The green economy can seem like a hidden economic sector in the UK. I hear people talk about environmental sustainability without understanding that it is an engine for economic growth, business innovation and job creation, not least in the real estate and construction sectors. Did you know, for example, that the low carbon and renewable energy economy in the UK generates £46 billion in revenue and supports 240,000 green collar jobs? If you were to expand that out to include infrastructure sectors like waste processing and water treatment – all of which are totally dependent upon our use of natural resources – then we could push the figure up to a £121B economic contribution, supporting more than 450,000 jobs. But taking the more conservative definition alone, 25 percent of the turnover comes from real estate and construction activities.
In venture capitalists’ language, it is ‘clean tech’. Bill Gates in 2016 described it as “building the new companies that will deliver emissions-free energy, agriculture, and goods to the world.” Overall, the green economy is made up of new and existing companies that generate renewable energy, provide low carbon financing and consultancy, reduce carbon and pollution, enhance resource efficiency, and prevent the loss of ecosystem services. There is a lot of diversity and significant innovation in the sector. Last year, I attended an annual Clean Tech event in Rotterdam where 40 start-ups and growth companies were pitching for venture capital. These clean companies ranged from battery storage anodes to biological indoor air purification. But what really struck me is that those 40 companies had been shortlisted from 283, suggesting that the level of innovation is comparable to the digital innovation underway in property.
About the author
Sophie Walker is the UK Head of Sustainability at JLL. Special thanks to @EstatesGazette that first published this article on January 13, 2017.