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Community-Led Initiatives SDG8: Decent Work and Economic Growth

The wording of SDG8 is something of an anomaly in relation to current thinking on sustainability, given the almost universal recognition that further growth in the global economy - at least as conventionally understood, in terms of GDP or financial values - is under present conditions incompatible with provision of decent work, and achievement of any of the other 16 SDGs.[1] This conclusion arises from, for example, a large body of academic research - including but not restricted to that conducted within the Degrowth movement,[2] work originally conducted by the UK government's Sustainable Development Commission,[3] experiences of major international development NGOs such as Oxfam,[4] and the T20 advisory group to the G20.[5] Recognition of the need for a change in economic paradigm has begun to take hold in the European Commission, which in 2018 hosted a major conference on post-growth alternatives at the European Parliament.Community-led initiatives include existing and ongoing attempts to create functioning local economies and enterprises that do not depend on global GDP growth, which can inform and support this wider shift.[6]

Specific approaches include:

  • Use of solidarity economy as a vehicle for creating sustainable lifestyles based on socially and ecologically regenerative forms of enterprise, and for embedding ethics of sustainability and equality into local economies.[7][8][9][10]
  • Alternative models of enterpreneurship, representing distinctive forms of social solidarity economy, have arisen in many key movements of CLIs. Ecovillages often operate as working models of sustainable local economies that host multiple forms of enterpreneurship.[11] Based on these experiences, GEN and a number of partners within the Erasmus+-funded SIRCle Project (Social Innovation for Resilience Communities) developed a toolkit and associated curriculum and other learning tools for sustainability enterpreneurship, to facilitate the wider diffusion of the knowledge and approaches thus developed.[12]. From the Transition movement emerged the REconomy approach to reinvigorating local economies through sustainable and socially responsible entrepreneurship.[13] A report on 20 early examples of Transition-inspired social enterprises in the UK included enterprises in community renewable energy, housing, transportation, finance, food production, and many more, with a total annual turnover of GBP 3.5 million and collectively employing over 100 people.[14] The KEEP Research Project, a collaboration between the Permaculture Association (Britain) and Kingston University Business School, undertook a preliminary survey of permaculture-inspired enterprises in the UK, documenting case studies in areas such as education, community work, software design, publishing, hospitality and mental health.[15] In terms of land-based enterprises, also in the UK the Ecological Land Co-op surveyed a number of land-based enterprises based on application of labour-intensive, regenerative methods on small land holdings (four hectares or less) and found them to combine financial sustainability not dependent on agricultural surveys with provision of a range of environmental and social benefits, in all these respects comparing favourably with large-scale agro-industrial operations.[16]
  • Economic Relocalistion, a key strategy within the Transition movement, examines opportunities to short-circuit supply and production chains that are unecessarily long by prioritising use of local goods and services.[17][18] Making the impacts of production and consumption directly visible to those who undertake them encourages accountability and conviviality, promoting a shift in economy from creation of fiscal value to satisfaction of needs within local ecological limits.[19] Assessment of the economic benefits of relocalisation in four key sectors (energy, housing, food and healthcare) undertaken by Transition Town Totnes showed a potential dividend to the local economy of up to GBP 50 million annually.[20]
  • Use of alternative entrepreneurial and economic models appropriate to the social, ecological and cultural conditions currently experienced by global society.[21][22]. A key example originating in the permaculture movement Regenerative Enterprise, in which businesses exist in order to create, and make available for social use, one or more of eight different forms of capital: financial, material, living, social, cultural, experiential, living and spiritual. Businesses in any locality interact as enterprise ecologies, specialising in producing different forms of capital and redistributing these in line with the ‘fair shares’ principle so that, for example, a highly financially productive enterprise might redirect fiscal surpluses to others generative of living, cultural or other capitals.[23] From this was developed the concept of Regenerative Capitalism, a global macro-economic model that seeks to be productive of all eight forms of capital, insofar as each contributes to human and planetary flourishing.[24]
  • Creation of local and community currencies that support local economies and are designed to promote ethics of sustainability, solidarity and inclusion. Such complementary currencies are already operating in several cities, municipalities and regions throughout Europe.[25][26][27][28]


