Imagining a new economy


A common vision for an environmentally and socially just economy.

A visual summary of a workshop on new economies. © FoE Europe / Ale Listens and Draws.

There are more mainstream voices than ever calling-out our exploitative neoliberal, economic system and demanding transformational change. The Covid-19 pandemic made it clearer than ever that ‘economics-as-usual’ is broken and does not work for huge sections of our societies. We cannot continue to pursue growth no matter what, and that includes what some politicians promise as ‘green growth’.

Core to the current Friends of the Earth Europe strategy is the recognition that we need to abandon the never-ending pursuit of consumption and economic growth, which is at the heart of the multiple crises facing humanity and nature.

What kind of positive economic and social system do we envision instead? In 2020, we made big progress towards answering this question. We created a common vision with our network for an environmentally and socially just economy. We held six interactive webinars with member groups and dived deep into discussions, brainstorming and new economic thinking. It culminated in a comprehensive internal paper, ‘Principles for an environmentally and socially just economy’. The seven chapters reflect our bottom-up vision for all areas of the economy – from the purpose and guiding values of the economy we want, to democracy and public services, to the financial system and the future of work, business, and trade.

This thinking is now shaping our analysis and demands, not least towards EU policy-makers. We rejected so-called ‘green’ or ‘regenerative growth’-based failed economic solutions in the EU Green Deal. We pushed for the Green Deal to bring about a shift to an economy that cares for everyone within the Earth’s limits.

We also built relationships and cooperation with the degrowth movement. We co-organised a panel debate and workshop on the theme of ‘How do we deal with the European Green Deal?’ at the Degrowth Conference Vienna.

This work continues with a shorter public version of the vision paper coming first in 2021.

Reducing the EU’s resource consumption

The European Commission’s new Circular Economy Action Plan turned out to be a mixed bag. It promised some bright developments, such as new laws to make products more sustainable and pledges to scale-up reusable packaging, tableware and cutlery. However, we know the EU consumes the same as if we had almost three planets’ worth of resources available, yet there was no overall target to reduce resource consumption. What we got in the plan was a commitment to ‘monitor’ the EU’s material footprint. This is the total amount of raw materials the EU economy consumes in products and services, including imports. Monitoring is a step forward but not enough. After helping push the European Parliament to back such a target, we’re now working to get the European Commission to endorse it and help enshrine it in law.

The Von der Leyen Commission’s plan for a circular economy is out of touch with the reality and urgency of the planetary emergency.
Meadhbh Bolger, Resource justice campaigner
in The Guardian.
A visual summary of a workshop on production and consumption as part of a new economy.

Our Campaigns

Future of Europe

Climate justice and energy

Corporate power

Food, farming and nature

Resource justice