All over the world, endowments of natural resources shape the size and structure of national economies. Saudi Arabia’s economy is, for instance, petroleum-based, whereas the Maldives’ is tourism-based. Economic activities, on the other hand, affect the environment through the use of natural resources, emission of pollution and generation of waste. The existence of a strong and reciprocal link between the economy and the environment means that millions of people, directly or indirectly, depend on the environment for their livelihoods.
There is no universal definition of what constitutes a green, or an environmental, job. The literature offers several definitions (OECD/Eurostat, 1999; Bezdek et al, 2008; UNEP, 2008). Many of these are relative rather than absolute (OECD,1997). Bezdek et al (2008), for example, define green jobs as all jobs that are performed more pro-environmentally today than before. Their definition consequently encompasses a continuum of industries and jobs which all, due to environmental policies, aim at minimising the environmental impact of products, processes and services. A more pragmatic definition could originate in a definition of the ‘environmental’ sectors of the economy. Yet because many different industrial activities are engaged in producing green goods and services, identification of the environmental sectors is not straightforward. Finding an all-purpose definition of green jobs with clear boundaries is difficult. Instead, the definition employed needs to be appropriate for the specific context in which it is used. Green jobs simply come in different shades, meaning that some jobs generate greater environmental benefits than others.
The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) and Eurostat have agreed on a definition of the environment industry and give recommendations for data collection so that comprehensive and comparable data can be produced (OECD/Eurostat, 1999).