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Now, entirely revised and expanded, this indispensable volume offers invaluable tools and strategies for launching a green career. Cohn expands her scope beyond the business world to examine environmentally focused nontechnical careers in a wide variety of fields, including communications, banking and finance, and consulting. Includes listings of more than 400 contacts.
Building a Greener World
As business uses natural resources, spreads technology across the globe, and creates trade, it also has the power to lead social change. As business continues to develop and strengthen its global links, it has an important opportunity to exert environmentally prudent leadership both in the United States and in many developing countries where the environment is still a low priority for business despite serious environmental degradation.
Environmental management makes business sense, as greener and cleaner products and processes meet consumer demands, result in enhanced product marketability, decrease future environmental liabilities, and, ultimately, lower costs. Environmental management fosters a competitive business advantage through efficiency in production, minimum generation of waste, and a more productive and healthy work force. Companies used to be more concerned with "end of the pipe" solutions to environmental compliance regulations. Now, as Sandra Woods, vice president of Environment, Health & Safety Systems of Coors Brewing Company, quotes Chairman of the Board Bill Coors, "All waste is lost profit." Coors sells its spent grain as fertilizer and recycles its aluminum scraps and cans at its subsidiary, Golden Recycling.
Businesses can create partnerships with government, academic institutions, and nonprofit organizations to work toward solutions to environmental problems. You can find examples of such partnerships in the "Company Directory" (page 219).
Sustainable development requires international cooperation to manage the air, water, and other natural resources that comprise our global commons; and it requires responsible individual choices in all aspects of our lives at work and at home. It requires that all of us—activists, artists, designers, consumers, farmers, manufacturers, and ordinary citizens—realize that we are the real environmental decision-makers. We are the key to sustainable development. When the people lead—people who understand the connections between business development, human development, and the environment—leaders in policy and business will follow.
When people understand their connections to nature, their decisions may be better suited to the system of which we are all a part. This requires us to ask ourselves about the rules by which we work and the lifestyles we choose. Individuals and businesses have the power to value the environment as a priority and, in so doing, to create both ecological health and economic wealth.
Environmentally Conscious Design
Seeing beyond prefabricated answers means being aware of design. An awareness of the concept of design helps us to recognize patterns and then to question those patterns and our perceptions of them. From social change to industrial processes to career planning, it is important to see the big picture. Awareness of the concept of design helps us to see interrelationships and the interactions of patterns and gives us a clearer view of the role we may play within them.
Planning and design are critical to solving many environmental problems facing us. Many of our environmental problems, such as air pollution, traffic congestion in our cities and on our roads, energy problems related to building construction, and toxins in our water are partly a result of poor design. The future of our health and stability lies in redesigning, with our environment in mind, the processes through which we produce our goods and services and the processes through which we name our priorities and make our choices.
Design literacy enables us to recognize the influence of design in our day-today lives. In the practice of design, we define a problem, identify possible partners (companies, nonprofits, government, individuals), plan goals, and create alternatives to solve the problem.
More and more companies are looking to natural processes for effective models of how materials are transformed, reused, and designed for optimum efficiency and no waste. There is no waste in nature. Environmental guidelines modeled on natural processes enable companies to be cleaner and more effective while producing better quality and often less expensive products. Effective design enables companies to more efficiently plan, manufacture, and improve their products. For example, the IBM Center for Natural Systems studies nature's systems for ways to improve computer efficiency. Now IBM computers "hibernate," that is they shut down when not in use and can be reactivated by hitting a key. This uses less energy than turning the computer off and on.
Each of us is a designer. We can design a career, a daily schedule, and ways to integrate environmental concerns into the work we do. The practice of design enables us to outline priorities based on our values and make conscious choices consistent with those priorities. It enables us to figure out where we want to be and to take steps to get there. Just as there are many ways to solve the same problem, there are many ways to green our careers and our lives. It is up to each of us to discover the route we want to take and, in that process, learn what works and what doesn't. As you read about the greening of different job sectors, you may begin to see how people are designing new products and approaches in their respective industries.
