Eco Industry and Jobs

It is difficult exactly to define the “eco-industry”, and therefore also its growth and export potential. A recent EU study has made an estimation on the situation in the EU-15 and the Candidate Countries. The eco-industry is broadly defined as “activities which produce goods and services to measure, prevent, limit, minimize or correct environmental damage to water, air and soil, as well as problems related to waste, noise and ecosystems. This includes cleaner technologies, products and services that reduce environmental risk and minimize pollution and resource use”.

Pollution management consists of nine eco-industry sectors that manage material streams from processes managed by humans to nature, typically using “end of pipe” technology. It also includes cleaner technologies and products, which are mentioned in the definitions as “equipment”. In order of turnover:

  • Solid Waste Management & Recycling (€52.4 billion) 
  • Waste Water Treatment (€52.2 billion)
  • Air Pollution Control (€15.9 billion)
  • General Public Administration (€11.5 billion)
  • Private Environmental Management (€5.8 billion) 
  • Remediation & Clean Up of Soil & Groundwater (€5.2 billion)
  • Noise & Vibration Control (€2 billion) 
  • Environmental Research & Development (€0.11 billion)
  • Environmental Monitoring & Instrumentation (€1 billion)

Resource management includes five eco-industry sectors that take a more preventive approach to managing material streams from nature to the technosphere: 

  • Water Supply (€45.7 billion)
  • Recycled Materials (€24.3 billion)
  • Renewable Energy Production (€6.1 billion)
  • Nature Protection (€5.7 billion)
  • Eco-construction (€40 billion)


What can we do? What should the policy leaders do as a matter of policy? First, we need to realize that the rules of trade still apply. Developing countries have lots of cheap labor. They do and will continue to manufacture many products sold in the developed countries. But that's not the whole story - not for manufacturing itself, and not for the industry overall.

How to keep jobs at home?

To get to the bottom of this, we need to look at the full supply chain. To simplify things, we can split the entire process into four areas: inventing, commercializing, producing, and installing.

Right now, the developed countries are inventing and commercializing, the developing countries are producing, and both are installing eco innovations domestically.

The developed countries ought to do everything to make sure they keep inventing eco innovations. That means a concerted push to fund basic research and development. But R&D subsidies alone won't do

Sizing the Clean Economy - A National and Regional Green Jobs Assessment (July 2011)


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Economic Development

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