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Tailoring the Green SuitEmpowering Yourself for an Executive Career in the New Green Economy
By Dan Smolen
AuthorHouseCopyright © 2010 Dan Smolen
All right reserved.
Chapter OneEmpowerment Starts With the Thread-Defining a Green Business Executive Job
Your empowerment begins by taking on the challenge that vexes many of us already in the green business space: defining a green business executive job.
Does a green job have to be directly connected with the green energy industry? Does a green job have to be expressly sustainability focused?
Perhaps so. Then again, perhaps not.
The term "green jobs" has so permeated our daily conversations that few can agree what it actually means. And, in light of 2009's controversial resignation of White House green jobs czar Van Jones, the green jobs issue has become suffused with partisan political rhetoric.
Many believe the term "green jobs" applies primarily to "green-collar jobs," or what some critics call "blue-collar jobs turned green." While the collar reference may be relevant for a wide swath of the American workforce, it doesn't apply to the millions of business management executives interested in becoming green.
So, what are some of the current working-definitions of green jobs? Spooled up for your consideration are these examples:
In October 2008, the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) ventured into the fray with this definition:
[We] define green jobs as work in agricultural, manufacturing, research and development, administrative, and services activities that contribute substantially to preserving or restoring environmental quality. Specifically, but not exclusively, this includes jobs that help 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 or pollution.
Next, David Foster, the executive director of the BlueGreen Alliance, chimes in:
A green job is a blue-collar job done for a green purpose.
Interesting, and succinct for sure, but Foster's definition completely ignores the green business executive ranks, The Green Suits.
Tracy Crawford, the founding partner of Technical Green, LLC, a nationally recognized sustainability-focused technology recruitment advertising and social media firm, adds that key to any green job is that "[it] doesn't involve outsourcing to countries with poor environmental records" but does promote "working for a better world."
In June 2009, green marketing advisor and noted speaker Jane Tabachnick commenced a green jobs summit in New York by asking panelists, "What is the definition of a green job?" Summarized from Tabachnick's EnvironmentalLeader.com blog post:
While the panelists present bristled at the terms "green" and "green jobs," Tabachnick's group did identify some key attributes that previous definitions left out. For instance: a green job could be one that has as its sole purpose a direct positive impact on the environment; or, a green job could be a job-such as an accountant-at a green company.
Actually, Tabachnick and her panel show how difficult it is to create an accurate and succinct green job definition. And many are left asking: is a green job solely focused on inherently environmental work, or is a green job any job at a green-focused company or a company committed to sustainability and corporate social responsibility?
To add some challenge to the tailoring, consider the confusion over how many green jobs-green business executive jobs-there are already and how many there may be five, ten, or twenty years down the line. For sure, many millions of green jobs will be created, but no one can reliably offer more than a ballpark estimate.
All this confusion and hairsplitting reminds me of the old joke about a gathering of rabbis. Ask six of them what a green job is and they'll come back with seven answers.
I propose that the term "green business executive job" describes executive and managerial employment in any obvious market segment (e.g., renewable energy, green building, environmental services, sustainable forestry) or not-so-obvious market segment (e.g., financial services, telecommunications, consumer product manufacturing) that:
Serves to improve the company's triple bottom line; Extends the acceptance of, and participation in, carbon footprint reduction, recycling and conservation, renewable energy usage, mass transit commuting, virtual office work (telecommuting), and other related initiatives; Encourages corporate social responsibility through skill-based volunteerism and other practices; Promotes corporate transparency as it pertains to manufacturing, marketing, distribution, and sales of company products and services, and; Supports continued company-wide green business training and education.
The Green Business Executive Universe
Many of us will, for some time to come, remain at odds over what constitutes a green job. However, there is little disagreement that the green job market will be huge. And a segment of the green workforce-The Green Business Executive ranks-will be quite formidable in its own right. Based on U.S. government data and market research related to the green interests of American consumers, I have established a credible estimate of the Green Business Executive universe.
First, using the U.S. Census Bureau's 2006 American Community Survey, I tallied approximately 84.7 million white-collar workers employed in management, professional, sales, and office-related assignments. Second, I overlaid findings from a 2008 study by Virginia-based consumer market research firm Rockbridge Associates, which indicated that approximately 80 percent of the U.S. population has positive opinions of green products and companies that, to some degree, practice sustainability and corporate social responsibility. I call these consumers Green Favorable. Preferences at home are likely to be reflected as preferences at work, thus 80 percent of the 84.7 million white-collar universe-or 67.8 million-are Green Favorable business executives.
