How to jumpstart a green career

By Bhavani Prakash

Yesterday, after an interesting skype chat about Sustainability & Green Jobs with MBA (PGDM) students from my alma-mater Indian Institute of Management Calcutta, a question that came up was how to actually get into a green career.

According to official data there are millions of jobs likely to be created in the green jobs sector. But the million dollar question is where to find them?  While it’s hard to tell from official data what is or is not included in the definition of green jobs as well as the sectoral and skills allocation, there is no doubt that this is an exciting sector that is bound to grow in the years to come. The various drivers of change point in that direction: climate change and resource depletion, the need for scalable technological innovations and solutions, changing consumer values and demands, civil society and NGO action and of course, legislations.

The specific industries may vary from country to country, so here are some generic tips and ideas that may be of help.

1.  Find niche companies whose main product or service pertains to improving the environment. You should be able to google out the top companies in your country for some of the key sectors: renewable energy (solar, wind, biomass, geothermal and so on), energy efficiency and smart grids, water management, waste management, green buildings, electric and hybrid vehicles, urban mass transport, forestry & agriculture, eco-tourism, carbon management and socially responsible or impact investments.

2. Find niche environmental consultancies which specialise  in providing a range of services such as environmental risk assessment and management, carbon and water footprinting assessment, life cycle analyses, sustainability reporting and assurance services and techno-commercial feasability studies of various clean energy technologies, to name just a few.

Here are the top global ones in EHS Journal which lists the 12 largest environmental consultancies in the world,  “According to research published by Environment Analyst, these “Global 12” firms accounted for more than 24 percent of the industry’s US$ 25 billion in annual revenue in 2009/2010. Although 2009/2010 showed a 1 percent revenue decline compared with the previous year, the companies’ combined revenues have grown by more than 50 percent since 2005/2006. Environment Analyst estimates the global environmental consulting market will grow to US$ 30 billion in the next five years.”

The above is US biased, so you may want to look up local environmental directories that are relevant for your country. Here’s an example for Singapore.

An increasing number of  mainstream management consultancies, such as Mckinsey, Accenture, KPMG and so on also have dedicated research and consultancy divisions in the environmental/ sustainability domains.

3.     Seek sustainability roles in mainstream companies. It’s very likely that when you come out fresh from college as a graduate or post-graduate, you may get into a management trainee role,  which is an excellent way to get exposed to various functions of management. Actively seek out a stint in the CSR department of companies which have a strong track record in CSR.  This will give a good bird’s eye view of how sustainability links to various departments of the company, and you can play a significant role in strengthening those links. Here’s a well done compilation of top 50 socially responsible companies in Canada. 

 Caveat Emptor: A company which makes it onto a media or award list for a ‘sustainable’ or ‘socially responsible company’ doesn’t necessarily make it so.  For example, a tobacco company, and a petrochemical giant are at the top of the list in India for CSR.  You have to make the call as to whether the core products or services of the organisation are aligned with your values and are contributing to sustainability in a holistic way, by the 3P yardstick of helping people, planet while making profit.

One strong suggestion would be to choose areas of sustainability that are synergistic to your core specialisation and interest. For example, if your interest is in IT, green IT would be an obvious choice. If you’re in banking, then perhaps Socially Responsible Investments or impact investing may be a related area of interest. If you’re passionate about design, then explore how you can apply cradle-to-cradle thinking in the design of products.

4. Look out for jobs in the NGO and social enterprise sectors. In fact, several of them are very professionally run and provide a great opportunity to do good while applying your skills. Here’s a list of the top 100 NGOs of the world , some of whom may have branches in your country. Seek out local NGOs as well.

5. Get a specialised Masters Degree in Sustainability or a PhD.  There are several universites worlwide offering a Masters Degree in Sustainability (with various specialisations within that). Be sure to check out from alumni about the job opportunities for the university you may select.

Here’s a ranking of US MBA universities on the basis of the quality of sustainability education . In the US alone there are 397 Masters program in various sustainability domains which have been listed here!  Singapore’s NUS University has its first interdisciplinary Masters in Environmental Management  and there are several universities in Europe offering similar courses to the US.

 

Here are some general tips on how how to build and consolidate a green career, which is an ongoing process.

  1. Network offline and online. Tap into various business and industry associations, alumni networks, and green business groups on Linkedin, including those focused on Green jobs like Green Collar Asia. Most jobs, including green jobs don’t get advertised, so it is important to keep the network well extended.
  2. Stay in touch with specialist recruiters who are knowledgeable about the environment and sustainability sectors. Subscribe to their newsletters so you know the latest job openings and trends.
  3. Start and maintain a blog that shows your interest in sustainability. Even if you may not have direct experience in the area, it certainly adds to your credibility as someone who has a deep interest in the subject, based on your research and sharings.
  4. Carry two business cards, by developing a parallel career, such as a volunteer in an NGO or as part-time pro-bono consultant to a green or cleantech social enterprise. Not only is it personally fulfilling, it would also be a great experience and opportunity to meet people you may want to work with eventually.
  5. Keep abreast of latest developments. International green blogs include Triple Pundit, Guardian Sustainable Business, Harvard Business Review, GreenBiz, Cleantechnica and TreeHugger.  Regional green business websites include Green Collar Asia, Green Business Times, Eco-business, Ecopoint Asia, CleanBiz and China Dialogue. Here’s a list of international job boards with lots of information.

 

These are some pointers that should hopefully set you off in the right direction. If you have any specific questions, do leave a comment here or write to me at bp[at]greencollarasia.com and I’ll be happy to answer.

 

About the Writer:

Bhavani Prakash is the founder of Green Collar Asia, a thought-leadership portal on developments in the green jobs sector, where macro-level trends, as well as insights from green professionals and entrepreneurs are brought together.  Green Collar Asia is the media division of Worthy Earth, a Singapore registered and licenced executive search, recruitment and training firm.

Bhavani is a recruiter, speaker, trainer and writer in the environment/sustainability sector. She has an MBA (PGDM)  from Indian Institute of Management Calcutta and an M.Sc in Financial Economics from University of London. She is also a certified EQ Coach with Six Seconds.org

Connect with Green Collar Asia on LinkedInFacebook and Twitter.  Bhavani Prakash may be contacted via bp[at]greencollarasia.com or through LinkedIn.

 

Photo Courtesy:  JustMeans.com

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