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Green Employment and Green Careers
Options for the New Millennium CIU's Strategy for Creating Clean and Green Jobs

Responsible Business practice fosters a competitive edge through efficiency in production, minimum generation of waste, and a more productive and healthy work force. Companies that were once vastly more preoccupied with "end of the pipe" solutions to environmental compliance regulations have changed their focus. Environmental considerations are now having a powerful effect on a broad array of professional fields in new and creative ways. Opportunities for individuals seeking a "green" or environmentally responsible career are available in many diverse categories on the international, national, state, and local levels; in private, public, and non-profit sectors; within different fields and industries; and in different organizations and job functions.

The greening of job sectors
There are many career opportunities available to people who want to help make the earth a cleaner and greener place in which to live. In careers as different from one another as agriculture and banking, individuals are applying their passion and their skills to contribute to a sustainable earth. The following is a sample of the industries that are currently being affected by environmental legislation, consumer demands, and environmental management practices. Most of the jobs and industries intersect, and many of them are rapidly changing, but all of them are experiencing an increased demand for workers who are environmentally literate.

Agriculture and food processing: As more people educate themselves about how environmental health affects their own health and well being, the desire for petrochemical-free, pesticide-free food and fabrics grows. The result has been an increase in the demand for organically grown fruits, vegetables, and grains. The same is true for natural fibres, such as cotton, and niche products, such as baby food and chocolates made from organic cocoa. Job possibilities in the agricultural and processing industries range from nontoxic pest management to the retail sale of organic food and clothing; from entrepreneurial ventures to non-profit opportunities in research, education, and advocacy.

Banking and finance: Many banks are now making environmental issues an integral part of their internal operations, investment criteria, and financial services. In addition, the banking and finance industries, like corporations in many other fields, are creating corporate environmental policies that promote internal energy efficiency and reduce waste. They are also carefully factoring environmental assessments into loan and investment standards. Furthermore, international banks are beginning to conduct debt-for-nature swaps with countries that harbour threatened land areas like rain forests, for example and are offering their investors investment funds and portfolios screened for environmental performance. Job opportunities are available for people with credit and finance backgrounds in banks, at nonprofit corporations researching environment and finance, and in international development organizations such as the World Bank.

Chemical industry: Because profits within the chemical industry depend on remaining in compliance with environmental regulations, this one area where top management officials consistently place a high priority on environmental sensitivity. Monsanto, DuPont, Dow, Kodak, and others spend millions of dollars yearly to meet environmental regulations. Nearly all top and middle managers in the chemical industry have an environmental component in their job descriptions. Environmental engineers, compliance administrators, and product and marketing managers who are environmentally literate are in demand by chemical firms.

Communications: As the communications industry continues to expand with huge growth sectors such as telecommunications, cable networks, and on-line computer networks such as eco-net and bio-net, there is a corresponding demand for individuals who can translate environmental information for the general public. Opportunities for public relations managers, researchers, writers, and journalists who gather, analyze, and disseminate environmental knowledge are available in both publication business and in corporations. People with computer skills, a CD-ROM design background, or electronic publishing experience can put their talents to use translating technical data and environmental information.

Consultin: Consultants help shape companies in a multitude of ways ranging from energy use to packaging design to manufacturing processes to employee training and development. For example, as companies begin to distribute more environmental information to their stakeholders and to the public, green audits and full-cost accounting systems need to be developed to quantify and track environmental management and performance in company operations. Consulting offers opportunities for people interested in environmental management, especially for those individuals who possess a technical background and management skills.

Consumer products: In response to the growing consumer demand for products developed with the environment in mind, companies continue to look for ways to make their product lines more environmentally friendly. Therefore, product managers need to stay on top of new environmental regulations that might affect the packaged goods industry, such as trends in recycling and package design for products ranging from laundry detergent to toothpaste. Once again, environmentally literate candidates are actively sought.

Design and the arts: Architects, industrial designers, graphic designers, and fashion designers have a wide selection of structures, forms, processes, and materials available for use in their products. Until recently, many products were deliberately designed for obsolescence, ensuring an ongoing consumer demand for replacements. Today, however, designers are emphasizing the creation of more energy efficient products that require fewer natural resources in their manufacture or construction. Additionally, many fine artists, architects, and conceptual artists work with city agencies to offer creative and thoughtful solutions to urban environmental problems.

Education: Education is, in part, how we came to realize there was an environmental crisis in the first place. The more we learn, the more we realize how little we understand of the basic interconnectedness of all living things, and the more we realize we have yet to learn. By the year 2010, almost all countries of the world will adopt legislation requiring that environmental concepts be included in the curricula for kindergarten to twelfth grade. At the college level, both environmental science and environmental studies are to be taught. Less formal educational opportunities are also growing, worldwide. Opportunities for environmentally literate teachers, teacher trainers, curriculum developers, and librarians continue to grow.

