Italian startup Greenrail is fresh off a 15-year, 75 million dollar contract in the US for its patented eco-friendly rail sleepers made from recycled plastic and end-of-life tyres.

Incubated within innovation accelerator PoliHub at the Politecnico di Milano, the company is just one sign of the vibrancy of Italy’s green economy. According to the 2017 GreenItaly report prepared by Fondazione Simbola and chamber of commerce federation Unioncamere, at last count nearly 3 million people in Italy, or 13.1% of the total workforce, were already employed in the green economy. Italian  companies have indicated they plan to hire more green professionals.

As the name suggests, the aim of the green economy is environmentally sustainable growth. Or as the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) puts it: “a green economy is one that results in improved human well-being and social equity, while significantly reducing environmental risks and ecological scarcities”.

Along with preserving the planet for future generations, investments in the green economy and green jobs may also increase competitiveness. GreenItaly 2017 notes demand for individuals with both college degrees and post-graduate degrees is higher in the green economy. This, in turn, makes the green economy an important contributor “of high-level knowledge, useful for the competitive upgrading of the economic system”.

Companies that make eco-innovation their calling card are more likely to see an increase in turnover, exports and jobs and are more optimistic about prospects for top line growth and orders, the report showed. They also tend to invest more heavily in R&D.

On the downside, employers in Italy and elsewhere lament a skills shortage in the green economy.   But, along with the need to fight global warming and the depletion of natural resources, the industry also offers long-term career opportunities.

So what are some of the job possibilities in the green economy?

At the top of employers’ hiring lists are professionals in environmental informatics, or enviromatics, who combine expertise in information technology with know-how in disciplines including environmental sciences, geology, engineering, architecture and economics. Enviromatic jobs can range from the development of home and building automation software and applications to computer modelling to analyse the environment, predict future trends and help policymakers take actions to resolve ecological problems.

Energy engineers and managers to identify ways for a company to save energy, lower bills and cut its carbon footprint are also in demand. They are increasingly involved with long-term planning and investment decisions affecting energy consumption and not just in day-to-day decisions.

Green chemists are sought to develop new, more sustainable industrial products but also to evaluate environmental conditions with analytic chemistry, provide quality control and ensure the safe treatment and cleanup of hazardous wastes. Mechatronic engineers can help satisfy demand for smarter and more efficient machines.

Green procurement experts are needed to ensure products and services, including logistics, meet increasingly stringent sustainability requirements while environmental economists conduct economic analysis related to resources and environmental protection and can help implement environmental risk management strategies. Marketing professionals and investors with environmental know-how are also needed to foster the use of  sustainable goods and services in the marketplace.