Submitting InstitutionRoehampton University
Unit of AssessmentBusiness and Management Studies
Summary Impact TypePolitical
Research Subject Area(s)
Economics: Applied Economics
Studies In Human Society: Human Geography, Policy and Administration
Summary of the impact
Molly Scott Cato's ongoing research in the field of Sustainability
Transitions has had an international influence on reframing global debates
on green policy in three interlinked areas. First, she has made a major
contribution to conceptualising the 'green economy' in work that can be
demonstrated to have global reach through gathering formal evidence or
informing policy advice. Secondly, Cato's work on relocalising and
reclaiming ownership of provisioning systems — conceptualised as the
'bioregional economy'— emphasises land as the key economic resource. These
insights have led to policy changes in the UK and in Wales specifically.
Thirdly, Cato's work in the field of co-operative studies has influenced
economic development policy in Wales. Through this work Cato is
influencing public discourse on a broad scale.
Molly Scott Cato (Professor, January 2012 to date) is an internationally
leading `green' economist. In the context of global environmental
concerns, there is a significant growth in sectors whose production
processes and products can demonstrate more efficient use of resources and
energy. This is generally referred to as the `green economy'.
Problematically, because the hegemonic ideology of neoclassical economics
is immanent in this green economy, it is unlikely to engender a transition
to a sustainable economy if, as many economists now suggest, the structure
of the neoliberal economy that neoclassical economics underpins is itself
Cato argues that, for sustainability to be achieved, there is a need for
alternative understandings, concepts and principles to effect structural
change. Cato uses her own participation in and experience of existing
alternative economic practices to explore empirically, analyse and
synthesise understandings of sustainable futures. This was achieved in her
well-received and widely-cited book Green Economics (2009), which
provides a coherent framework for enacting sustainability transitions
through policy and praxis. This praxis-oriented work is complemented by a
theoretical paper in the Cambridge Journal of Economics (2012)
developed whilst at the University of Roehampton in 2012.
Green Economics leaves the reader with a vision of the future
which is materially limited. In order for such prospects to appear
attractive, and therefore viable in policy terms, it is necessary to offer
the prospect of non-material compensations, such as the deepening of
social relationships between people and their natural environments. To
respond to this, Cato's book The Bioregional Economy (2012),
completed in summer 2012, challenges the assumption underpinning the
global economy that the ownership and control of resources does not relate
to geographical sites or the people and species who inhabit them, and
explores alternative sources of identity and satisfaction. In such a
locally embedded economy, the question of land use acquires enhanced
salience and policy relevance. Complementing this conceptual work, Cato
works on the increasingly salient question of local provisioning,
particularly the local food economy, which she theorizes as part of a
resilient, sustainable economy of the future.
Formerly a director of the Cardiff Institute for Co-operative Studies,
Cato is recognised as a leading theorist of the co-operative economy and
is currently a member of the Co-operative Commission in Wales. In 2012 she
guest-edited a special issue of the Journal of Co-operative Studies
on the co-operative green economy, featured at the Rio+20 conference and
circulated via research networks of the International Co-operative
Alliance. Cato has used this theoretical work to explore how enterprises
owned by producers or consumers (or a combination of both) can offer a
more sustainable and resilient approach to food production. This work is
reflected in her book chapter `Your Caring Sharing Co-op'. She undertook a
study of farmers' markets as part of the Making Local Food Work programme
funded by the Big Lottery Fund (£10,000), and is active in the core group
of Stroud Community Agriculture, a local cooperatively owned farm with 200
member households. To facilitate local economic exchange, Cato has
supported—both theoretically and practically—the development and
discussion of local currencies, including in her paper on the Stroud
References to the research
2012 The Bioregional Economy : Land, Liberty and the Pursuit of
Happiness (London: Earthscan).
2012 `Green Economics: Putting the Planet and Politics Back into
Economics', Cambridge Journal of Economics, 36(5): 1019-1032.
2012 Journal of Co-operative Studies special issue on Green
Economy, commissioned and editor, 45/1.
2012 `Your caring, sharing co-op: women's work, ownership and sustainable
livelihoods', in Gender and Sustainable Livelihoods, ed. Wendy
Harcourt (Houndsmill: Palgrave Macmillan).
2009 Green Economics: An Introduction to Theory, Policy and Practice
(London: Earthscan). REF2.
Molly Scott Cato (with Jan Myers, Gloucestershire), `Evaluation of the
Making Local Food Work Collaborative Farmers' Markets Programme', grant
from the Plunkett Foundation/FARMA, January-July 2012. £10,000.
