Vancouver’s green economy—winners and losers

As Vancouver becomes the "greenest city," some businesses see red

As Vancouver becomes the "greenest city," some businesses see red

Vancouver is planning to become the world’s greenest city by 2020 and obtain 100 per cent of its energy from renewable sources by 2050. Meanwhile, California economist and business consultant Bill Roth sees 2017 as a turning point in the green economy—that’s when the millennial generation, which looks for buying solutions that save money, improve human health and are sourced responsibly, displaces the boomer generation as the largest economic group.

From 2010 to 2013, green jobs and local food jobs in Vancouver increased 19 per cent, from 16,700 to 20,000, according to the Vancouver Economic Commission. Here’s a look at what types of businesses are projected to be winners in the green economy over the next several years—and which ones stand to lose.

Food and Drink

Local food produced, sold and served in B.C. is the largest sector in Vancouver’s green economy.

  • 87% Projected job growth from 2013-2020
  • 1/10 jobs in Vancouver is related to food
  • 1/10 of those jobs is a “local food job” (food that stays in B.C.)


Food trucks/carts

By 2013, Vancouver had 120 carts and 42 mobile trucks.

Craft breweries and distilleries

Craft beer sales increased 39.6% in 2013 and are averaging 20% annual growth since 2006. B.C. has 34 craft distilleries with 10 more in the works.

Restaurants serving healthier food

North Vancouver-based A&W, which serves hormone-free and antibiotic-free meat and eggs from vegetarian chickens, reported same-store sales growth in 2015 of nearly 8%.

Farmers’ markets

Vancouver vendor sales grew 13%, from $6.3 million in 2012 to $7.1 million in 2013.


Industrial-scale food and beverage producers

Big brewers experienced a 5.7% decline in sales in 2013, while fast food chains are seeing flat or declining sales (McDonald’s revenue dropped 4% in Q2 2016).


Real Estate Building

Green building design and construction is the 2nd-largest sector in Vancouver’s green economy

  • 64% projected job growth from 2013-2020
  • 1/10 jobs in Metro Vancouver is in construction
  • 1/10 of those jobs is in green construction


Green architects, engineers, contractors/labourers

The number of jobs for architects and engineers is expected to grow 20-30% between 2013 and 2020, slightly less for contractors.

Renewable energy producers and installers

Installed solar power capacity is expected to grow on average 8.3% per year till 2035, followed by 5.7% for wind, 3.7% for geothermal, 2% for hydropower and 1.4% for renewables such as wood waste, landfill gas and agricultural byproducts.


Owners/managers of older buildings

Buildings not originally built to zero-emission standards will be encouraged to undergo some form of retrofit before 2050.

Natural gas suppliers

In a letter to Vancouver city council in July 2016, FortisBC CEO Michael Mulcahy complained that the city’s proposed zero emissions building plan “has the potential to increase costs for energy users in the city and stifle innovation over the long term. If the suggested policies are implemented, the City would force all 108,000 natural gas customers in Vancouver to transition to other energy sources by 2050.”



In 2013, Vancouver had 2,603 jobs in green infrastructure, transportation and planning

  • 41% projected job growth from 2013-2020
  • Better walking, biking and transit infrastructure could reduce annual vehicle kilometres travelled per car by about 20% and per person by about 40%, while reducing per capita car ownership by about 15%


Bike makers and shops

HUB reported at least 42 bike shops in the city of Vancouver alone in 2013.

Car share services

In Vancouver, Car2Go opened in June 2011 with 225 vehicles and 2,000 members, and grew to 578 vehicles and 44,000 members by January 2014, making it the largest of its kind in North America. Modo was founded in Vancouver in 1997, with 2 cars and 16 members; it now has 17,000 members and a fleet of 500 cars, trucks, SUVs, vans, hybrids and electrics.

Electric vehicle research and development

B.C. is home to the 2nd-largest fuel cell cluster in the world, with 70% of global research and development spending occurring in the province. The City of Vancouver is trialling over 70 public charging stations.


Makers and owners of gasoline-powered vehicles

By 2050, the City of Vancouver hopes all vehicles will be powered by electricity, biofuel or a combination of the two.


Sources: Vancouver Economic Commission, Renewable City Strategy, Bloomberg, BC Distilled, FortisBC, Modo