Situating the eco-social economy: conservation initiatives and environmental organizations as catalysts for social and economic development

to appear in Community Development Journal

Nathan Bennett, Raynald Harvey Lemelin

Published: January 2014

Keywords: social economy, conservation, environment


The social economy is a third sector of the economy, besides the public and private sectors, that provides critical social and economic services to society. Though there is broad recognition that both society and economy are dependent on functioning and healthy ecosystems, theories and definitions of the social economy rarely include reference to environmental and conservation-focused activities or outcomes. This paper empirically situates the concept of an eco-social economy within the context of a community conservation initiative. Through a case study of the Lutsel K’e Dene First Nation and the Thaidene Nene Protected Area in northern Canada, this paper demonstrates that: (i) for indigenous people, conservation is as much a social, economic, political, and cultural endeavour as it is about the protection of nature; (ii) outside environmental non-governmental organizations are also aligning their conservation mandates with the broader social, economic, and cultural goals of northern indigenous communities; and (iii) local social economy organizations are emerging to advocate for conservation as a means to achieve social and economic development ends. These examples compel us to envisage a social economy that incorporates environmental organizations and conservation initiatives and movements and that makes explicit a distinct eco-social economy. This theoretical concept has global applicability.

Disciplines: Environment, Sustainability

Publication: SituatingtheEcoSocialEconomy.pdf