European Commission, Environment DG

The EU Eco-industry`s export potential


Courtesy of European Commission, Environment DG


This report provides the findings to a study commissioned by DGXI of the European Commission and undertaken by ECOTEC Research & Consulting Ltd. The study has been commissioned to provide an analysis of current export activity by the EU eco-industry, the employment effects of this export activity, future export opportunities and to develop appropriate policy recommendations for promoting EU eco-industry exports and employment in the future.


Specific objectives of the study are to:

Identify the size and character of global environmental export markets.
Assess the current extent of EU eco-industry exports outside the EU, the types of goods and services being exported, to which markets; whether the sector is capitalising on available export opportunities; its competitiveness in world markets and the employment effects of exports.
Examine future export opportunities, whether there is scope for increasing exports, whether EU suppliers are in a position to capitalise on future opportunities and the likely future employment effects.
Develop recommendations for policy instruments to promote the competitiveness of the EU eco-industry, future exports and associated employment.

The study reflects the importance attached by the European Commission to the environmental industry in contributing to the achievement of wider environmental, employment and sustainable development objectives; and also of the links to other EU priorities such as the EU Accession process, overseas development and Kyoto climate change commitments.

The Commission has recognised the growing economic and social importance of eco-industries and the positive linkage between environment and employment.

With environmental problems (e.g. overuse of natural resources such as energy, pollution of air and water, household and industrial waste) becoming more apparent and acknowledged in other parts of the world (e.g. Latin America, Asia, Central and Eastern Europe), international demand for environmental technologies and services is increasing - particularly in central and eastern Europe.

Export promotion initiatives are being undertaken by the EU’s main competitors on world environmental markets, notably US, Japan and Canada, and there are signs that these initiatives are being geared up. The EU and Member States are also undertaking initiatives to promote EU environmental exports, but it is important to know whether and how these should be developed in the future.

The Commission therefore seeks to obtain a better understanding of: current export activity; the link between environmental exports and employment; potential for future exports; the need for export support initiatives; the support initiatives being undertaken by EU competitors and inside the EU; and policy options for promoting future EU environmental exports.


The study draws upon data and expert knowledge of the EU and international environmental industry, and makes use of information from sources such as Eurostat, the European Commission, the OECD, overseas Governments, trade associations and individual companies.

Report Structure

After this introduction, the report consists of the following sections:

Section 2 provides a definition of the environmental industry;
Section 3 gives an overview of global environmental markets;
Section 4 summarises the EU eco-industry, including the importance of export activity to the EU eco-industry, an examination of whether the sector is capitalising on available export opportunities and the employment effects of current EU eco-industry exports;
Section 5 examines whether there is scope for increasing environmental exports in the future, to 2010;
Section 6 considers what needs to be done to increase EU eco-industry export activity in the future; and
Section 7 provides policy recommendations for supporting the competitiveness of the sector, its future exports and associated employment.

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