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“Green economy” boasts dynamic growth

A fair devoted to ecological construction took place in Lucerne earlier this year Keystone

A new report from the Swiss branch of the WWF says companies following strict environmental guidelines employ 116,000 people in Switzerland, which represents 6.3 per cent annual growth since 2009.

And the growth will continue. The environmental organisation forecasts that 53,000 new jobs linked to the “green economy” will be created between now and 2020.

Helene Sironi, head of further education at WWF Switzerland, tells that new professions will come into being and many members of the current Swiss workforce will need retraining to require the skills necessary in a green economy.

The Evaluanda research centre which compiled the report primarily focused on the energy, construction and transport sectors as well as the food industry. More than 50,000 new jobs will be created by 2020. Which will be the most sought after professions?

Helene Sironi: One can’t talk about any particular profession, but rather a set of skills that are developed within key sectors. I think these could be, for example, the energy sector, housing market and sustainable investment funds.

The professions in these sectors are being reshaped and enriched with new ecological expertise. Can you explain that?

H. S.: Let’s take for example builders specialised in the construction of house frames: in future they will have to possess more than just the technical expertise required today. They will have to know about energy and ecology.

I could also mention caretakers of buildings who are responsible for the running of large houses, office buildings, supermarkets or hospitals. These persons could contribute to an improvement of their buildings’ energy efficiency or how recycling is carried out internally. Therefore, they would become environmental consultants.

Gardening is another profession that must be “redesigned”. Even though garderners work in the outdoors one can’t really speak of a “green trade”. Just think of the use of pesticides and herbicides.

In this case, aspiring gardeners could be required to have additional qualifications in the field of biodiversity or the sustainable use of resources before they complete their education. A gardener would become an organic gardener in the same way that a farmer who once practiced conventional farming becomes an organic farmer. Various professions will therefore undergo a metamorphosis. Is it wrong then to believe there will be more jobs?

H. S. I wouldn’t say that. We have seen growth in certain sectors including ecological construction, sustainable investment funds, renewable energy and the food industry. New jobs will be created in these parts of the economy.

New professions will also come into being. For example, there will be people who are qualified to install solar panels. This is a profession which currently does not exist. On construction sites there will be specialists working alongside bricklayers and architects and it will be their job to direct the work in an environmentally sustainable way.

The advantage of this system is that these consultants will have completed training in a specific area – in this case construction. The transfer of know-how will become easier from the moment everyone starts to use the same language. Among today’s youth, who will benefit most from the green boom, can you already see an interest in the new environmental professions?

H. S.: In general, the youth continue to associate environmental professions closely with nature protection, for example working for an environmental organisation like the WWF.

But our studies show that growth in this type of traditional environmental work is limited. To further increase environmental activities a broader perspective is needed. This will involve, in other words, professions linked to the different stages of the production chain or through the creation of added value.

The youth but not only people in this age group must be made aware that they can do something within their profession, now or in future, for the environment.

Green sectors of the Swiss economy employ 116,000 people and generate turnover of SFr29 billion.

Between 2001 and 2009, annual growth in these sectors was 6.3% (+2.9% for the entire Swiss economy).

The largest growth was recorded in the ecological building industry (+47%), sustainable investment funds companies (+31%), renewable energy sector (+13%) and organic food industry (+6%).

By 2020, around 53,000 new jobs will be created by green companies, and generate turnover of more than SFr57 billion.

(source: “Green Markets in Switzerland – Perspectives for the economy and employment”, a study conducted by the Evaluanda institute of Geneva, and commissioned by WWF Switzerland)

(adapted from Italian by Dale Bechtel)

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