The Rockbridge Associates study also indicated that 60 percent of consumers are motivated by green and sustainable ideals. Thus, within the 84.7 million white-collar workforce are estimated to be 50.8 million of what I call Green Motivated. This cohort of executives may, if given the choice, purchase a green product or service over ones that are not, even if the green choice costs more than the non-green choice. Within the Green Motivated cohort are Green Practicing types. I have not been able to find reliable data to represent a Green Practicing universe, thus I corralled the top three deciles (the top 30 percent) of the Green Motivated group to set an estimate of 15.2 million. Green Practicing types are purpose-driven, and act well beyond green product or services purchases to demonstrate their greenness. They are knowledgeable about the effects of global warming, and they are well-read on the subjects of renewable energy, sustainability, and corporate social responsibility practices. Greenness defines them.
Here is a graphic representation of the quite formidable 67.8 million person universe of U.S. Green Business Executives:
[ILLUSTRATION OMITTED] In the near term we must be patient. While the potential universe of green business executives is large, for the immediate future the green business executive job concept will remain a bit hazy. Given that no one truly knows what innovations lie ahead, staying open-minded and creative about what a green business executive job is or could be remains our best course of action. For now, let us accept that each and every green job definition swirling around boardrooms, water coolers, cable news shows, college lecture halls, and business-related social communities has validity.
Here is where we keep the thread from unraveling. For the sake of organization, let us divide the business executive employment opportunities into two groups: Obvious Green Business Executive Jobs and Not-So-Obvious Green Business Executive Jobs.
Obvious Green Business Executive Jobs
Let us consider the obvious: the executive level jobs that will most likely have a direct impact on the environment, or a company's environmental policy. According to an October 16, 2008 post by Fortune.com reporter Anna Vander Broek, several of them are also the most in demand six-figure salary green executive jobs.
Chief among the obvious green business executive jobs is sustainability officer (also known as chief sustainability officer; sustainability director; chief green officer; sustainability manager; environmental officer). The rapid rise of corporate sustainability has ratcheted up the demand for sustainability officers. And most of the major U.S. corporations now have jobs such as these.
According to sustainability expert Rich Walker, this executive is tasked with leading his or her company by being an advocate and educator, a visionary, a change manager and a cheerleader, and above all else, a results-driven manager.
These officers must serve at least three roles: They must look inward, end-to-end driving business opportunity; they must look outward, walking the talk and communicating with customers and other stakeholders; and they must lead. They must articulate, implement, and sustain the organization's vision of sustainability and provide visibility and transparency of that vision both internally and externally. And they must have both the charisma and compelling message for the organization to want to follow and recognize the benefits, both financial and environmental.
Steve Boston is the chief sustainability officer at global enterprise management software powerhouse CA (formerly Computer Associates). In his role, Boston nurtures CA's worldwide resources to balance maximum return on investment, ambitious carbon abatement, and corporate social responsibility-the triple bottom line. Since spring 2008, Boston has overseen a global process at CA that has yielded a remarkable 41 percent reduction in the company's carbon footprint.
With a career that has been entirely IT software space-focused and includes twenty successful and rewarding years at IBM, Boston joined CA to oversee the corporation's global operations strategy. But soon after arriving, his responsibilities were expanded to include the company's sustainability and corporate social responsibility oversight.
Boston is by training and temperament an accomplished problem solver. He says being the CSO of CA provides him with a "huge set of problem-solving opportunities" from making sure that CA conserves power and natural resources to managing "the societal piece." Boston describes his mission as "a strange mix: half business manager, half [sustainability evangelist]."