Details of the impact
Conceptualising the 'Green Economy':
Cato's research on green economics has made influential contributions to
public discourse around the understanding of alternative economic models,
and has directly influenced the policy of the Green Party in the UK, and
at a European level. This work has had international reach: Cato's book Green
Economics has been translated into Greek and Chinese and she has
received media coverage in the USA, Latin America, China, India,
Lithuania, Finland, and Canada. This has shaped public discourse
globally about the economics of sustainability and challenged existing
norms of economic success. This work has also contributed to reframing
what is meant by economic sustainability.
Cato engages with policy debates at the national level through her role
as Economics/Finance Speaker for the Green Party. She advises party leader
Natalie Bennett  and acts as a consultant in the writing of policy
proposals and documents. She has helped to influence government policy
through written and oral evidence given to the Inquiry into the Green
Economy by the House of Commons Environmental Audit Committee and written
evidence on their Inquiry into Green Finance  — evidence that drew on
her theorization of a green economy. At the European level, Cato has
influenced the Green European Foundation and the thinktank Green House in
developing a Post-Growth project , an attempt to reframe understanding
of the green economy based on her theoretical work about the need for a
green economy to respect planetary limits.
Arising from her own experience of community-level processes to
facilitate the transition to a sustainable economy, Cato has taken a
leadership role in pioneering sustainable communities and is part of a
movement to develop an alternative economic model known as `the
bioregional economy'. She has also been a key actor in the development of
local currency initiatives, helping to design the Stroud Pound, which drew
on her study of the work of Silvio Gesell and other monetary theorists,
and launching the Totnes Pound . She has spoken in numerous Transition
Towns and to other community groups supporting the growth of the green
economy, such as West Midlands New Economics Group in Birmingham and the
Small is ... Festival. Her theoretical work is used to support the
approach of a number of grassroots organisations committed to education
for sustainable development, including the Centre for Alternative
Technology, through her convening of training courses and workshops.
Economics Embedded in Land and Place:
Cato's work on the bioregional economy focus on land ownership, taxation
and use, has influenced and contributed to policy changes in a range of
contexts. She has a longstanding commitment to the campaign for a Land
Value Tax including writing for the Tax Justice Network and speaking at
conferences of the International Union for Land Taxation in July 2013. She
advised Caroline Lucas MP, who put down a bill on Land Value Taxation in
2012 . At the invitation of Mark Drakeford AM, she spoke to senior
Welsh policy-makers at Ideas Wales about the potential of Land Value Tax;
he is now campaigning for such a tax at Welsh Assembly level . In July
2013 Cato was interviewed for a film called The Taxing Question of
Land, which was launched at the Royal Society of Arts in September
2013 with the participation of Business Secretary Vince Cable . The
Liberal Democrats have since expressed public commitment to land as a
source of tax revenue.
This work has also shaped public discourse on a more local level. Cato
has been invited to present her idea for a bioregional economy to a range
of audiences including Cambridge Carbon Footprint Group , Swindon
Climate Action Network, and the Co-operative Congress Women's Challenge
Event in Cardiff in June 2013. The reach of this work has been
complemented by interviews for the Lithuanian magazine Eurozone, the
Montreal Review, the Shanghai Bund magazine and the UK magazine Resurgence.
Self-Organised Resilient Local Provisioning:
At the annual conference of the International Co-operative Alliance in
Mikkeli, Finland in 2011, Cato gave a keynote address explicating the
theoretical link between co-operative economics and sustainability, which
was later published as part of the special issue of the Journal of
Co-operative Studies that she guest edited. She has been a member
of the Welsh Government's Co-operative Commission since December 2012,
where her theoretical work is being used to inform the Commission's work
and report .
As a result of her expertise in food co-operatives, she undertook (with
Myers) an evaluation of the Plunkett Foundation/FARMA £1m Making Local
Food Work Collaborative Farmers' Market project. The research involved a
qualitative exploration of ten markets in different regions and settings.
The conclusions focused on the ability of the MLFW programme to maximise
incomes of local producers and thus support the health of rural economies.
This has achieved impact directly through the research, as conversations
with stallholders, and those food experts who work with them, have
influenced the way they perceive their role as part of the local economy
and intensified their focus on maximising the retention of value by
Sources to corroborate the impact
- Testimonial: Leader of the UK Green Party.
- EAC references: Evidence to the House of Commons Environmental Audit
Committee inquiries into Green Economy and Green Finance:
- `Europe Beyond Growth: From Material Excess to Human Flourishing',
panel discussion organized by Green House and the Green European
Foundation, 19 December 2012, 14-27 minutes:
- Testimonial: Founder of the Transition Towns movement.
- Corroboration: Green Party MP.
- `The Bioregional Economy', talk to Cambridge Carbon Footprint, 15
- Testimonial: Chair, Welsh Co-Operative and Mutuals Commission
- Corroboration: Director of the Plunkett Foundation.