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Green building – a driver for decent jobs & economic growth

The UN’s 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development is an ambitious plan of action aimed at transforming our world. Unveiled in 2015, it encourages countries and businesses to explore opportunities that merge economic, social and environmental sustainability through the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) – 17 wide ranging goals aiming to decouple economic growth from climate change, poverty and inequality.

The building and construction sector could play a significant role in achieving many of the SDGs, and the Paris Agreement’s goal of limiting global warming to well below 2°C. In fact, the World Green Building Council (WorldGBC) recently revealed how critical green buildings can be to meeting the SDGs, and how they can directly contribute to nine of the 17 goals. These include ensuring healthy lives and promoting wellbeing (SDG 3); ensuring access to affordable, reliable and sustainable energy (SDG 7); taking action to combat climate change (SDG 13); and promoting decent work and inclusive economic growth (SDG 8). Click here to read more about WorldGBC’s work on the SDGs.

The International Labour Organization (ILO) is specifically interested in how the green building and construction sector can deliver against SDG 8 on decent work and inclusive growth, and it’s deeply encouraging that there are several points of intersection. For example, the reliance on local value chains for building, the potential role of small and medium sized enterprises throughout each stage of a building’s life cycle, and the role of locally developed and manufactured green technologies and building materials can all help to create jobs and promote economic growth.

Yet it’s also important to acknowledge that skills and training can often be a barrier to accessing certain jobs, such as those in the green building sector. Our research from 2012 showed that skills shortages affect two occupations within the building industry; for planners and designers there is often insufficient knowledge about green building, and for trades people who physically build and maintain buildings there is also a gap in the skills needed to implement green practices.

It was against this background that ITCILO and the WorldGBC recently joined forces to develop a week-long training course in Turin, Italy, which provided a comprehensive overview on how to create decent jobs through green building and construction. The course analysed different challenges and opportunities related to greening this sector in different countries and regions. These challenges included access to local skills and materials but also how to recognise and manage different players’ needs and values in order to more concerted, larger scale efforts.

The course provided participants with access to an international platform of experts and materials. Green Building Councils and certification schemes were introduced as essential building blocks in greening the construction sector. Besides the technical content, the course offered opportunities to discuss factors that are essential to ensure that greening of the building construction sector goes hand in hand with the creation of decent jobs. This included the consideration of health and safety and labour-intensive methods of building, both featured in the socio-economic framework for rating tools developed by the Green Building Council of South Africa, together with a WorldGBC rating tools committee.

Specialists from UN Environment, the ILO and companies such as LafargeHolcim, shared their innovative experiences related to green skills development, green entrepreneurship, green technologies, and policy instruments for green building and construction, including fiscal strategies, public procurement and certification mechanisms. UN Environment’s online Quick Scan Tool is one such example that can assist policy makers in identifying policy instruments for reducing greenhouse gas emissions from buildings based on their local context. Another example is the 14Trees programme, a joint collaboration between LafargeHolcim and the CDC Group (a development finance institution owned by the UK government) introducing a new way of producing bricks that is more environmentally friendly, economically competitive and contributes to better quality homes than traditional methods.

Two study visits took the participants from theory to practice. At Asja Ambiente Italia, participants were introduced to renewable energy generation and the company’s TOTEM micro-cogenerator and how it is applied as a potential ingredient of a green building. At Grattacielo Intesa Sanpaolo, participants had a chance to experience first-hand a LEED Platinum certified green building in the city of Turin, and learned about the challenges of delivering a green building that includes materials that are fully recyclable or reusable but also locally sourced.

The course was hugely successful in blending environmental and social perspectives, and in particular sharing diverse views and approaches from countries such as Zambia, Kenya, Mauritius, Egypt, Mongolia and South Africa. It also provided new ideas and insights on how to move forward an inclusive and sustainable building construction sector at the global level by better aligning existing programmes and resources, such as the Partnership for Action for a Green Economy (PAGE) with local Green Building Councils.

And it didn’t end there. The course was also successful in supporting SDG 17 by creating a new partnership between two global organisations working in areas ripe for stronger alignment. The ILO and WorldGBC are now exploring further ways that they can build on one another’s networks, knowledge and resources in order to accelerate their collective impact.

Karl pfeffer is Programme Officer MNE and Global Supply Chains at ITCILO

Over 20 participants, mainly from Africa and Asia, gathered in Turin, Italy, from 10 to 14 July at the International Training Centre of the International Labour Organization (ITCILO) to explore the link between green building, sustainability and the creation of green and decent jobs. The one-week training course was organised by the Centre in collaboration with the ILO Green Jobs programme and the World Green Building Council (WorldGBC). For a visual story board of the event, click here.

The ILO and WorldGBC will continue to explore how existing green economy programmes in the Global South can be paired with efforts by Established GBCs in these countries to transform local markets.