The Greening of Job Sectors
The following is a rough overview that lists a cross-section of professional fields and a sampling of ways that environmental concerns are influencing them. These categories of professional fields intersect, and many are rapidly changing. The field of environmental justice is one example. It is part public health, part law, part communications, part finance, part community development, and part nonprofit work as it addresses such issues as crime, violence, and the disproportionate number of toxic sites located in or near poor and minority communities.
Opportunities exist in many different categories: on the international, national, state, and local levels; in the private, public, and non-profit sectors; within different fields and industries; and in different organizations and job functions. One area of expertise will intersect with others as more and more environmental issues demand interdisciplinary groups of problem solvers possessing diverse sets of skills.
Here is a sample of industries that are being affected by environmental legislation, consumer demands, and environmental management practices:
Agriculture & Food Processing. More and more people are becoming interested in petrochemical-free, pesticide-free food and fabrics. This has increased the demand for organically grown fruits, vegetables, and grains; fibers such as cotton; and niche products such as baby food, and chocolates made from organic cocoa. Opportunities in these fields range from nontoxic pest management to retail of organic food and clothing.
Banking & Finance. Many banks are integrating environmental priorities into their internal operations, investment criteria, and financial services. Many are structuring corporate environmental policies to promote internal energy efficiency and reduce waste. They are factoring environmental assessments into loan and investment criteria. Banks are also performing debt-for-nature swaps with countries containing threatened land areas (such as rain forests) and offering investment funds and portfolios screened for environmental performance.
Chemicals. Top management in the chemical industry continues to prioritize environmental issues because profits depend on remaining in compliance with environmental regulations. Monsanto, DuPont, Dow, Kodak, and others spend several million dollars per year meeting environmental regulations. As a result, almost all top and middle managers in the chemicals industry may be said to have an environmental component in their job descriptions. Environmental engineers, compliance administrators, and product and marketing managers who have and can communicate environmental knowledge are in demand by chemical firms.
Communications. As the communications field continues to grow with telecommunications, cable networks, and on-line computer networks (including eco-net, bio-net, and others), there is a demand for people who can translate environmental information to the general public. Opportunities for public relations managers, researchers, writers, journalists, and media personalities who gather, analyze, and disseminate environmental information exist in both publication businesses and corporations. People with computer skills, a CD-ROM design background, and/or electronic publishing experience can use those skills in translating technical data and environmental information to the general public.
Consulting. Many consultants help companies become more efficient in areas ranging from energy use to packaging design to manufacturing processes to employee training and development. For example, as companies begin to provide more environmental information to their stakeholders and to the public, accounting firms will be needed to develop green audits and full-cost accounting systems to quantify and track environmental management and performance in company operations. Consulting continues to present opportunities for people interested in environmental management, especially for those with some technical background and management skills.
Consumer Products. As consumers educate themselves and demand cleaner and greener products, companies will look for ways to green their product lines to meet that demand. Product managers need to stay informed about environmental regulations affecting the packaged goods industry. They need to know trends in recycling and packaging design for products ranging from laundry detergent to toothpaste.
Design & the Arts. As our natural ecosystems become more threatened and our technologies more advanced, design becomes essential to how we define our material culture. Designers are problem solvers who have an opportunity to plan and provide blueprints and concepts that offer creative solutions to our environmental problems. Architects, industrial designers, graphic designers, and fashion designers have a choice of many different structures, forms, processes, and materials for their products. Until recently, many designed products were intentionally designed for obsolescence. Today, designers have an opportunity to create products that are more energy efficient and use fewer natural resources in manufacturing or construction. Additionally, artists such as Mierle Laderman Ukeles, Jean Blackburn, Mel Chin, Meg Webster, Michael Singer, Alan Sonfist, and others are offering powerful critiques of the relationship between art and nature. Artists are working with city agencies and offering innovative and inventive solutions to urban environmental problems.
Education. Education is in part the reason environmental concerns permeate all facets of life, and as we realize how little we understand the interconnectedness of all living things, we become increasingly aware of how much we have to learn. The ever increasing amount of new data and theories continually increase our need for education. Opportunities, in growing demand in the 1990s, will stem from the importance of environmental literacy and expertise in daily life and work. Teachers, trainers, and program developers will be needed to educate our present and future workforce about environmental issues.
