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Green jobs is part of the work areas of policy dialogue and advice and also of capacity building.

Green Jobs


Forest Ecosystem Management Services at the core of Green Forest Jobs


Green Economy and Jobs

The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development provides a major policy framework for countries at all levels of development. However, the ability of an economy to cope with shifting towards sustainability will depend on its capacity to put in place policies supporting green economy.

The impact of green economy transition on workers will vary depending on the economic sector and the country in question. Green economy investments in creating green goods and services will generate new job opportunities, however in some cases the transition may result in both the loss of jobs and the creation of new jobs. In most cases, though, rather than replacing existing jobs with entirely new green jobs, it is the way in which the work is performed that will change.

In relation to that, the term “green jobs” refers not only to new jobs emerging from green economy but also to existing ones, provided some specific conditions are met. These conditions were captures in various definitions of green jobs, developed over the past several years.

According to the International Labour Organisation, jobs are green “when they help reduce negative environmental impact, ultimately leading to environmentally, economically and socially sustainable enterprises and economies. More precisely, green jobs are decent jobs that improve, among other things, energy and raw materials efficiency, limit greenhouse gas emissions, minimize waste and pollution, protect and restore ecosystems, and support adaptation to the effects of climate” (ILO, 2015; see also ILO and Cedefop, 2011).

For UNEP (ILO, 2010), green jobs minimize the adverse environmental impacts of enterprises and economic sectors by preserving or restoring the quality of the environment. The International Labour Organization (ILO), UNEP, the International Organization of Employers (IOE) and the International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC) jointly launched the Green Jobs Initiative (ILO and Cedefop, 2011) in 2008.

According to Forest Europe, “green jobs opportunities result from employment in production of green products and services and/or employment in environmentally friendly processes providing they are decent jobs. Generally, all jobs associated with sustainable forest management have a potential to be green” (Forest Europe, 2015: 1).

Based on existing definitions of green jobs, the ECE/FAO Team of Specialists on Green Jobs in the Forest Sector (ILO/ECE/FAO Joint Expert Network) developed a definition of a Green Forest Job as one that complies with the principles of sustainable forest management[1], contributes to a green economy[2], and is involved in the manufacture of forest products and/or in the performance of forest services.


Green Skills

One of the keys to making sustainable development policies successful in terms of environmental, social and economic outcomes is to ensure that the right skills are available when and where they are needed. The right skills for green jobs are also the prerequisite to make the transition to a green economy happen. Today, skills gaps have already been recognized as a major bottleneck in a number of sectors, such as renewable energy, energy and resource efficiency and environmental services. It is therefore essential that governments work with sectoral experts and social stakeholders to close the current skill gaps and anticipate the future workforce needs in the context of a green economy.

Green restructuring generates demand for new skills as existing producers reorient activities towards new markets and products. New competences relate to the application of new technologies and to management requirements associated with changes in production and organizational models, for instance with an emphasis on value added services and communication. Green skills cover not only expert knowledge in new thematic areas but also awareness of environmental and social aspects related to specific economic activities and the willingness to learn about sustainable development.

In the context of a green economy, skills upgrades are needed and consequently new education courses and degrees will be needed. All member States have some system for forecasting occupational changes and framing education and training responses; it is the basis for State-driven investment in new qualifications and related education and training provision. Existing systems allow gradual adjustment to qualifications and curricula in response to changing demands, including those driven by investment in low-carbon goods and services.

To revise and extend these existing systems to the needs of a green economy, a new viewpoint for green skills will be needed. The role of sectoral experts and social partners will be important for the analysis as well as subsequent qualification and training reform. Therefore, it is important that forest experts are involved in knowledge building initiatives defining changes in competence requirements, and promoting changes in the vocational and education training system for the sector.


Greening of Forest Sector Jobs

To stay competitive, all sectors of the economy need to adapt continuously to the latest trends on a nearly real-time basis. This calls for an increased focus on workforce adaptability, especially as regards development of new skills, in particular those related to technological innovation and social skills. It also requires establishing flexible organizational structures with decentralised hierarchy, which can ensure resilience and flexibility of working teams.

In the forest sector, standing up to the challenges of a relatively unstable and fast-paced transforming economy is combined with structural changes, appropriate to traditional economic sectors, such as globalization of commodity markets, rural depopulation and an aging population. These phenomena altogether provide a complex framework, which influences forest sector employment.

Forests are increasingly attractive to people as a place of leisure and recreation but are less and less appealing as a workplace. Despite the multiple functions that forests provide, the forest sector is not commonly perceived as a sector that creates or has a potential to create a variety of jobs.

