Think environmental protection hurts business? You just might want to think again. In a study published last week at PLOS ONE, University of North Carolina land use and environmental planning faculty member Todd BenDor and colleagues calculated the dollars-and-cents impact of environmental restoration projects initiated to comply with laws such as the U.S. Clean Water Act or to meet other public, corporate or nonprofit goals. Their take: What’s good for Mother Nature can also be good for the economy.

The researchers surveyed 250 businesses that provide services aimed at improving ecosystem health and functioning such as project planning, engineering, construction, landscaping and legal counsel. Using a computer model to extrapolate from responses related to employment and sales, they concluded that the U.S. environmental restoration industry can take credit for an estimated 126,111 jobs representing $6.27 billion in wages and benefits and US$9.47 billion in sales annually. If you count indirect effects such as business-to-business economic activity and increased household spending, you can add another 95,287 jobs and US$15.37 billion in economic impact to that tally.


Employment due to ecological restoration is comparable to that of other major U.S. industries. Credit: PLOS ONE doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0128339.g002

Although they acknowledged that the study does not provide a full cost-benefit analysis of restoration legislation, the researchers noted that ecological restoration has a far more positive impact on the nation’s economy than most people realize.

“A growing number of studies have identified ‘green’ growth and job creation in renewable energy production, energy efficient construction, and green goods and services industries,” they wrote. “This study represents a first step towards quantifying the restoration industry as a piece of the broader green economy.” View Ensia homepage

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