Energy: Environmentally responsible career opportunities in the energy sector range from energy conservation programmes instituted by public utilities. Energy industry managers are changing their concept of energy use to include conservation practices. Job possibilities for communications specialists, planners, and technical experts continue to grow as our energy needs are reconsidered for office buildings and commercial real estate, mass transit, and households. Opportunities for the construction trades and for architectural design firms to upgrade their energy conservation service to their clients will also continue to flourish in the coming years.

Entrepreneurs and small business: Environmentally sensitive small firms and start-ups should thrive, as they will be better equipped to fill niches and adapt to rapidly changing markets. Individuals are eagerly establishing their own consulting firms, creating products, and offering services that solve environmental problems and meet consumer demands for "green" products. Creativity, access to capital, and good management skills are all critical to the growth of this sector of the economy. From technology to furniture design, from retail to health services, job possibilities for environmental entrepreneurship continue to grow.

Environmental services: Enterprises involved in environmental cleanup offer job opportunities for individuals with diverse skills, ranging from finance and water monitoring to testing, accounting, and marketing. Such jobs include working with the maintenance services of municipalities and privately owned recycling programmes, as well as in the development of prevention technologies for industry. From participating in the cleanup of sites for pollution control, asbestos abatement, and solid waste disposal, the possibilities within both existing companies and start-ups are abundant.

Health: Health concerns ranging from lead poisoning to reactions of off-gassing from petrochemicals in office carpeting have forced health officials to examine more closely the relationship between health and the environment. A plethora of environmental problems like air pollution in cities, water quality issues; tainted fish from polluted seas; and chemical hormones forcefed to livestock, have created the dire need for health professionals to conduct research, disseminate information, and help create appropriate public policy.

International opportunities: When the borders many countries opened after globalisation the acute environmental degradation in these geographic areas was dramatically revealed. Clearly, job opportunities exist here for people who can provide technical cleanup and waste prevention expertise. This same situation holds true for many developing countries. International environmental issues demand assistance from most professional fields like consulting, engineering, management, environmental services, education, and health. Those with the appropriate combination of language skills and environmental knowledge will find opportunities to work in most existing and new markets.

Law: Some environmental issues are regulated nationally on central, state, and local levels, while others are dealt with internationally. Environmental law is integral to every functional area of the work force, from accounting, marketing, finance, and management, to public policy and grassroots organizing. Therefore, every individual with benefit from a basic understanding of it. Opportunities range from lobbying on behalf of nonprofit organizations to helping to develop government policy to working in environmental divisions of national and international corporations.

Nonprofits: Nonprofit organizations can be as varied as public interest groups, foundations, think tanks, labour unions, and trade associations. Each of these groups needs analysts and communicators to study, question, track progress, and plan strategy on national and international environmental issues. Thousands of nonprofit groups have come into being since 1970. They are always in need of well-rounded professionals, including those who offer scientific and legal skills and those who can market, manage, and control the growth and maintenance of these organizations. Environmentally literate individuals with talents in advertising, public relations, administration, and fund-raising often choose to put them to use in these sectors.

Public sector. The public sector, governmental agencies and departments, employ key environmental individuals in jobs as diverse as consultants, attorneys, accountants, public relations managers, information specialists, scientists, and computer specialists. The Central and State Pollution Control Boards and local departments of environmental protection, conservation, and sanitation all make available information on public sector careers opportunities for individuals wishing to combine their employment opportunities with a commitment to environmental responsibility.

Challenges for the future
Individuals seeking green employment should remember that there are four catalysts in finding answers to the current environmental challenges facing society. These catalysts are empowerment, education, employment, and creativity. From empowerment we gain courage to speak up, to be self-determined, and to act. Through education we learn the skills necessary to create an effective work force and to make informed choices about how our lives and actions affect our environment. We also learn how the environment affects our lives. Employment provides a vehicle to share our talents and to enjoy meaning, self-worth, and dignity. Creativity enables us to turn a problem or question on its head, to transcend the habitual and the conventional, to create visions, and to growth toward those visions. The more we dare to do so, the greater our chances of making a positive impact upon our environment.

Individuals must take responsibility to educate themselves about the environment by reading, talking to others, taking classes, asking questions, being curious, and following their instincts. As our environmental problems grow and intensify their effects upon human health and ecosystem stability, we need all people to be environmentally literate. As we continue to explore global environmental problems, we may begin to use the catalysts of empowerment, education, employment, and creativity to ensure that environmental integrity becomes a human right.

The word 'environment' became part of every day language in the 1960s. Even today, its meaning is far from clear. The term has evolved and continues to evolve. In part this evolution is due to an increase in scientific knowledge. Even more it is a result of changes in the mood of the general public. During the 1960s, for example, the word 'environment' evoked mainly concerns about pollution and the depletion of natural resources, over population, and crowding the thousand demons of ecological crisis. In contrast there is greater emphasis today on the positive qualities of environments on those things that contribute to the quality of life.

Let us expect that the Government of India, the State Governments, the international and national funding agencies and the NGOs will spread the message of the greener as well as cleaner mind for green education, green employment and green careers with a view to bringing mental peace in the third millennium.

 


 


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