Although the nature of forest work is developing to more complex tasks, the increased mechanization and use of new technology, which require more skills, make the sector unable to find relevant workforce. Workers are better remunerated but there are fewer of them. An oversupply of a low-skilled workforce, who cannot find suitable occupation leads to an increasing skill gap in the sector and creates social anxieties, especially in rural populations.

The structures of forest work are changing too. Large companies have merged, downsized, relocated, restructured or closed, often with drastic consequences for workers and communities. Unions do not have a lot of influence, nor do they offer the security that they once did. Much of the former work of corporations, particularly that of harvesting companies, has been outsourced to a rapidly growing number of contractors who have different work, management and communication cultures.

However, in spite of the decline of the number of workers in traditional forestry operations over the past several years, mainly in Europe and North America, the growing demand for “environmental goods and services” has significantly driven an increase of the number of occupations in the forest sector in the ECE Region, in particular those related to ecosystem management and recreation.

Green forest jobs creation is not only related to new jobs, linked with environmental and sociocultural functions of forest but also to developing a sustainable workforce by making existing forest jobs safer, better paid, and more attractive for young workers and for women. It implies adapting training and education to the variety of changing requirements such as mechanized harvesting or increased communication with forest users. Reforming the sector entails looking at new and innovative types of jobs that encompass the latest developments in technology and research, and ecosystem services management.

Given that, the number of jobs attributable to forestry could be much larger than today’s estimates and it is important to investigate on how the forest sector workforce can adapt to changing trends in order to enhance economic, social and environmental benefits of forests in the context of a green economy and the sustainable development.

The ECE/FAO Team of Specialists on Green Jobs in the Forest Sector (ILO/ECE/FAO Joint Expert Network) undertook the analysis of the current landscape of occupations in the forest sector, in order to provide a comprehensive overview of the existing and potential jobs related to forests. The Team took into account the widely accepted sustainability criteria for realistic, fairly remunerated, and environmentally safe jobs, and focused on identifying green forest jobs, anchored in the green economy.

The aim of that analysis was to provide a starting point for discussion on the future of green forest jobs and identification of measures supporting their development.


New ECE/FAO Study on Green Jobs in the Forest Sector

Given the current expectations attached to forests as carbon sinks and considering their role as providers of renewable raw material, pools of biodiversity, regulators of water flows and other environmental services, it is clear that green jobs in forests will play an increasingly important role in the future. The forest sector will need to rapidly adapt to new skill demands, as a consequence of new environmental policies, health awareness and climate change.

The study on “Green Jobs in the Forest Sector” prepared by the ECE/FAO Team of Specialists on Green Jobs in the Forest Sector (ILO/ECE/FAO Joint Expert Network) focuses on understanding the potential of green jobs in the forest sector, one of the key sectors contributing to the transition to a green economy and, hence, sustainable development. It provides guidance on how to carry out the identification of current and anticipated skill needs for the green economy and green jobs. The information gathered has been clustered in seven thematic areas: “Wood and Energy Production”, “Agroforestry and Mountain Forestry”, “Social and Urban Development”, “Forest Management, Inventory and Planning”, “Biodiversity and Ecosystem Functioning”, “Health and Recreation”, “Education and Research”, and nineteen related fields of activity. Each of the nineteen fields of activity is described in a short summary of general skills, expertise and professions needed in that field. Furthermore, specific activities, products and services are described and job specifications are listed.

Figure 1 displays the key areas of activities identified in the study. The nineteen identified fields of professional activities accentuate the broad spectrum of jobs based on the multi-functionality and non-timber benefits of forest ecosystem services and the forest sector.

Notwithstanding major gaps in data availability, particularly in the countries of Central Asia and the Caucasus, the study finds that a number of green forest jobs already exist in industrialized countries and in countries with economies in transition alike. However, they are still a minority in the pool of jobs available in the sector. Some key points resulting from the analysis could be considered in further discussion on the future of green forest jobs and actions supporting their further development.


1: Forest Ecosystem Services Management is the pillar for green forest job.

Sustainable development and a green economy are stimulating new types of job opportunities within the forest sector. While the number of traditional, labour intensive jobs have diminished, there has been growth in many expanding areas of work related to, for instance, health, recreation and tourism in the forests. Up to now, forest jobs mostly dealt with traditional silvicultural and related economic issues (classical forestry sector). However, the scope for the creation of new green forest jobs needs to be seen in a broader context of all forest functions and sustainable forest management. Examples of Green Forest jobs, presented in this study, are based on forest ecosystem services management and they will likely embrace a much broader range of tasks and functions in the form of jobs in the future.


2: Green forest jobs are developing but the progress is still slow.

