainable economy

Greenhouse gas emissions from various manufacturing companies originate more so from operational activities, making considerable contribution towards global warming, which is seen as an environmental hazard in the long-run.

This makes it necessary the mission of initiating emissions trading schemes as a policy for the purposes of helping in limiting the level of emissions, which threatens economic growth (Arrow, 1995, 520-521). Some countries apply the use of government Carbon Pollution Reduction scheme policy to assist in the control of the emissions.

The per capita carbon dioxide emissions presents one of the greatest threats to anticipated economic growth since they affect adversely the ecosystem and biodiversity. Failure to control such emissions grants availability of potential element capable of reducing Gross domestic product of major countries (Figge, 2005).

The rate of change experienced in world climate presents greatest threat to global businesses and companies. It is believed that companies are generally affected by climatic changes and the policies geared towards reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

However, the impact is at times projected on consumer prizes on goods and services delivered. Such restrictions and values of environmental concern makes some companies loose considerable market share (Figge, 2005).

The level of technology and market forces within a country has the capability of successfully dealing with environmental limits towards growth. Technology determines the level of emissions within an economy, which ultimately determines environmental improvement. Such proves the definition of economy as a sub-system of the environment since the environmental limits defines a lot within the economy (Lovins et al., 1999).

Depletion of resources at times threatens survival within the universe since they become more less at a high rate than expected. However, the society is full of abundant resources and experimental results from technologically advanced activities, which tend to predict potential losses owing to climatic changes (Lovins et al., 1999).

Economic activity is relatively associated with people’s material standard of living, the level of resource consumption, production, which ultimately determines the quality of life. However, the nature of economic growth within any region is largely regarded as a positive goal since it involves increase in the level of income, which determines individual’s material well-being.

The level of growth is normally determined by responsible use of resources, environmental impacts and the issue of social change. Increased income should have the ability of considering its impact on the environment through provision into the future (Figge, 2005).

Various elements of economic activities influence the degree of future sustainable growth; these include investment done in sustaining economic performance, sufficient funds, and low rate of savings amongst others.

It is possible for residents of developed countries to achieve sustainable development since the current views consider growth as development in the present with a strategic view of ensuring sustenance of future generations. This involves various organizational considerations on expansion of the system for the purposes of accommodating sufficient resources.

Organizations get involved in the business of structuring their processes for the purposes of maintaining healthy stakeholders as well as the society. All these strategies involve future economic planning for the purposes of sustainability.

According to research, people tend to live longer within richer societies since they enjoy a better percentage of economic rights. The rate of economic growth and consumption depicts the level of inequality in income hence creating some social concerns.

Negative developments within societies such as insecurity contribute towards negative economic growth. Conversely, improvement in mental health, prevention of crime and environmental clean-up are potential contributors towards economic growth.

However, subjective well-being is closely dependant on the level of material consumption, but most importantly intrinsic values have been found to enable people live happier lives with higher levels of environmental responsibility (Jackson, 2009).

Human activity inform of work, results into development within various sectors, hence continuous production and satisfaction of human needs. The main advantage of work is that it results into integrated development, which ensures establishment of security and opportunities for social as well as intellectual growth. This is ensured through creation of more meaningful occupations.

However, considering such changes as development of more occupation, sustainable development may not be defined together with economic growth since this would only lead to creation of excessive polluting opportunities. Growth sometimes is associated with catastrophic consequences.

Compatibility of sustainable development with Economic growth

Effective economic growth demands a politically stable environment; this is because the level of investment within a particular region demands sound political and legal structures.

Sustainable development is further promoted through consideration of economic, environmental and social outcomes within the circles of decision making. The process is applied in ensuring that only long-term impacts are given priority over short-term benefits. The benefits can sometimes be interrupted by high compliance costs, which lead to complication on investment processes.

Economic growth is also known for generating more income through provision of more work. This in-turn enables individuals to create wealth at community standards leading to improvement in living standards. High level of income is an indication of improved health and housing standards as well as increased geographic mobility and leisure time.

However, some level of constraints are also realised on environment as a result of improved living standards. This has the capabilities of altering patterns of economic behaviours due to the various changes in environmental perceptions. Additional wealth created through positive economic growth results into fair distribution amongst social groups hence resulting into differences in living standards.

Economic growth is also a good measure used by countries to contain demographic changes, like meeting the needs and desires of ageing population. This can also be used to raise the standards of education hence record individual’s improvement in skills. Social impacts of economic growth can always be realised through improved standards of living as well as social developments.

On the other hand human capital is normally used as one of the greatest input to economic growth. Appropriate skills are required for the purposes of providing the necessary workforce with relevant skills (Elkington, 1994; Figge and Hahn, 2004).

Human economic activities have broad impacts on the environment. Utilization of non-renewable resources presents a challenge since their usage cannot be replaced leading to their decline over a period of time. The other issue is on the impacts of economic activities on pollution-related effects.

