The number of global initiatives looking to promote sustainability has been steadily rising. One of the consequences of this development is that the green economy is also growing in significance. Indeed it is not only being appreciated more by society, it is also playing an increasingly important role in the country's economy as a whole. Two studies published recently have revealed that this sector – previously just a niche market – has long since become a major industry.
Conserving natural resources, curbing global warming, managing water resources: these are just a few of the many facets of the environmental sector. However, as the lines between the different fields are not as distinct as in other industrial sectors, a more detailed analysis is often needed to reveal the true size of this industry. The Statistical Offices of the Länder and the Ministry for the Environment for the German state of North Rhine-Westphalia (NRW) recently worked their way through extensive databases to evaluate the importance of the environmental sector in Germany – and the findings are impressive.
The turnover of the green economy in Germany (relating to services, goods and technology that protect the environment) in 2012
The Statistical Offices of the Länder published their calculations in the autumn of 2015. According to their report, the overall turnover of businesses operating in the green economy in Germany and offering services, goods and technology to protect the environment lay at around 114 billion euros in 2012. This meant that their total turnover was not far off that of the chemicals industry, which generated a turnover of 136 billion euros in the same year.
From resource management, to material efficiency, to eco-friendly energy: REMONDIS operates in a number of different areas within the green economy.
If the range of green activities is extended a little, then this figure is even higher. The Green Economy Report North Rhine-Westphalia – also published during the second half of 2015 – not only included companies that offered products and services which protect the environment but also those selling environmentally friendly and resource-efficient products and services. Based on these statistics, the total turnover of the green economy in Germany amounted to 326.6 billion euros in 2012.
According to the Green Economy Report, approx. 1.6 million people were employed by firms operating in the environmental sector in 2012. What is great to see here is the speed that new jobs are being created in this sector, with the overall number of employees increasing by 6 percent between 2009 and 2012 – twice the rate that the number of employees rose by in the overall economy. The amount of people working in the environmental sector is growing at EU level, as well. The statistics published by Eurostat, the statistical office of the European Union, reveal that 4.3 million people were employed full time by this industry in 2012, almost 9 percent more than in 2009.
One of the key features of the green economy is that its services and products are helping to master some of the biggest challenges faced by society today. To be able to continue along its successful path, it needs to develop pioneering concepts and innovations. The sector is closing in on the established key industries in this area, too: the number of patent applications relating to the green economy across the country amounted to 4.8 patents per 1,000 employees in 2012. It applied, therefore, for the same number of patents as the engineering sector.
The overall number of employees working in the industry increased by 6% between 2009 and 2012
The economic importance of the environmental sector will increase in the coming years as climate change targets become ever more ambitious and environmental standards ever more stringent. North Rhine-Westphalia is one of the German states to have recognised the true potential of this sector. The Ministry for the Environment for NRW is planning to have invested around 800 million euros in the green economy and in preventing climate change by 2020. One of its goals here is for this to have helped create 100,000 new jobs by 2025. NRW Minister for the Environment Johannes Remmel commented: “This is not something that politicians can do by themselves – the companies must help out here. Politicians can, however, ensure the right conditions are in place for this happen.”