Environmental Industry Can Serve as Soft Power Tool.

Author:Foster, Gregory D.

* Fully two years into the Trump administration, it is obvious that it views all things environmental and climate-related with total disdain and, accordingly, has sought to undermine and marginalize the institutions of government charged with overseeing such matters.

Considering such deep-seated predispositions, how ironic is it to suggest a systematic effort to integrate the private sector--in particular, the highly profitable, globally influential environmental industry--into the conduct of U.S. statecraft, precisely for the purpose of compensating for America's strategic shortcomings and contributing to a more vibrant, comprehensive approach to national security?

However unlikely it might be for something so heterodox to take hold in this decidedly 20th-century administration, the prospects of such transformative 21st-century strategic thinking might yet be within reach come January 2021.

What is the environmental industry? The most widely accepted definition comes from Environmental Business International, a private firm that is the source of nearly all the industry's most authoritative data. EBI includes those firms involved in environmental testing and analytical services; wastewater treatment; solid waste management; hazardous waste management; remediation and industrial services; environmental consulting and engineering; water equipment and chemicals; instruments and information systems; air pollution control equipment; waste management equipment; process and prevention technology; water utilities; resource recovery; and clean energy power and systems.

These and other related business activities make up the $363 billion a year environmental industry, a predominantly service-oriented sector in a predominantly service-oriented U.S. economy. It represents over 3 percent of U.S. gross domestic product, involves 118,000 public and private organizations and firms--ranging from small businesses with a handful of employees to global mega-firms with tens of thousands of workers--and accounts for 1.7 million jobs in a $1.05 trillion global environmental business market. It's a huge sector with a huge global market and a potentially huge, yet-to-be-fully-realized impact.

Other business sectors typically command immediate attention when it comes to national security: aircraft, shipbuilding, armaments, land combat vehicles and information technology among them. But what makes the environmental industry so unique is that it operates at the very intersection of environment and security in dealing with...

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