However, the advancement in the level of science and technology assists in the sustenance of non-renewable resources, which ultimately minimise the environmental costs of economic activities. The processes are further initiated to cater for the substitution of non-renewable with renewable resources. Such substitution processes require incentives such as market prices and appropriate decision making (Hart and Milstein, 2003).

Businesses that are socially sustainable consider responsible action towards surrounding environment. Such actions as transparency in decision making together with efficient corporate governance creates some level of fair working conditions and at the same time ensures safety of employees.

Integration of foreign investment into the local system involves contributes towards economic growth when approached through trusted institutions and suppliers capable of delivering rightful information about products and services hence promoting the overall sustainability of the whole process.

This contributes positively to the performance of all stakeholders enabling the growth and economic success of the company (Wagner et al, 2001).

Businesses which consider environmental conservation normally use resources responsibly through recycling and at the same time foster what is known as biodiversity. This strategy applies more so in the manufacturing sector of the economy where strict sustainability measures are required.

Majority of the industries require application of necessary measures capable of reducing greenhouse gas emission and at the same time increases the proportion of utilizing renewable energy sources. Production of environmentally friendly products attracts value within the market creating some willingness in consumers to pay extra for the products (Wagner et al., 2001).


The extent to which the earth’s resources are being exhausted demands that economic growth be viewed hand in hand with sustainability. The current generation requires economic growth and technological innovations for the purposes of establishing sustainable developments.

This is so as to counter the current depletion state of the natural resources. Sustainable development and economic growth are two inseparable entities and are important in the long-run. Both developed and developing countries should utilize the available natural resources to ensure development of sustainable economies capable of contributing positively in present and future generations.

The problem of over-dependency on non-renewable energy sources by developed and developing countries portrays some potential risk to posterity.

Appropriate utilization of natural resources ensures that there is enough accumulation of economic and human capital capable of sustaining livelihoods over longer periods of time. There is need for making people understand the nature of importance and interdependence existing between human, ecosystem and biodiversity.

Economic growth should be focused in ensuring increase in generation of more energy resources vital for a country’s economy. Such moves are created with the aim of ensuring that negative impacts on the environment are considerably minimized. Research from esteemed institutions reveals that majority of the currently existing energy systems are not sustainable.

Conventional energy resources such as fossil fuels and others known to be supply-focused fail to address fully the various consumer needs. This calls for countries to adopt the various energy sources capable of providing the required global sustenance.

Modern technology should be stemmed for the purposes of enabling efficient conversion processes that are environmentally friendly and at the same time supports economic development. Implementation of appropriate knowledge in the field of engineering and economics results into positive results capable of maintaining sustainable systems.

Benefits of sustainability resulting from environmental natural resources could be realised when appropriate measures are taken by individual countries in the process of satisfying societal needs based on efficient usage. The focus should always be on potential of the available resources based on effective means of utilization. Economic capital is vital commodity in the process of improving community needs.

Human activities and well-being cannot be equated to money or rather measured in terms of money. The world needs to be approached in new perspectives which involve integration of equality and culture. Cultural integration enables possible enrichment of other cultures hence enabling continual learning processes.

Research reveals that considerable number of society’s record progress and prosperity without any form of interference with their natural surrounding. This reveals that sustainable development is possible with wise management of the available resources. Such management practices create economic systems which are environmentally friendly and at the same time lead to improvement in people’s livelihoods.

Application of various concepts such as prudent use of natural resources through local knowledge, application of local means of transport could help in reducing the extent of natural destruction hence providing comfortable living conditions for people within various societies.

Reference list

Arrow, K. 1995. Economic Growth, Carrying Capacity, and the Environment. Science, (268), pp. 520–21.

Elkington, J.1994. Towards the sustainable corporation: Win-win-win business Strategies for sustainable development. California Management Review 36 (2), pp.90-100

Ekins, P. 2005. Eco-efficiency – Motives, drivers, and economic implications. Journal of industrial ecology, 9(4).

Figge, F. & Hahn, T. 2004. Sustainable value added – measuring corporate Contributions to sustainability beyond eco-efficiency. Ecological economics, (48), pp. 173-187.

Figge, F. 2005. Value-based environmental management. From environmental Shareholder value to environmental option value. Corporate social responsibility and environmental management, (12), pp 19-30.

Hart, S. L. & Milstein, M. 2003. Creating sustainable value. Academy of Management Executive, 17(2).

Hopwood, B. 2005. Sustainable Development: Mapping Different Approaches. Sustainable Development, (13), pp. 38-52.

Lovins, A., Lovins, H., & Hawken, P. 1999. A road-map for Natural Capitalism. Harvard Business Review, 77(3), pp. 145-158

Sharma, S. & Vredenbrug, H. 1998. Proactive corporate environmental strategy and The development of competitively valuable organizational capabilities. Strategic management journal, (19), pp. 729-753.

Wagner, M., Schaltegger, S. & Wehrmeyer, W. 2001. The Relationship between The Environmental and Economic Performance of Firms. Greener Management International, (34) pp. 95-108.

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