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19th European Roundtable on Sustainable Consumption and Production – Circular Europe for Sustainability: Design, Production and Consumption

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Mapping Economic Change (2): a Qualitative Analysis of the Current State of Sustainable Economics Initiatives

In the last years several economic proposals, both at the theoretical and grassroots level, emerged in different parts of the world to address the environmental and social issues that the current economic paradigm left behind. Some of them gained worldwide visibility and managed to enter into the mainstream discourse of sustainability (by instance, the Circular Economy), others remained local experiments with low international echo (e.g.: the Complementary Currencies). In combination with the data extract from a previous study (Mapping economic change Part1: a bibliometric analysis of the current state of sustainable economics initiatives), in this research we selected 10 different key words that represent the current most relevant initiatives of sustainable economics - which we define as an economy with concern for environmental and social issues at its core – in order to carry out a qualitative analysis within the academic field. We investigated about the common and key characteristics of these proposals, in order to derive some hypothesis about their difference in visibility, distribution, approach and scope. We categorized these proposals according to three criteria: economic domain (consumption, labour, production, finance/capital, trade), type of initiative (bottom up or top-down) and scale (local, national and international). We moreover organized them into a scheme which orders the key words on two axes: radicalconservative (closeness of the topic to traditional or alternative economic approaches) and environmental-social (whether the focus of the initiative is more towards the ecological or the social field). As results, we found that those proposals focused on top-down approaches, on an international level and close to mainstream visions of economics, currently have higher visibility in the academic field. However, in our study we moreover demonstrate that these initiatives are not opposed to each other, but complementary: in fact, as part of the conclusion, we propose a possible scheme to integrate all these proposals into a comprehensive and integrated plan for a more sustainable economy. We believe that presented in this shape, these initiatives can gain more easily visibility, and above all result as more effective and robust in proposing themselves as a practical and independent alternative to the current economic paradigm.

Maria Zinutti
Universidade Catolica Dom Bosco (Brazil)


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