As Talent Acquisition professionals we are asked regularly about opportunities in the CleanTech and Green industries.  Many professionals are interested in a position with this ‘new’ industry.  The question begs; What is a GREEN job?  The definitions are broad and deep, depending on your sources of information.  Wikipedia asserts that: A green job, also called a green-collar job is, according to the United Nations Environment Program, work in agricultural, manufacturing, research and development (R&D), administrative, and service activities that contribute(s) substantially to preserving or restoring environmental quality. Specifically, but not exclusively, this includes jobs that help to protect ecosystems and biodiversity; reduce energy, materials, and water consumption through high efficiency strategies; de-carbonize the economy; and minimize or altogether avoid generation of all forms of waste and pollution.”  This is a fairly broad definition that allows for a wide variety of companies, and positions within companies, to be named GREEN.   Vice President Biden defines green jobs as positions that implement environmentally conscious design, policy and technology to improve conservation and sustainability.  This definition is more narrowly confined, and speaks to specific types of companies or roles within them.

Whether you use the broader crowd sourced definition or the more narrow US Government definition there is certainly a lot of chatter about this emerging industry.  So where are these GREEN jobs?  Much of the confusion circulating recently is due to a few factors:

1. The US Government has committed funding in order to promote environmental responsibility and raise awareness of our need to conserve and preserve our natural resources.  Reuse rather than consume.  This new funding has created a frenzy of activity by those who want a piece of the action.

2. Renewable energy, environmental sustainability and alternative fuels are all emerging technologies.  This means that the industry, the businesses developing these technologies, and the inventors of new products are largely in the ‘incubator’ stage of development.  This era is reminiscent of the internet boom when the web was released to the general population in the 1990s. 

3. Many of the jobs being created as a result of companies wanting to become more environmentally responsible didn’t exist 5 years ago.  These roles are still immature and so the job descriptions are inconsistent, fueling even more confusion.

One of the emerging concepts that we’re hearing about that helps define a company who may be considered environmentally conscious is the triple bottom line – People, Profit, Planet.  Companies who are truly committed (not just in their marketing plan) to conservation, reuse, reduction of their carbon footprint and efficient use of natural resources as a core company value will be on the forefront of the GREEN movement.

Rather than get bunched up about the definition of a GREEN company or a GREEN job, we are seeing a growing emphasis on supporting the development of this new industry.  Emerging companies need problem solvers who can move fast, are mentally agile, can handle multiple roles, set a strategy and then DO the activities defined by the strategy and can draw upon their past experience to help their company mature more quickly than its competitors.   Instead of focusing on the company or the role, we need to shift our attention to the activities, intent and mission for clarity.

GREEN companies need accountants, supply chain managers, IT professionals, administrators, receptionists, product developers, sellers, marketers, engineers, scientists, technicians – you get the idea.  These companies need to develop great products, manufacture them in an efficient manner (while being mindful of the environmental impact), and drive revenue – just like any other company.  Professionals with a demonstrated ability to accomplish these activities in an immature (emerging) organization will be in demand in the coming years.

We’re also seeing a trend in the academic sector toward re-training or re-tooling in preparation for new positions in our new economy.  Graduate degrees with a focus on sustainability are currently offered locally.  Community Colleges are working with industry to develop course material that will prepare individuals for careers in solar manufacturing, green construction and biofuel development.  A new emphasis in the engineering disciplines is being placed on clean technology and energy efficiency.

As professionals, we can all contribute to the GREEN movement by applying our talents toward the companies who are making a concentrated effort to treat our environment responsibly while developing new products, processes, methods and ideas for our future generations.

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