One of the shortcomings related to green jobs identified in the study relates to the pace of progress to access these jobs and to job quality. Generally, the creation of green jobs in the forest sector is still advancing too slowly to contribute substantially to an evident shift to a green economy and a tangible increase of employment in the sector. Moreover, too few of the green jobs in the sector are being created for those who need them most: young people, women and rural populations. Creating quality, green and decent work is still difficult in the face of rising informality and seasonality of working structures in the forest sector.


3: The public perception of forest sector and related jobs does not reflect all its merits.

The forest sector needs to become more innovative in attracting qualified people to fill new jobs, emerging in relation to all aspects of forest ecosystem services. Constant work on identifying and communicating new fields of activities and related employment opportunities is an important factor for an appropriate consideration of the sector in a green economy. The Open Book of Green Forest Jobs (https://www.hashdoc.com/greenforestjobs), developed by the ECE/FAO Team of Specialists on Green Jobs in the Forest Sector (ILO/ECE/FAO Joint Expert Network), is one example in that direction.


4: Revision of existing curricula and design of new career paths is fundamental to adjust the skill gaps.

An assessment of the training and education needs and adaptation of existing curricula to skills demand is a precondition for creation of sustainable forest career paths in the future. A systematic, fact based review of emerging skill needs and development of relevant training measures will require collaboration of a network of stakeholders from different disciplines. One example in that direction is the work on ECE/FAO Team of Specialists on Green Jobs in the Forest Sector (ILO/ECE/FAO Joint Expert Network) on reinforcing cooperation between forestry training centres.


5: Training and support are key for an inclusive transition.

For many forest enterprises, particularly small and medium-sized, support in re-skilling of workers and managers will be required to adapt to requirements of a green economy. It is also important to note that while some occupational groups will make significant gains in the transition to a green economy, others may incur substantial losses. In cases where jobs will be lost, support from the government and social partners may be needed to help shift workers to new occupations.


The study provides an overview of already existing green forest jobs and identifies possible areas where new activities and green forest jobs could develop further. Authors recognize that the list of examples of thematic areas and fields of professional activities could be extended. However already at this stage the conducted analysis could serve as starting point for further discussion on the future of green forest jobs. Such a discussion could facilitate the identification of measures supporting the development of green forest jobs and strengthen a knowledge-based approach to policy development in this area.



[1] Sustainable forest management (SFM) was defined in 1993 in the Helsinki resolution H1 as “the stewardship and use of forests and forest lands in a way, and at a rate, that maintains their biodiversity, productivity, regeneration capacity, vitality and their potential to fulfil, now and in the future, relevant ecological, economic and social functions, at local, national, and global levels, and that does not cause damage to other ecosystems” (Forest Europe, 1993).

[2] The process of reconfiguring businesses and infrastructure to deliver better returns on investments of natural, human and economic capital, while at the same time reducing greenhouse gas emissions, extracting and using fewer natural resources, creating less waste and reducing social disparities (UNEP et al., 2008).



Forest Europe, Resolution H1, 1993. Available at: www.foresteurope.org/docs/MC/MC_helsinki_resolutionH1.pdf (last accessed on 18.12.2017).

Forest Europe, 2015: Green Jobs in the forest sector (fact sheet). Available at: http://foresteurope.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/08/produktovy_list_5.pdf (last accessed on 05.12.2017).

ILO International Labour Organization, 2010: Greening the global economy – the skills challenge. Skills for employment – Policy Brief. Geneva.

ILO International Labour Organization, 2015: Greening the Rural Economy and Green Jobs. Decent work in the rural economy. Policy guidance notes. ILO, Geneva. Available at: www.ilo.org/wcmsp5/groups/public/---ed_emp/---emp_policy/documents/publication/wcms_437196.pdf (last accessed on 08.12.2017).

ILO International Labour Organization, Cedefop, 2011: Skills for Green Jobs. A Global View. Synthesis Report based on 21 Country Studies. Available at: www.ilo.org/wcmsp5/groups/public/---europe/---ro-geneva/---sro-moscow/documents/publication/wcms_345482.pdf (last accessed on 18.12.2017).

UNEP, ILO, IOE, ITUC, 2008: Green Jobs: Towards Decent Work in a Sustainable, Low-Carbon World. Geneva.



The ECE/FAO Forestry and Timber Section's work on green jobs inlcudes the following realms

The work on Green Jobs in the Forest Sector is supported by the Team of Specialists:

For further information on this work, please contact the ECE/FAO Forestry and Timber Section:

Alicja Kacprzak, Forestry Officer

Maike Carstensen, Consultant