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How Can Nature-Reliant Economies Create Green Jobs?

Businesses will need to embrace and achieve this through the growth of green jobs from three different sources – Green Energy, Green Products, and Green Processes.

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Never before has this generation entered a new year with more hope for a better future. Amidst the crisis that upended our lives, are enormous lessons. If we have to carry anything from 2020, it should be our renegotiated relationship with nature.

This is an unprecedented opportunity to make alterations in how we function as a society or as a government or as a business. It is not the responsibility of governments or individuals alone - every one of us has to contribute to the solution.

A case for nature-reliance making economic sense

Turning to nature-reliant economies could create annual business opportunities worth $10 trillion that could create 395 million jobs by 2030 - this also represents around one-fifth of the total projected increase in the global labor force between now and 2030. These numbers speak volumes!

Now, let’s talk about how nature-reliant economies can create green jobs

The definition of green jobs has changed dramatically over the past few decades. Greens jobs in the first wave, i.e. 1900s, were characterized by those solely related to the environment. The second wave, i.e. 1995, post the signing of the Paris Agreement, opened up the sector with jobs in urban planning, policymaking, etc. Today, with increased awareness, conscious consumer decisions, elevated nature crises, and resultant inflow of investments towards sustainable business practices, came the third wave, bringing a whole new universe with untapped potential.

The third wave provides us with newer combinations where green businesses create green jobs; traditional businesses create green jobs, and green businesses create more traditional jobs. I believe these key components will unlock and ultimately propel us into a sustainable future.

What was considered as an ‘alternative’ profession, now has the potential to become mainstream. And it’s going to be up to private and public stakeholders to push the envelope and make it a reality.

Businesses will need to embrace and achieve this through the growth of green jobs from three different sources – Green Energy, Green Products, and Green Processes.

Green Energy - the biggest contributor to the ‘greening’ of jobs

A shift from fossil fuels to green energy is inevitable, whether we look at it from a consumption perspective or an investment perspective. There were about 11.5 million green energy jobs from solar, onshore wind power, and biofuels in 2019, and this number is expected to increase to 30 million by 2030. India’s renewable capacity is estimated to grow from 86 GW in 2019 to 450 GW by 2030, leading to 3 million new green jobs.

A study by the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) states that every USD 1 million invested in energy creates 7.5 jobs in green energy as compared to 2.6 jobs in fossil fuels. This is the potential of green jobs, considering that annually, more than USD 300 billion is invested in green energy globally.

The numbers are compelling. And this is without considering the environmental benefits and the pressing need to shift to renewables on account of the nature crisis.

Green Products and Services - driving a new wave through innovation and technology

With increased environmental consciousness, we’re already seeing a massive shift in our consumption patterns. Almost every industry has seen a huge increase in the offtake of green products and services. Business in organic food, ethical and sustainable fashion, and electric mobility is expected to increase by up to ten times by 2030. Services like waste and water management and green transportation are waiting for a revolution, which is likely to lead to the creation of more than 27 million jobs in India by 2030, as per the Indian Skills Council for Green Jobs.

In India, government initiatives like E-Waste Management schemes, Atmanirbhar Bharat Abhiyan, and the Swachch Bharat Abhiyan go a long way in creating awareness and green employment opportunities.

Considering this shift in demand and supply matrix, new products, technologies, and business models grant us new opportunities to build a more sustainable and green future.

Green Processes - making green jobs mainstream

Green processes include decarbonization of existing processes, efficiency in the use of resources, reduction of waste generation through lean operations, among others. According to WEF, major systemic changes in infrastructure and sectors that use food, land, and ocean resources could lead to the creation of more than 300 million jobs by 2030. New jobs like Chief Sustainability Officers, ESG Directors, Green Data Officers, and Environmental Managers are growing in demand.

Many organizations have understood the importance of decarbonizing the economy. For instance, conglomerates like Unilever, Apple, Starbucks, and many others have announced various measures to curb their carbon emissions and waste generation.

A nature-positive economy will not only create new jobs but also mitigate the risk of losing existing jobs.

According to the ILO, approximately 1.2 billion jobs, accounting for 40 percent of the total global jobs, depend directly on nature and run a risk of job losses triggered by the nature crisis. While these statistics are real, they are only a small part of the problem. These could have a spiraling impact on economies. Hence, saving the existing jobs is equally important.

Awareness and Skill Development is key to this transition

While this move to a nature-reliant economy is a must, we need to create the right mechanism for a smooth transition of the workforce in potentially redundant jobs, especially in emission-intensive industries. This can be done only through awareness driven by leaders across all institutions. Creating awareness about the transition to a green economy is required for people to recognize the potential of upskilling for green jobs. And, gradually this has to find its way into formal education and vocational training. This would ensure holistic participation from individuals and communities towards a sustainable change.

The statistics for green jobs are just reiterating what we already know we need to do – create a nature-positive economy. While it is an uphill task, we would be in a much better position to accomplish it with participation from all key stakeholders – businesses, governments, the social sector, and individuals.

Disclaimer: The views expressed in the article above are those of the authors' and do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of this publishing house. Unless otherwise noted, the author is writing in his/her personal capacity. They are not intended and should not be thought to represent official ideas, attitudes, or policies of any agency or institution.


Amit Banka

Founder and CEO at WeNaturalists

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