Other obvious green business executive jobs include:
Environmental engineers, who help clients understand how to mitigate environmental impacts, from reducing pollution to reducing carbon footprints and preserving wildlife and native plant species; Environmental attorneys, who may represent corporations or non-profit organizations. At corporations, they provide counsel to comply with federal, state, and local environmental regulation;
Climatologists/environmental meteorologists, who study weather patterns and their effects on a corporation's industrial output. The work is especially important to companies in agribusiness, forestry, and other industries that leverage natural resources. Climatologists may also counsel management to apply environmental improvements that can mitigate wide scale climate change;
Renewable energy managers, who oversee the generation and conservation of energy. Their work has significant implications for corporations, especially in the area of cost savings;
Environmental specialists/scientists, who study air, food, and soil and look for pollutants that may cause health risk in humans, animal populations, and vegetation. Senior-level executive careers are often in government sector;
And senior urban planners, who determine best practices for community land use. They balance the needs of neighborhoods, schools, and public facilities with commercial and industrial settings. Often they work in the public sector, but they may also work in the private sector. On Fastcompany.com, writer Anya Kamenetz describes urban planners as the "linchpin of the quest to lower America's carbon footprint."
One of the areas expected to benefit greatly from the green paradigm shift is Leadership in Energy and Design (LEED) construction. While not necessarily part of the executive ranks, professional-level opportunities will abound for LEED-certified architects, designers, electrical engineers, mechanical engineers, manufacturers, marketers, and other building trade professionals.
Other obvious green business executive jobs are being created in these fields: carbon offsetting; water recovery and recycling; wind turbine fabrication; geothermal cooling; and energy efficiency. And according to the UNEP study, several industries offer good or excellent green job development potential:
Not-So-Obvious Green Business Executive Jobs
There are green jobs all around us in companies that are not inherently green. Could a chief financial officer at a car company-a manufacturer of motor vehicles that emit exhaust containing C[O.sup.2] and other airborne pollutants-be The Green Suit? Given what you read previously, that few agree on a standard definition for a green job, I say: why not?
A conventional company could in fact be bright green. Consider Subaru of America (SOA). Unlike Toyota, Honda, Ford, GM, and Chrysler, SOA does not produce a single hybrid vehicle, and yet it is considered one of the most sustainability focused companies in the world. SOA's final assembly plant in Lafayette, Indiana reclaims 99 percent of its waste, and is situated by a large native bird reserve. And Ceres/Risk Metrics' December 2008 study entitled Corporate Governance and Climate Change considers these conventional consumer and technology companies as among the world's greenest: IBM; British supermarket chain Tesco plc; Dell; Intel; Johnson & Johnson; Nike; Wal-Mart; Applied Materials; and Coca-Cola.
Conceivably, any executive management role at any of the above companies-such as in manufacturing, sales, finance, client relations, marketing, information technology, operations, or supply chain-could be a Not-So-Obvious Green Job.
Abhi Vyas is a marketing manager for outdoor advertising media company MetroMedia Technologies in Dallas, Texas. When Vyas started working at MetroMedia several years ago, the company had no greenness about it; as their durable outdoor ads expired, the vinyl substrate material used to manufacture them was discarded in landfills, causing a big negative impact on the environment.
According to the research paper, Environmental Impacts of Polyvinyl Chloride Building Materials: A Healthy Building Network Report written and prepared by Joe Thornton, Ph.D., there are serious concerns related to vinyl disposal. First, vinyl products such as polyvinylchloride (PVC) may take centuries to decompose, demanding more landfill capacity than other waste; and vinyl is a known groundwater contaminate.
In 2006, Vyas "plunged into sustainability" when he joined the transformation team that deliberated on the best way to mitigate MetroMedia's landfill problem; the team developed a sustainability plan called re:act which MetroMedia's boardroom approved and quickly executed. Now, in partnership with fashion accessory company Vy and Elle, MetroMedia's expired outdoor ads, such as ones for Coca-Cola, are transformed into eye-catching ladies' handbags, wallets, and accessories such as iPod cases.
Vyas has gotten a lot of personal satisfaction contributing to his company's sustainability successes. Now he is a committed practitioner of sustainability who is eager to promote his company's earth-friendliness through social media and in particular, on MetroMedia's company blog.
To understand the importance of green jobs, it helps to consider some historical perspective.
Over the past five hundred years, the world has experienced many seismic events-caused by war, famine, trade embargoes, technological advancements, exploration and exploitation, climate and events, abrupt changes in fashion and taste-that have altered how people live, and most definitely how they work.
Excerpted from Tailoring the Green Suit by Dan Smolen Copyright © 2010 by Dan Smolen. Excerpted by permission.
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