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Focus: alliance emploi-environnement (employment-environment alliance): assessment and lessons learned

Improving the environment can be a source of job creation. It is towards this goal that the Brussels Government set up the Alliance Emploi-Environnement (Employment-Environment Alliance) (AEE), a participatory and integrated approach designed to promote the improvement of the environment as a driver for economic growth and job creation for Brussels inhabitants. The AEE has supported the development of 200 initiatives in 4 promising economic sectors: sustainable construction (since 2011), water (since 2012), sustainable food, and resources and waste (since 2013). An assessment of the AEE carried out at the end of 2014/start of 2015 highlighted the relevance of the objectives pursued and the usefulness of the dynamic which had been initiated, as well as the general willingness of different actors to continue this initiative, albeit with some improvements.

The Employment-Environment Alliance in brief

The Employment-Environment Alliance (AEE) is a sector policy launched by the Brussels Government in 2010, at the initiative of the Ministers for the Environment, for the Economy, and the Minister-President.

The AEE pursues 3 combined objectives, namely to:

  • develop jobs for Brussels inhabitants, including for less-qualified people;
  • revitalise the Brussels economy by stimulating certain promising sectors in terms of economic activity and employment, and by supporting their development to make the transition to more sustainability and competitiveness;
  • improve the environmental balance of the Brussels Region.

For 4 years, the AEE supported the development of 200 actions in four key sectors: sustainable construction (since February 2011), water (since November 2012), resources and waste (from October 2013) and sustainable food (since December 2013). The total budget set aside to implement the AEE amounted to 23 million euros for the 4 years of its implementation (2011-2014). The strands Sustainable Construction, Water, Resources and Waste and Sustainable Food have benefited respectively from around 60%, 20%, 10% and 10% of this budget.

Methodology and assessment

The assessment of the AEE was carried out between October 2014 and April 2015 by Brussels Environment, the Brussels administration tasked with the coordination of the AEE, with the support of a sub-contractor.
It was based on:

  • consultations with the Environment Council, the Economic and Social Council (the social partners) and actors from the AEE;
  • an analysis of the current action plans of the AEE, drawn up in collaboration with its actors;
  • the indicators produced when the actions were implemented.

This assessment pertains to the development and implementation processes of the actions of the AEE, as well as to any specific achievements observed. In the absence of sufficient data, it only partially tackles the specific direct impacts on the targeted publics (job creation or preservation, business creation, etc.). However, since the Sustainable Food strand had only been implemented for one year, it is not covered by this analysis.

Balance and lessons learned concerning the development and implementation processed of the actions of the AEE

The assessment highlighted the innovative character of the Employment-Environment Alliance, which is a participatory and integrated approach designed to make improvement of the environment a source of economic opportunity and job creation for Brussels inhabitants. The benefits of the AEE's approach which were identified during the assessment and highlighted by various Brussels social partners and actors involved in the initiative were:

  • mobilisation of all the stakeholders of the sector;
  • the preparation of actions that are relevant and realistic because they are directly linked to the needs of the target publics and the reality of the operators' work;
  • the creation of a cooperation relationship between operators from different areas, leading to a number of partnerships;
  • the linking of complementary actions and synergies around strategic objectives;
  • the development of action plans as the process progressed.

Specifically, the assessment made it possible to bring together a number of quantitative data pertaining to the realisations made in the context of the AEE. The most telling ones are shown below:

Sustainable Construction strand:

In almost 4 years, the implementation of around sixty actions within the Sustainable Construction strand resulted in particular in:

  • the creation of 12,200 m2 of training centres and the organisation of 184,000 hours of training, including 32,000 hours for job seekers;
  • the organisation of 29 new professional training modules;
  • 800 job seekers trained or screened;
  • 1,800 businesses or self-employed people made aware, guided, supported or involved in the transition towards sustainable construction;
  • 12 research projects supported;
  • 50% of young graduates who followed a 2-week long training course and found a job, or an additional training course.

The Water strand:

In 2 years, the implementation of around thirty actions within the Water strand resulted in particular in:

  • 50% of the public contracts put out for tender among water operators have been won by Brussels companies;
  • 10 municipalities actively implicated in the simplification of the procedures for building site planning;
  • 3 universities and 28 research centres involved in the theme of water;
  • An average of 60 participants in the workshops of the Blue network (essentially municipal and regional public actors, business owners, consultancies and architects' firms, universities, associations and federations);
  • 100 Brussels businesses actively involved in identifying their needs for, and obstacles to, their development in this sector;

Resources and Waste strand:

After 1 year, the implementation of the Resources and Waste strand has resulted in particular in:

  • the involvement of 73 organisations in the process (48% public and 52% private);
  • the organisation of 3 workshops;
  • 27 actions in progress or already completed at the time of the assessment (out of 43 actions drawn up).

