In a January 2017 study, the Business and Sustainable Development Commission told that investing US$12.3 trillion in achieving the SDGs in four areas – food and farming, cities, energy and materials and health and wellbeing – would create 380 million jobs by 2030. Globally, jobs in solar industries are growing at 6.8%pa compared to a 2%pa decline in jobs in the fossil fuel industry. Green industry now accounts for 3.8 million jobs in the USA and, in Germany, the Green Economy now employs more people than the car industry.
The ILO defines a ‘green job’ as a “decent job that contributes to preserving or restoring the environment in traditional sectors such as manufacturing and construction, and in new sectors such as renewable energy, improving energy and raw materials efficiency, limiting greenhouse gas emissions, minimizing waste and pollution and supporting adaptation to the effects of climate change.”
Given that this generation’s challenge is to transition from a brown to a green economy, governments and policymakers should focus their job creation efforts on this very promising sector. Plan International and Hand in Hand already do this (see their case studies below.) Without any prompting, YBI and IYF find that many of the business initiatives youth bring to them fall into the green economy category.
Governments should do more to encourage this by:
- Supporting citizen-led green economy initiatives such as Clean Tech Open (CTO). CTO has trained more than 1,200 early-stage clean technology start-up entrepreneurs in the U.S through its annual business accelerator. 70% of CTO alumni have survived, raised $1.2 billion and created more than 3,000 clean-economy jobs. The EU’s Sustainable Energy Week and the UN’s Sustainable Energy for all by 2030 project perform some of the same functions.
- Encouraging the inclusion of education about the green economy and the SDGs in their national education provision.
- Developing Green Investment Banks to support investments in green technology. The UK’s green investment bank, started in 2012, has already mobilised £11 billion worth of investment in green energy and other green technology start-ups – £2.7 billion from government and £8.3 billion from private investment partners. In 2016, the government started the process of privatising it completely. It projects a 10% return on its investments, allowing it to market under the slogan ‘Green and Profitable’.
REACH Vietnam: CO2 emissions in Vietnam are growing faster than anywhere else in the Asia-Pacific region, but existing vocational training programmes do not include environment-related content. Plan International Vietnam is co-operating with local NGO REACH For Your Future to train a labour force that is skilled and ready to grow Vietnam’s green economy in a programme called Green Skills for Urban Youth in Vietnam. It aims to introduce green skills into existing VET courses, develop green business models and scale up programmes that already include green skills training.
Meet Mercy Njoki, the eco-entrepreneur growing money on trees
Anyone in Mercy Njoki’s Embu, Kenya neighbourhood could spot a growing gap in the trees. But it took a special mind like Mercy’s to spot a gap in the market.
“Our area has been largely run down by businessmen who cut down trees to produce charcoal for sale,” says the mother of two. “This is because charcoal fetches a lot of money. I felt the need to restore our environment by selling tree seedlings to mitigate the effects of deforestation and promote tree planting.”
Mercy didn’t lack passion. Knowledge, however, was in short supply. Already, the then-25-year-old had been forced to shutter an unsuccessful horticulture business. In a chance conversation with one of her friends, Mercy learned about Hand in Hand, an NGO that provides business and skills training to some of Kenya’s poorest young people. She signed up immediately.
“I learnt a lot: savings, microfinance and how to run a sustainable enterprise,” she says.
She also learnt how to spot – and grow – her market. Today, Mercy sells tree seedlings to an eco-conscious client base of learning institutions, churches and individual homeowners looking to start tree nurseries of their own. Once barely able to feed her family, her income has more than quadrupled from KES 2,500 (US $25) to KES 11,000 (US $110) a month.
“I have bought a motorcycle for transporting seedlings to clients. I have a son in school and I pay for his school fees and provide clothing and the food we eat. In five years, I can see this business filling up an entire farm. I am happy with how I am progressing in life,” she says.