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Tim Jackson: Prosperity without growth

The global economy is built around the concept of growth. We need the economy to grow to create new jobs that will increase national purchasing power, creating wealth. But, as Professor Tim Jackson points out, most of our economists and politicians ignore the dilemma embedded in this narrative: the economy simply cannot grow infinitely within the confines of a finite planet.

So what if we could achieve a prosperity that wasn’t dependent on growth?

Triodos Bank UK recently had the opportunity to ask Tim about why this model isn’t future-proof, and what alternative he would propose.

Watch the video:

Work as meaningful participation in society

The first thing that Tim touched on in our economic system is the thing that is closest to all of us: work. For him, work is more than simply a way of making an income, it is part of what holds our society together. This will flourish when we are allowed to take time and give attention to good work. Areas like craft industries, social care and creativity will restore work’s value to society.

Enterprise as service

Business shouldn’t be about making more and more ‘stuff’, it should be about delivering good services that improve the quality of our lives. Rarely do we purchase a thing itself—we purchase what that thing can do for us. For instance we don’t really buy a smartphone, we buy connectivity. When the goal of business is ‘dematerialised’, businesses can figure out how to best serve human and ecological communities rather than trying to extract value out of natural resources.

“When the goal of business is ‘dematerialised’, businesses can figure out how to best serve human and ecological communities rather than trying to extract value out of natural resources”

Tim Jackson


Investment as commitment

Investment has had a PR problem for the last ten years: the casino economy crashed the system and we continue to live out the consequences. But investment is the way in which we relate to the future and where we invest our money shows what type of future we are committed to. Investment should create ways to finance good work and good business, funnelling money into the creation and protection of social and environmental assets that can unlock good work and good business.

Money as social good

Money needs to support the long-term prosperity of our communities. Currently our money system allows banks to create money and lend it to projects that will maximize their return. But our money needs to have a social purpose. Government can help here by directing the money system to meet this need. But banks like Triodos, which uses customer deposits to finance sustainable projects, are already using money for good.

An economy that works

Taken together, work, enterprise, investment and money make up the foundational elements of a modern economy. Our current reality employs all four to promote continually increasing consumption that accumulates wealth for a few at the top of the food chain. In an economy of prosperity, these characteristics need to be reimagined and deployed in a way that serves communities and creates lasting prosperity.

tim jackson

Tim Jackson is Professor of Sustainable Development at the University of Surrey and Director of the Centre for the Understanding of Sustainable Prosperity (CUSP). He currently holds a Professorial Fellowship on Prosperity and Sustainability in the Green Economy (PASSAGE) funded by the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC). He is also an award-winning playwright with numerous radio-writing credits for the BBC.

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Chris Scholten 3 years ago

Nor can we have continuous population growth, particularly not to the most densely populated countries such as England and Holland; due to mass immigration that posturing lefties are devoted to

Reply to Chris Scholten
Pam Crummay 3 years ago

I don’t think you’ve been listening……Were our economy to be run correctly, your fears of population growth would be unfounded. I speak as a “posturing lefty” who would love to see a fairer and more compassionate society.

Donald Pike 3 years ago

I have been campaigning along these lines since 1986, but I have not yet met any parlementarian who was prepared to listen as their votes seem to depend entirely on what they can ‘offer’ their voters – which means more growth to provide the money! But I reply, ‘at whose expense?’ If we grow, someone else, somewhere, must shrink.

Tim Jackson: Prosperity without growth | The Colour of Money | Triodos Bank – UNITED EARTH 3 years ago

[…] Tim Jackson: Prosperity without growth | The Colour of Money | Triodos Bank […]

Brian Shepherd 3 years ago

Sound common sense, sadly very much lacking in large parts of economic activity and government policy

Piensa en prosperidad, no en crecimiento | La Revista Triodos 2 years ago

[…] aparecida originalmente en The Colour of Money, publicación de Triodos Bank Reino […]