We Often Talk About Economical and Green Growth, but Have You Heard of Degrowth? 

Within the realms of business and economics, discussions revolve around the pursuit of growth, considering it a fundamental catalyst for the prosperity of both organizations, and societies as a whole. With the current critical importance of sustainable development there’s now considerable emphasis on green growth. In recent years, yet a contrasting perspective has emerged, however…

Veronika Ringblom Avatar

Within the realms of business and economics, discussions revolve around the pursuit of growth, considering it a fundamental catalyst for the prosperity of both organizations, and societies as a whole. With the current critical importance of sustainable development there’s now considerable emphasis on green growth. In recent years, yet a contrasting perspective has emerged, however challenging the conventional belief of continuous growth. It in fact calls for the opposite, namely degrowth. The term “degrowth” had never crossed my radar, until a friend mentioned this in a conversation. Curious as I sometimes am, I delved deeper into this subject and I soon realized the extensive range of perspectives within this debate. Acknowledging the impossibility of incorporating all perspectives, I’ll give you a glimpse of some of them. 

So what is degrowth and how is it meant to increase the sustainability of the world? The degrowth movement, beginning in the 2000s, advocates for a deliberate reduction in economic activities and is a critique of the steadfast hunt for economic growth, particularly in the western societies. To no surprise, especially high-income countries bear ecological debt, excessively utilizing natural resources and contributing to high emissions impacting the climate. Hence, degrowth is about scaling down both production and consumption, due to the strong links between growth and the use of resources on earth. In a degrowth economy, fewer products are produced, less transportation, more forest preservation, less meat production, mineral extraction and less energy use. The degrowth movement argues that climate change should prompt a rethinking refraining from economic growth. Seems to me like a quite bold statement.

Within the sphere of LUSEM, Timothée Parrique stands out as one of the most foremost proponents with a true passion for degrowth. Timothée completed his PhD in 2019 with the thesis “The Political Economy of Degrowth” and was honored this year’s winner of the Lund University Sustainability Award for Agenda 2030. In an interview with LUM, Parrique articulates how unless the production and consumption isn’t drastically reduced humanity will be coming even closer to an ecological collapse and danger to human existence. Timothée also reflects on the anticipated critique and skepticism in the realm of economics. A shrinking economy with less shopping, traveling and lower material standards, might evoke notions of recession and heightened unemployment, however Timothée clarifies that this is not the objective. Rather the core idea is to work less and have more time for relationships and improve quality of life in harmony with nature. Therefore the degrowth movement questions why the world continues to focus on profit maximization and GDP, and not the quality of life itself, arguing that these are old economic metrics.

The idea of green growth is increasingly alive in political debates in multiple countries, but the degrowth movement pushes that if high-income countries don’t switch to degrowth, we won’t be able to sustain for long, as many developing countries already are having increasing carbon emissions. Degrowth advocates are skeptical that economic growth as we know it, ever truly can be achieved without simultaneous increase in emissions. Meaning that they argue against the achievement of a sustainable society while the GDP of countries also grows. However, as perhaps anticipated, critics argue that not only is it feasible, it’s already happening. Many countries are transitioning to green energy, and are seeing reduction in emissions along with GDP growth. The economist Fredrik N G Andersson at LUSEM, has long researched the effects of the transition to an economy without fossil fuels and agrees with the degrowth researchers that emissions must be reduced quickly. However, he doesn’t see the direct link between economic growth and increased carbon emissions.  

Andersson sees multiple benefits of market economics, including poverty alleviation, promotion of democracy, and reliance on healthy competition. It has financed our healthcare and schools. He argues degrowth would dismantle the welfare state. Consequently, the economist thinks researchers advocating for degrowth are wrong. Andersson doesn’t see ceasing to produce and consume as a solution, but rather change what we produce and consume. Additionally, those sectors with high emissions are what should be focused on and how to make them more sustainable. Especially in a world where billions still live in poverty, degrowth seems as a somewhat impossible implementation. Can we fix global poverty without economic growth? Certainly our lifestyles are not sustainable and things need to change, but does this necessarily imply that we should prevent growth?

In the end degrowth is definitely an interesting concept and perspective on how to tackle the current critical climate problems. I’m not yet convinced this is the way to go, but happy to have learned something new. Across the spectrum of whether degrowth or green growth is the way to go, everyone at least seems to agree that changes need to be made in how businesses operate in order to reduce the material use and carbon emissions. What differs them however, is the attitude in which they want to go about achieving this reduction. Degrowth seems radical in the sense that it focuses too much on the climate crisis, while parts of the world till this day still battle poverty, making degrowth an already impossible way to go. As uncomfortable as it may be, a significant part of the solution lies in changing our own lifestyles and reshaping existing businesses to be more sustainable. The most effective course of action to attain global sustainability, seems yet hard to tell. Nonetheless, as we navigate these complex discussions, it is evident that the path forward requires a collective commitment. 


Wallén-Widung, M. (2023) Degrowth – the path to the future. Lund University Magazine. Available online: https://www.staff.lu.se/article/degrowth-path-future [Retrieved 19 December 2023]

Wallén-Widung, M. (2023) “Advocates for degrowth miss the mark”. Lund University Magazine. Available online:  https://www.staff.lu.se/article/advocates-degrowth-miss-mark [Retrieved 19 December 2023]

Lund University (2023) Agenda 2030 Award for high-profile research on degrowth. Available online: https://www.sustainability.lu.se/education/agenda-2030-graduate-school/agenda-2030-award/agenda-2030-award-high-profile-research-degrowth [Retrieved 21 December 2023]

About Nådiga Lundtan

Founded in 1948 and has since been an important part of student life in the economics program at Lund University. Nådiga Lundtan covers a wide range of topics related to economics, society, and politics, as well as careers, entrepreneurship, and innovation. It is a platform for students to share their ideas and opinions on economics and related fields.

View more articles
  • What’s the deal with sunscreen, really?

    As summer approaches and the weather warms up, the sun’s rays grow stronger and people are bringing out their sunscreen. I am too. This year, when the sun finally appeared, I immediately got sunburned on my shoulders. I soon realized I didn’t have any sunscreen at home, so I picked up my phone to research…

  • The EU Election 2024: Why Your Vote Matters and How to Make It Count

    If you are entitled to vote in the EU elections, you should have received a voting card in your mailbox. So get ready for the EU elections taking place on June 9! You might be wondering why your vote matters, what options you have if you can’t make it to the polls on the big…

  • My newest discovery: Discover Weekly on Spotify

    Like so many others, my passion for music runs deep. However, I often found it unnecessarily difficult to find new music that suits my taste. It is way too easy to get stuck in the same old playlists that you’ve had on repeat for years without broadening your horizons. I mean, Spotify grants you access to…