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Environment and Employment

More than the sum of their parts: the links between environment and employment policies

Environment policies contribute to job creation and social inclusion in the EU. Studies show that environmental policy is not a job-killer but instead has neutral or even mildly positive impact on the number of people in work. This is especially the case with new policies that support the development and use of new environmental technologies, such as the EU Emissions Trading Scheme and the Environmental Technologies Action Plan. There is also a clear link between social inclusion and the quality of the environment. Just now, it is often Europe’s poorest who suffer most from pollution, and so gain most from environmental improvements. Other links exist in areas such as health and safety at work, and quality of jobs. In short: environment policies can contribute to employment objectives and vice versa, in line with the concept of sustainable development. These potential win-win solutions need to be sought and promoted whenever possible.

In November 2005, the European Commission issued a report analysing the links between employment and environment policies:

Related reports:

The EU's Sustainable Development Strategy called for economic, social and environmental policies to complement and reinforce each other. Whilst this report looks at one of those linkages, the following reports look at the other two linkages:

This report also updates previous analysis including, most noticeably, the analysis in the following Communication:

Analysis on the wider links between the environment and employment

Most studies have in the past concentrated on employment in the eco-industries. However, a study completed in 2007 shows that there are strong links between the economy and the environment that go far beyond the narrow definition of eco-industries traditionally measured. For example, a good quality environment supports many sectors in the economy and this is not usually captured in the statistics. Broadly:

  • narrow definition of the eco-industries (largely pollution prevention or treatment): 2.3 million people and € 270 billion of turnover;
  • moving to a definition that includes activities closely dependent on a good quality environment (environment-related tourism, sustainable forestry, organic agriculture, renewable energy etc): 4.4 million people and € 405 billion of turnover;
  • including induced 'knock-on' or 'multiplier' effects that ripple through the economy thanks to this direct expenditure would boost this to 8.6 million people and € 1 trillion of turnover;
  • moving to the widest definition that includes all activities dependent on the environment (all agriculture, renewable energy etc): 21 million people and € 3 trillion of turnover. (In other words, almost 1 in 10 jobs in the EU is somehow linked to the environment.) Including indirect effects would increase this to one in six people.

The study also includes analysis of the impact of environmental policies on jobs and employment (changes in energy efficiency, Structural Fund spending etc). It finds that environmental policies are unlikely to provide a drag on the economy, and may easily prove to be a source of new jobs and innovation, a driver of progress, whilst also helping increase the health of our economies and wellbeing of societies.

The study can be found here.


The Commission is in the process of updating some of the content on this website in the light of the withdrawal of the United Kingdom from the European Union. If the site contains content that does not yet reflect the withdrawal of the United Kingdom, it is unintentional and will be addressed.