At a recent Green Jobs Summit in New York City, the evening began with the seemingly simple question, “What is the definition of a green job?”
A panel of experts responded with another related question. What does the term “green” itself mean? The consensus was that the word is overused and appears to be ubiquitous but by virtue of being used as a catchall phrase actually becomes confusing. Despite a common dislike for the term “green,” in the absence of a more descriptive and specific available language, they agreed to continue using the term.
This same concept holds true, they concluded, for the phrase “green jobs.” There was some debate about whether a green job is only one whose role has direct impact on the environment or whether a job, such as an accountant at a green company, also be considered green. The consensus was that there is no one definition.
The panel also discussed and agreed on these additional points:
- Green is good for business – reducing waste, using non-toxic products and creating a healthier workplace were just a few examples cited of how green is good for business.
- Any job could become a green job. Within a few years, as all companies go green, all jobs will have a green component. Existing roles will be enhanced by overlaying and incorporating green behavior and adhering to better business practices
- The terms “green job” or “green company” will disappear within a few years as all companies and jobs move to become more sustainable by seeing green is just good business, and others due to influences such as government regulation, supply chain requirements, consumer demands or the need to go green to attract top talent.
During the Q&A segment of the summit, an IT professional and a hospital administrator queried the panel seeking suggestions about how to identify and pursue green career opportunities.
The hospital administrator had already identified a passion to help reduce the overwhelming abundance of waste generated in the hospital setting. She was seeking advice and direction for how to get started. The panel named a few organizations that serve the hospital industry as a good place to explore such as Health Care Without Harm and Sustainable Hospitals.
The IT professional was just beginning to explore career options and was seeking input on what if any opportunities were available in green information technology. The panel was well informed about the vast computing needs of smart buildings, which require sophisticated control panels also know as BAS [Building Automation Systems.
The moderator mentioned opportunities at companies like Google and Cisco, some of the largest users of computing power, who themselves are trying to come up with ways to make computers more efficient and to streamline networks to reduce the carbon footprint that their large server farms take up. Another opportunity was identified as trying to reduce and eliminate ewaste, an issue currently taken up by the Basel Convention and European Union.
Training and skills development were harder to define outside of the green buildings sector, for which LEED accreditation is the preeminent standard for green training to date. It was agreed that there is no “Green 101” that is available or recognized for other industries.
The best sources identified to educate oneself in green knowledge, as well as to help pinpoint potential job opportunities were as follows: universities, industry associations, and trade shows and conferences were mentioned as the best places to obtain available industry specific knowledge, trends and networking opportunities. Also mentioned was social media, with Linked In groups getting the unanimous vote for being the most valuable tool.
The panelists all reiterated that any job could be a green job, and that what is most important is focusing on “the right thing to do” as good business practices.
Jane Tabachnick, owner of Jane Tabachnick Marketing, co-hosted the June 3 Green Jobs Summit in New York City.