Energy. Programs ranging from EPA's Green Lights to conservation programs from public utilities are reframing perspectives on energy use to include energy conservation practices. Opportunities for communications specialists, planners, and technical experts will grow as our energy needs are evaluated for office buildings and commercial real estate, mass transit, and households. Opportunities for the construction trades and for architectural design firms to better serve client energy conservation needs will also grow in coming years.
Entrepreneurs & Small Business. Small firms and start-ups may be better able to fill niches and adapt to rapidly changing markets. People are creating their own consulting companies, products, and services to meet consumer demands and solve environmental problems. Opportunities hinge on the creativity, access to capital, and management skills of the entrepreneur. From technology to eco-furniture design, from retail to health services, opportunities for environmental entrepreneurship are growing.
Environmental Services. Environmental cleanup, including maintenance services of municipalities and the growth of recycling programs, along with the development of prevention technologies for industry, will provide employment opportunites for people with skills as varied as finance, water monitoring and testing, accounting, and marketing of new products. From cleanup of Superfund sites to pollution control, asbestos abatement, and solid-waste disposal, opportunities in existing companies and for start-ups are tremendous.
Health. Health issues ranging from lead poisoning to problems with off-gassing from petrochemicals in office carpeting have prompted health officials to look more closely at the relationship between health and the environment. From air pollution in cities such as Los Angeles, Mexico City, and Denver to water-quality problems, tainted fish from polluted seas, and synthetic hormones fed to or injected into livestock, a myriad of environmental problems present growing opportunities for health professionals to conduct research, disseminate information, and help create public policy.
International. As the borders of the former Soviet Union open onto the acute environmental degradation there, opportunities exist for people who can provide technological cleanup and waste prevention technology. This holds true for many developing countries as well. International environmental problems will demand work across most professional fields: consulting, engineering, management, environmental services, education, and health. People with language skills and environmental knowledge will have opportunities to work in most existing and new markets.
Law. Many environmental issues are regulated nationally—on federal, state, and local levels—and many are approached internationally, with agreements like the Montreal Protocol. This field will be important to every functional area of the workforce, from accounting, marketing, finance, and management to public policy and grassroots organizing. Therefore, almost everyone will benefit from a general understanding of environmental law. (See Michael Gerrard's overview of the field in the accompanying box.) Opportunities in the field itself range from lobbying for nonprofit organizations to creating government policy to working in environmental divisions of corporations.
Nonprofit. Nonprofit organizations range from public interest groups to foundations, think tanks, labor unions, and trade associations. Each of these groups hires analysts and communicators to study, question, track progress, and plan strategy on national and international environmental issues. Since 1970, thousands of nonprofit groups have been established. Most of them need well-rounded professionals, not only those who have scientific and legal skills, but also those who can market, manage, and control the growth and maintenance of these organizations. Many people with skills in advertising, public relations, administration, and fund-raising may choose to use them in these areas.
Public Sector. Although the "Company Directory" does not list federal, state, and local government entities, the public sector has key environmental people in positions as varied as consultants, attorneys, accountants, public relations managers, information specialists, scientists, and computer specialists. Contact state and federal EPA offices and local departments of environmental protection, conservation, and sanitation for more information on public sector opportunities.
Seeking Green Employment
If you want a green job, you must first recognize the career development process of which any employment is a part. This book offers a framework through which you can begin to address both your career goals and your green concerns, and this chapter briefly considers some essentials to planning your search for green employment within the context of your career: careful research; consideration of your career goals; study of issues in the field and the industry; networking; a thorough evaluation of opportunities; and effective interviewing skills. (For books that discuss job and career questions in more detail, please refer to both the "Publications" section of the "Resource Directory" and the "Recommended Reading" list at the back of the book.)
Before you can market yourself for employment, you must first evaluate yourself. Ask yourself what motivates you. What do you want to contribute? Seek employment with this focus. Decide what areas you are most committed to. For example, do you want to work on clean air and water issues, rain forest issues, or waste reduction? What do you see that needs to be done? Can you do it?
Excerpted from Green at Work by Susan Cohn. Copyright © 1995 Island Press. Excerpted by permission of ISLAND PRESS.
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