The analysis of the action plans also shows that the majority of the actions had the objective of directly or indirectly creating or preserving jobs (62% of the 82 actions analysed) and of revitalising Brussels economy (87% of the 82 actions analysed). However, some of the actions only pursued an environmental objective (studies in particular). Although Brussels actors highlighted the genuine job-creating potential of these actions, it is nonetheless difficult to quantify the direct impacts of these achievements on the targeted publics, in particular due to the fact that the policy is still in its infancy. This is even more the case for the most recent strands of the alliance (water, resources and waste, sustainable food). In fact, these actions fall within processes for which the creation of jobs, businesses or economic activity can rarely be seen in the short term. The Sustainable Construction strand - which benefited from the longest time for the defining of actions phase - has much more compelling results than the Water or Resources and Waste strands, which had much shorter periods for the defining of actions and implementation.

Given this progress and the encouraging initial results, the need to continue the innovative dynamic of co-construction and transition which has been started, appears to be worthwhile. This is to make structural effects possible in the sectors of sustainable construction, water, and resources and waste. If we consider the challenges faced by Brussels which were identified in the declaration of regional policy - in particular the improvement of quality of life and the development of the economy, employment, training and education - the objectives of the AEE are still completely relevant in the current context.

At the time this assessment was carried out, the Sustainable food strand was considered to be too recent for a co-construction approach, especially in terms of urban agriculture, where there was still a lack of data with regards to the technical potential (available surface area, techniques adapted to the city, adapted business models). However, the development of a clear joint vision for sustainable food turned out to be necessary.

This vision was developed during 2015, through collaboration between Brussels Environment and the Agriculture cell of the Brussels Regional Public Service, and was driven by a large participatory process (conferences, workshops, meetings, etc.) which brought together around one hundred representative actors from the Brussels and Belgian food value chain. In December 2015, it resulted in the adoption of the Good Food Strategy ("Towards a sustainable food system in the Brussels-Capital Region").

The actions undertaken in the context of the Food strand of the AEE made it possible to initiate pilot studies and actions, which helped to define the strategy more effectively.

Although the social partners and actors agreed on the relevance of pursuing the AEE initiative, they also considered that there was some room for improvement in the future, including in particular the need to have a clearer vision and political framework, in addition to the bottom-up methodology. This vision is fundamental, firstly to guide the co-construction phase with the actors and end up with coherent action plans, and then in a second phase, to allow political arbitration among the actions emerging from the bottom-up phase, and ensure transparency for the selections and financing made.

In this respect, the Regional Programme for a Circular Economy (PREC), which was being developed in 2015, will provide this reference framework and guide the AEE's co-construction process.  This future programme is intended to develop a more circular economy (as opposed to the current linear model that is based on extraction, production, consumption and disposal), which is more efficient in the use of resources, has less impact on the environment, and is also a creator of local jobs.

Other focus points were identified during the AEE assessment, including improving links and synergies between actions, the development and guidance of pilot projects with regard to the continuous evaluation of actions (with the aid of efficient tools) and the management of collaborative and resilient projects, the improvement of communication both towards participating actors, the broad public and the targeted publics, or the improvement of the quantitative and qualitative evaluation of the impacts of the actions undertaken, but also their effectiveness in relation to their cost.

Date de mise à jour: 30/05/2020


Study(ies) and report(s)

BDO, ECORES, GREENLOOP, LATERAL THINKING FACTORY 2015. « Evaluation Alliance Emploi – Environnement 2010-2014 », report performed on behalf of Brussels Environment, 33 pp. (.pdf, in French and Dutch only)

FADE IN 2013. « Alliance emploi-environnement – construction durable : un outil performant pour l'économie durable à Bruxelles», report performed on behalf of Brussels Environment, 8 pp. (.pdf, in French and Dutch only)

PERSPECTIVE CONSULTING 2014. « Alliance Emploi Environnement – Axe eau : objectifs, résultats, perspectives -  année 2014 », report performed on behalf of Brussels Environment, 39 pp. (.pdf, in French and Dutch only)

PERSPECTIVE CONSULTING 2014. « Alliance Emploi Environnement – Axe ressources et déchets : enjeux, résultats, perspectives, stratégie -  année 2014  report performed on behalf of Brussels Environment, 21 pp. (.pdf, in French and Dutch only)

PERSPECTIVE CONSULTING 2014. « Alliance Emploi Environnement – Axe alimentation durable : enjeux, résultats, perspectives, stratégie -  année 2014 », report performed on behalf of Brussels Environment, 29 pp. (.pdf, in French and Dutch only)

Région de Bruxelles-Capitale 2015. « Alliance Emploi Environnement – Axe construction durable : rapport pluriannuel 2010-2014 », 91 pp. (.pdf, in French and Dutch only)

Plan(s) and programme(s)

BRUXELLES ENVIRONNEMENT & BRUXELLES ECONOMIE ET EMPLOI  « Stratégie Good Food « Vers un système alimentaire durable en Région de Bruxelles-Capitale » : De la fourche à la fourchette », 2015 (.pdf, in French and Dutch only)

Programme régional en économie circulaire 2016-2020 - Mobiliser les ressources et minimiser les richesses perdues : Pour une économie régionale innovante (.pdf, in French and Dutch only)