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
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
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
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
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
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.