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The Green Economy

"The green economy is alive and well, even during tough times," says Joel Makower, executive editor of GreenBiz.com and lead author of the annual State of Green Business report.

According to the 2010 report, the economic downturn is giving a boost to sustainable business practices in areas such as energy efficiency, as businesses look for ways to "green up" their enterprises while cutting operating costs. In addition, federal stimulus dollars targeting environmental concerns has improved the outlook for more green-collar jobs.

Of the 20 measures in the report's "green index," 11 were stable and only three were in decline.

Six indicators are gaining ground: number of clean energy patents, energy efficiency, number of Energy Star products, amount of paper recycled and water conservation.

These recent findings support predictions for significant growth in green-collar jobs made in a 2007 study by the Cleantech Network, a venture capital firm for green business. Jobs at every level — from chief sustainability officer to "green" maintenance supervisor — are being created now, and more are in our future.

The Cleantech Network study listed a number of newly created positions poised for growth, including:

  • Green product designers who develop products that use less energy and raw materials to produce, and consume less energy and resources when used
  • Energy rating auditors who analyze buildings' energy efficiency
  • Environmental managers who oversee an organization's environmental performance to protect and conserve natural resources
  • Permaculture specialists who analyze land use and community building to create a harmonious blend of buildings, microclimate, plants, animals, soils and water

Careers promoting environmental and social responsibility will become mainstream within a few years, according to Bracken Hendricks, a senior fellow at the Center for American Progress.

"The growth in green careers will be like the Internet boom, which not only created new jobs but also significantly impacted the overall economy," Hendricks says.

Green Job Outlook ChartGreen Jobs Report, October 2008

Will there be jobs for green MBA graduates?

The majority of the new jobs created by the green economy likely will be non-managerial — technicians who install and maintain wind turbines, for example. However, as the green-collar work force grows, the need for managers of these staff will grow as well.

Ultimately, corporations, government agencies and nonprofits will expand "green" leadership roles. They'll look beyond compliance issues to strategically incorporating sustainable and socially responsible practices throughout their organization.

Firms will be looking for managers who can:

  • Think strategically
  • Manage operations
  • Work with regulatory agencies
  • Take advantage of tax credits
  • Develop and nurture partnerships
  • Understand and capitalize on advances in technology

If your experience, interests and passions already arm you with some of those skills, a formal education in sustainable business practices will enhance them and place you ahead of the crowd.

Sources:

Green jobs in U.S. metro areas. Global Insight for U.S. Conference of Mayors. October 2008. 

Green businesses made some progress during recession. USAToday. February 4, 2010 

Green collar jobs are poised for growth. Yahoo! Hotjobs 

Who's hiring green MBAs? LOHAS. September 1, 2000

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