Employment in the environmental goods and services sector

Since 2001 the share of total employment accounted for by the environmental goods and services sector (EGSS) has increased: from 1.80 percent to 1.99 percent in 2015. This shows that the EGSS has become more important in the Dutch economy. In absolute terms employment in the EGSS increased from 123 thousand full-time equivalents (fte) in 2001 to 140 thousand in 2015, an increase of almost 14 percent. The share of the EGSS has remained almost constant since 2013.

The EGSS consists of companies and institutions that produce goods and services that measure, prevent, limit, minimise or correct environmental damage, resource depletion and resource deterioration. Employment is measured in full-time equivalents (fte).

The issue

Concern for the environment not only places a financial burden on the economy because of higher environmental costs, it can also create economic opportunities. With its contribution to innovation and job creation, the EGSS is an important facet of building a green economy. The EGSS framework encompasses both the greening of conventional economic activities and the growing share of green or environment related sectors. It includes both environmental protection and resources management activities.


The increasing share of the EGSS in employment (and GDP) reflects the transition to an economy that is more dedicated to producing goods and services that reduce pressure on the environment and natural resources across the world. Employment growth in the EGSS is primarily the result of an increase in resource management activities, where employment rose by 37 percent between 2001 and 2015, most specifically, in in the sustainable energy sector. This sector includes production of energy systems, insulation activities in the construction industry and production of renewable energy. On the other hand, employment in environmental protection activities fell below its 2001 level, after peaking in 2009. This was primarily the result of lower employment in government activities.
In terms of types of activities, which are often spread across industries, the sustainable energy sector accounts for the largest share of employment (34 percent in total), public environmental services come second (22 percent in total), followed by environmental services provided by private companies (16 percent in total). Activities related to organic agriculture, environmental inspection, certification and education about the environment have been increasingly contributing to total employment in the EGSS in the past few years.