  1. Anon. 2020. ‘Time to Revise the Sustainable Development Goals’. Nature 583(7816):331–32. doi: 10.1038/d41586-020-02002-3.
  2. Kallis, G., 2018. Degrowth. Newcastle: Agenda Publishing.
  3. Jackson, T., 2017. Propserity without Growth. Second Edition. London: Routledge.
  4. Raworth, K., 2017. Doughnut Economics. London: Random House.
  5. Messner, D. & D.J. Snower, 2017. 20 Solution Proposals for the G20. Kiel: Kiel Institute for the Global Economy and Bonn: German Development Institute.
  6. Demaria, F., Schneider, F., Sekulova, F., Martinez-Alier, J., 2013. What is Degrowth? From an Activist Slogan to a Social Movement. Environmental Values 22, 191–215.
  7. Bauhardt, C., 2014. Solutions to the crisis? The Green New Deal, Degrowth, and the Solidarity Economy: Alternatives to the capitalist growth economy from an ecofeminist economics perspective. Ecological Economics 102, 60–68.
  8. Troisi, R., di Sisto, M., Castagnola, A., 2015. Transformative economy: Challenges and limits of the Social and Solidarity Economy (SSE) in 55 territories in Europe and in the World., Social & Solidarity Economy as Development Approach for Sustainability (SSEDAS) - Final Report.
  9. Hillman, J., Axon, S., Morrissey, J., 2018. Social enterprise as a potential niche innovation breakout for low carbon transition. Energy Policy 117, 445–456.
  10. Gurău, C., Dana, L.-P., 2018. Environmentally-driven community entrepreneurship: Mapping the link between natural environment, local community and entrepreneurship. Technological Forecasting and Social Change 129, 221–231.
  11. Hall, R., 2013. The Enterprising Ecovillager. Achieving Community Development through Innovative Green Entrepreneurship. BMK leidykla, Vilnius.
  12. Accessed February 10th 2019.
  13. Accessed July 7th 2018.
  14. Ward. F., 2013. The new economy in 20 enterprises. Reconomy Project, Totnes, Devon.
  15. Accessed July 7th 2018.
  16. Maxey, L., Laughton, R., Rodker, O., Wangler, Z., 2011. Small is successful. Creating sustainable livelihoods on ten acres or less. Ecological Land Cooperative, London.
  17. Hopkins, R., 2010. Localisation and resilience at the local level: the case of Transition Town Totnes (Devon, UK). University of Plymouth.
  18. Bailey, I., Hopkins, R., Wilson, G., 2010. Some things old, some things new: The spatial representations and politics of change of the peak oil relocalisation movement. Geoforum 41, 595–605.
  19. Cato, M.S., 2013. The Bioregional Economy. London: Routledge/Earthscan.
  20. Ward, F., Tompt, J., Northrop, F., 2013. Totnes and District Local Economic Blueprint. Transition Town Totnes, Totnes.
  21. Walby, S., 2018. The concept of inclusive economic growth. Soundings 138–154.
  22. Berlin, K.A., 2016. Alternative Economies for the Anthropocene: Change, Happiness and Future Scenarios. Ecozon@ 7, 149–164.
  23. Roland, E. & G. Landua, 2013. Regenerative Enterprise Optimizing for Multi-Capital Abundance. Version 1.0, eBook Format.
  24. Fullerton, J. (2015). Regenerative Capitalism - How Universal Principles And Patterns Will Shape Our New Economy. Capital Institute.
  25. Michel, A., Hudon, M., 2015. Community currencies and sustainable development: A systematic review. Ecological Economics 116, 160–171.
  26. Fare, M., Ahmed, P.O., 2017. Complementary Currency Systems and their Ability to Support Economic and Social Changes. Development and Change 48, 847–872.
  27. Seyfang, G., Longhurst, N., 2013. Desperately seeking niches: Grassroots innovations and niche development in the community currency field. Global Environmental Change 23, 881–891.
  28. Graugaard, J.D., 2012. A tool for building community resilience? A case study of the Lewes Pound. Local Environment 17, 243–260.