The future is green. Careers in sustainability are booming, and trends show that they will continue to grow within the global job market. But what are ‘green jobs’? And what are the trends for this career path?
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, green jobs fall into one of two definitions. The first covers jobs in businesses that produce goods or services that benefit the environment or protect natural resources. These are the jobs that you might typically think of when you think of positions in the sustainability sector; the renewable energy sector, recycling services, environmental conservation.
The second definition refers to positions that make a business’s production processes more environmentally friendly or use fewer natural resources. These positions are where sustainability is growing the most; these are jobs that are no longer within the niche of traditional sustainability, but are applicable to a wide variety of sectors. They include conventional jobs that have been given a green perspective.
Green is Now Mainstream
According to the World Economic Forum, careers in sustainability will “be at the centre of the 21st century and will grow in millions.” This is due to inclusion of sustainability in traditional markets. While these fields may not have commonly been considered ‘green,’ the mainstreaming and incorporation of sustainability in these markets is driving job growth.
Sustainability has even found its way into the upper echelons of corporate businesses, and many companies now advertise for positions such as chief sustainability officers or executives.
Sustainability transcends all business market segments and looking at job boards like Seek, Glassdoor, or Indeed reveals the incorporation of a sustainable ethos in a huge variety of businesses and industries. Want to be a winemaker? Now there’s sustainable wine production. Want to be a fashion designer? Now there’s sustainable and zero-waste fashion design. Work in finance? Now there’s sustainable and climate finance. Almost any role, in almost any industry can (and arguably, should) be made green.
Growing Markets: Green Energy
Energy efficiency and renewable energies are considered the twin pillars of sustainable energy use, and roles in both of these areas are increasing as a result. Energy efficiency is often the fastest way to make an immediate impact on the energy use of businesses and industries, and as a result it’s often referred to as the ‘first fuel’.
Energy efficiency also extends to the construction sector, and new developments in technology are leading to more sustainable materials and building design. Urban planners develop plans for entire neighbourhoods, or even cities, that are energy efficient, environmentally friendly, resilient against climate change.
According to National Geographic, some of the fastest growing green jobs include wind energy workers, biofuel jobs, wave energy producers, solar cell technicians, green design professionals, and green builders, all of which point towards green energy use.
As governments work towards reaching the UN’s sustainable development goals renewable energy jobs are booming. In fact, wind turbine service technicians are projected to be the fastest growing profession in the United States between 2019 and 2029, followed closely by solar photovoltaic installers.
Growing Markets: Food Production
Another growing market in the sustainability sector is food production. This area offers many different roles in sustainable food production, including farming and agriculture, research, food services, public health, and law and policy.
A significant trend in the last few years has been the rise of ‘green vegetarianism’ that avoids meat consumption based on climate and environmental reasons, rather than health or ethics which have been the traditional justifications. As revealed in many excellent documentaries, today’s food production systems compromise the Earth’s capacity to produce food in the future, and endangers impoverished nations with high levels of food insecurity. Environmental and climate organisations advocate this dietary change as one of the most effective ways to reduce individual carbon footprints.
Agricultural and food scientists research ways to improve the sustainability and productivity of farming practices, and according to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, this role is growing faster than the national average. New food sources, particularly those that deliver all important protein, are also being explored in unconventional farming and lab developments, and these will become increasingly important as global food production declines due to land degradation, overfishing, pollution, and climate change.
Growing Markets: Supply Chain Transparency
Corporate social responsibility (CSR) is becoming a permanent fixture in businesses and commits a business to “doing good” and providing its customers with transparency in the production of its goods or services. New generations of savvy consumers are driving companies to reveal their sourcing of raw materials and supply chain processes to ensure labor rights and environmental compliance.
While supply chains can still be murky in a globalised production system, consumers are more engaged and concerned with ethical and sustainable practices and supply chain transparency has become a major purchasing influence. The clothing brand Patagonia has been doing this successfully with its Footprint Chronicles that shows the map of its raw materials, factories, supply chain stories, and production processes. Similarly, customers of One Degree Organic Foods can trace the source of each ingredient in its cereal products by entering a code from the packaging.
Consumers are more aware of environmental and ethical issues than ever and have started to demand transparency across these issues from big business, which translates into continued growth in corporate sustainability jobs and the integration of a sustainable ethos into traditional markets.
Employment opportunities in the sustainability sector are increasing due to these trends as sustainability moves beyond niche markets and is incorporated into mainstream business strategies. Organisations from every market sector will need to incorporate sustainability professionals to ensure they can overcome the challenges of climate change and a changing environmental landscape.