Environmental products and services contributed £26.3 billion to the UK economy in 2012, equivalent to 1.6% of GDP, according to the Office for National Statistics (ONS).
ONS has published initial estimates of the output, employment and value added of the environmental goods and services sector (EGSS) between 2010 and 2012.
It found that the sector grew by 1.5% in terms of gross value added (GVA) over that period. At the same time, overall GDP grew by 6.2%, which indicates that the growth of the EGSS was lower compared with the whole economy.
More than 357,000 people were employed full-time in the EGSS in 2012, an increase of 5.3% from 2010. The wastewater and waste management services sector was the biggest employer, with 120,600 workers, representing 33.8% of EGSS jobs. At £9.4 billion, this sector also contributed the largest amount in terms of GVA.
Water management employed the second largest number of people (28,800), followed by recycling (25,800), environmental consultancy and engineering services (25,600), and energy saving and sustainable energy systems (23,100).
ONS looked at the sector in terms of both resource management and environmental protection. Output from both activities has grown since 2010, with resource management activities (12.5%), which includes technologies, goods and services involved in managing or conserving the natural environment, growing much faster than the environmental protection sector (5.6%), which includes activities aimed at reducing, preventing or treating environmental damage.
ONS cites the increase in renewable energy, energy efficiency products, and water saving and reuse devices as the main reason for this difference.