The latest news from the world of sustainability, the latest views from the brains behind Best Foot Forward
Blog by Nicky Chambers, CEO, 21 June 2012
“There is no generally agreed definition of ‘green jobs’” – so says the Rio+20 briefing document on Green Jobs and Social inclusion. Helpfully though, the Rio website goes on to say that green jobs are “positions in agriculture, industry, services and administration that contribute to preserving or restoring the quality of the environment”.
To date, the ‘green jobs’ agenda has mostly focused around alternative energy sources and supply – technicians to build wind farms, electronic engineers to connect smart metering systems, combustion engineers to design efficient biomass burners. In a world of financial crisis and economic downturn, the green jobs sector has been one of the few areas of growth and one of the few areas where demand for skills outstrips supply.
But to limit green jobs to the energy sector misses the point. While reinventing energy sources and supply is vital, in a truly sustainable economy, all jobs will be green jobs. The way a healthcare product is designed will help preserve resources. The way crops are grown will protect the environment. The way buildings are built will have no net impact. The way government administrations deliver policy will take into account the finite nature of resources and will increase natural capital rather than sacrifice it to an economic imperative.
If all jobs will one day be green jobs, what should your business be doing now? Employee awareness and engagement programmes can help people do existing jobs with less harm – saving energy by turning off computer screens, car-sharing on the daily commute or recycling office paper. But, the greater prize for the future success of the business will be the creativity of reinventing the way we all do things.
If we are to reverse the entrenched trends of resource consumption and degradation of environmental quality, some of those reinventions will need to be radical. If a business is to become a zero emissions business, it is going to need more than an annual 3% reduction in energy consumption. It will be necessary to reinvent business models. It will be necessary to embed sustainability in all design processes. It will even require a revision of our existing understanding of investment rules. Think ‘innovation for sustainability’ not ‘austerity for sustainability’.
One of the other interesting trends to have emerged from the current economic and financial crises, is the rise in aspiration for ‘meaningful work’. I have lost count of the numbers of jobseekers approaching BFF having opted out of mainstream jobs in search of meaningful work. They want a job that helps rather than harms and daily endeavour which enhances rather than degrades environmental quality.
“Economic action and social policies to create gainful employment are critical for social cohesion and stability. It’s also crucial that work is geared to the needs of the natural environment” says the Rio+20 website. I would go further and suggest that meaningful ‘green jobs’ are essential for personal wellbeing and quality of life. And perhaps more importantly, they are essential to the long term viability of every business. One day, all jobs will be green jobs.
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