This trend towards integrated solutions –more of a demand in certain cases- was initially promoted in research and in education, steadily forming a particular branch of activities, aiming at environmental protection and supporting other financial activities, as well independently developing new methodologies and technologies. The energy sector is directly attached to environment, since the rational use of energy contributes to the reduction of pollutants and the improvement of the quality of life. Environment is an integrated discipline, incorporating various academic fields, both in science and humanities, such as natural sciences, engineering, economics, sociology and politics. At the same time, it spreads in all stages of activities, such as the use of raw materials, manufacturing and industry, trade and services, research and education.
Following European and international political trends, Greece has slowly formed its own environmental industry. European R&D projects, mainly aimed at the approaching European standards and energy saving, were the initial driving force for gaining experience in services and education. At the same time, foreseeing Greek directors had been involved in equipment trading and systems, either with exclusive or general utilisation in environmental applications. Shortly, large construction companies and industrial groups had been interested in environmental projects and technologies, developing their own business activities and expanding the environmental industry in the country.
In the late ‘00s, over 600 companies are active in the Greek market environmental sector, ranging from company groups to one person companies, covering a wide range of activities, from studies and consultancy projects, manufacturing and production, construction and trading. An assessment of this sector’s potential is rather difficult, since its stretches both in terms of variety and extent. A rough estimation of the overall annual turnover amounts approximately 3 billion €, depicting a steadily upward course in the last years. The profit ratio cannot be estimated due to the variety of companies and specialties in the sector. In respect to employment in the environment industry, it is estimated to approximately 30,000 employees, either direct or indirect, recording a slight decrease in the last years. All figures in respect to the country’s population (per capita figures) are lower than the respective European average, not indicating any sign of convergence in the near future. Furthermore, the balance of export to import of environmental technology and relative services is negative for Greece, similarly to other European Mediterranean and Eastern Europe countries.
The main reasons for the current market status are detected in the way this market has developed, as well as in its driving force. Still though, the well-known market stiffness in Greece also contributes to the above. The environmental market has not developed independently, but was initiated in most cases as a “side-effect” of other activities, e.g. construction. In the course of events, certain sectors evolved on their own, still though most activities retain strong bonds to large companies. Furthermore, the market’s driving force formulates the market’s potential, being the need of compliance to the current legislation. Environmental consciousness has been fostered in Greece during the last years, but still cannot define or precede development. In this frame, the market evolves in particular and thematic sectors, lacking a horizontal integration aspect.