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Red vs Green vs Blue Economy

It could look like the rainbow economy, if  all colours represented a smiley face!

Unfortunately, this is not the case: these colours, associated with the term “economy”, define the degree of self-sustenance that future generations will have with the resources available at that period of time.

From the 2000s onwards, the world has developed a capitalistic and consumeristic society, which has led to the s.c. “red economy”. Why is it called the red economy? The red colour refers to all non-sustainable businesses, characterized by high-polluted, unethical and fraudulent economies. Once experts realised the critical and dangerous ecosystem we were creating, all stakeholders started reflecting upon their own lifestyles.

By focusing on more respectful behaviours towards the environment, the green and blue economies gained momentum and obtained the importance they have today. They have gained increasing popularity among worldwide governments and specialized organizations, as well as entrepreneurs, and developed significant solutions to overcome climate change and unsustainable living.

For a green economy, we intend “one that results in improved human well-being and social equity, while significantly reducing environmental risks and ecological scarcities.”  – UN Environment Programme. The green economy concept has been first described in 1989, and since then, the crucial issue goes around carbon emissions and climate change.

In fact, it was noticed that each “red” action emit higher emission than green ones. However, switching from red to green is not as easy as it seems. It requires a significant investment from every stakeholder, as the economy has not managed to offer green solutions at the same price as red ones yet. Since the green economy mostly operates on a macro-economical level, meaning that big funds are intended for large providers, it’s in the hand of small and medium enterprises, as well as individuals, to make an effort in bringing forth the circular economy without harming each other.  Hopefully, one day every stakeholder will be equally supported in the adoption of a greener lifestyle.

On a similar note, the blue economy is “the sustainable use of ocean resources to promote economic growth, social inclusion, and the preservation or improvement of livelihoods, while at the same time ensuring environmental sustainability of the oceans and coastal areas.” – The World Bank. The blue economy is specifically addressed to islands and all states surrounded by sea, lakes or rivers. However, ocean treatment concerns all countries and we must put equal effort into protecting such precious spaces.

Both economies focus on natural resources first, trying to tackle the main issues like deforestation, water waste, food waste, mobility, sustainable agriculture, animal species extinction, energy and fossil fuels. Not only, with these new approaches, it is fundamental to also reflect on the social and human components, just to mention a few: human rights, ethical issues, labour exploitation, gender equality and more.

The progression of these economies is empowered and supported by worldwide regulations and government laws as well as funds. Among many, it is once again fundamental to underline the 2030’s plan to reach the Sustainable Development Goals, known as SDGs. These objectives serve not only as a guideline to wisely plan short and long-term actions, but are also useful to further research on each subtopic.

Let’s sum it up!

Thanks to theblueconomy.org’s analysis we can quickly summarise the differences as follow:


  • destructive
  • linear
  • individualist
  • wealth inequality
  • dependency


  • protector
  • circular
  • collective
  • resilience


  • regenerative
  • ecosystem
  • symbiotic
  • abundance
  • autonomy

What can we further say about the economies’ changes in the last decades? 

If there’s one thing we deeply understood is that we can’t keep going red, so we happily adopt KPMG’s thought:

“ One planet, one economy – You can’t go green without blue” !

For a detailed case study of the above-mentioned quote, have a look at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TPjS1Y9j4KU

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