Green Career Options for Business Students
Sustainability consulting represents one of the largest opportunities in the sustainability marketplace. As more companies realize that green business is good business there will be an increasing need for people who understand how sustainability works and how it can be applied to individual organizations to create value. Some of the larger organizations will choose to internalize sustainability development (See the Sustainability Entering the C-Suite of Large Corporations in the Trends to Watch For section), but most companies will not have the budget to create a department specifically for sustainability. Therefore, there will be a need for outside consultants to take the lead on sustainability initiatives for most firms. Sustainability consulting requires a large knowledge base due to the complexity and interrelated nature of how businesses effect the environment. The sustainability consultant must not only have a good grasp on the science of sustainability, but also on organizational dynamics and general management consulting best practices. Although a large knowledge base is a prerequisite to being an effective sustainability consultant it is also very valuable to have an expertise in a specific area, such as project management, lifecycle analysis, renewable energy development, or whole systems thinking.
For more information about this path visit: Triplepundit's Website
Carbon management is very similar to sustainability consulting as positions in both fields work with organizations to make them more environmentally friendly. The difference lies in the scope of what sustainability consulting aims to accomplish compared to carbon management. Sustainability consulting takes on a wide variety of projects from organizational behavior to supply chain management. In contrast, carbon management firms are more narrowly focused on initiatives that reduce an organization’s greenhouse gas emissions. Many of these firms also develop carbon reduction projects in conjunction with environmental credit brokerages who then sell the environmental assets that the carbon management firm created.
For more information about this path visit: Read the Carbon Neutral Report
Environmental and Nature Resource Economics
Environmental economics, "undertakes theoretical or empirical studies of the economic effects of national or local environmental policies around the world [...]. Particular issues include the costs and benefits of alternative environmental policies to deal with air pollution, water quality, toxic substances, solid waste, and global warming." Natural Resource Economics is the study of assigning value to natural resources (lakes, forests, etc.) and the services that they provide, such as clean drinking water and clean air. As new environmental policies develop in response to climate change there will be a great need for people to study environmental issues from an economic prospective in order to ensure that properly beneficial policies are enacted.
For more information visit: World Resource Institute
Greenhouse Gas Accounting, Reporting, and Verifying
As climate change continues to garner serious attention from the business world there is a need for professionals who have the ability to measure and account for the greenhouse gas emissions produced by individual entities. This is an extremely important but very new field in the sustainability market. As a society we must be able to measure the impact of emissions from specific sources, such as businesses, in order to seriously combat climate change. Currently, there is no clear career path for people who have an interest in greenhouse gas accounting; however there is immense potential in the field due to demand from businesses, governments, and nonprofits. This is an excellent opportunity for a self starter who would be willing to develop their own career path.
For more information on this path visit: GHG Management Institution
Environmental accounting or full cost accounting adds environmental information to the financial information of conventional accounting. Environmental accounting identifies, measures, and communicates the costs to the environment from a company's past or future actions in either financial or physical terms. This is a relatively developed field and most large accounting firms offer this service.
For more information on this path visit: Balance Scorecard Institute
CSR Metrics and Reporting
Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) metrics and reporting is the identification, valuation, and reporting of the social and environmental impacts of an organization. As businesses become more transparent there will be increasing pressure from stakeholders and external forces for companies to report all of their impacts. As this trend develops there will be a growing opportunity for careers in this field. Currently there are several CSR protocols, most importantly Global Reporting Initiatives (GRI), Dow Jones Sustainability Indexes (DJSI), Carbon Disclosure Project (CDP and UN Global Compact Communication on Progress (COP), which companies adhere to. It would be prudent for interested students to familiarize themselves with these protocols.
For more information on this path visit: GRI Homepage
Sustainabily Auditing and Verification
Sustainability auditing and verification is the assessment of an organization’s sustainability metrics and reporting practices by a third party. This field is currently growing rapidly as many organizations begin to make their environmental and social impacts, and plans to reduce those impacts, publically available. There is a need both by the individual organization and society as a whole to make sure that companies are reporting their impacts properly. Organizations hire sustainability auditors to confirm that they are accurately reporting on their environmental and social impacts and that their metrics are measuring the proper issues. Sustainability auditors also certify organizations in sustainability standards such as ISO 14001, AA1000, and TSM. Many traditional accounting firms, such as Deloitte, offer these sustainability auditing and verification services.
For more information on this path visit:AccountAbility Website
Environmental Credit Training
This field encompasses the trading of environmental assets in the form of credits. These credits can be made up of emissions reductions such as Carbon Dioxide and Sulfur Dioxide, pollutant reductions such as Phosphorus and Mercury, and other environmental assets such as biodiversity and ecosystem stewardship. Currently, the markets for all of these credits, except for Sulfur Dioxide, are voluntary. However, as demonstrated by the mandatory market for Sulfur Dioxide set up by the Clean Air Act, environmental credit trading has huge potential for achieving the drastic reductions in greenhouse gas emissions that we need to solve climate change. Due to this potential there is relatively little doubt that carbon will be regulated in the near future which will cause the value of carbon credits to skyrocket and thus creating a huge market opportunity for the financial and consulting worlds alike.
For more information on this path visit: ClimateBiz
ESG Investment Analysis
ESG investment analysis is the integration of environmental, social, and governance (ESG) factors into investment decisions. This field lays the ground work for socially responsible investing (covered below) through research and data mining. It is critically important that proper ESG analysis is completed before investment takes place in an SRI fund. Without this analysis there is no way to verify that an asset is truly behaving in a socially responsible manner and thus the value of the portfolio would be in jeopardy.
For a better understanding of the principles related to ESG analysis you can visit the United Nations Principles for Responsible Investment website
Socially Responsible Investment
Socially responsible investing (SRI) is the creation of financial portfolios that invest solely in companies or projects that are viewed as having a positive social and environmental impact. Over the past few years many of these funds have actually outperformed the S&P 500 and thus provide significant evidence that these investments provide potential advantages for long term investment. Due to this perceived advantage SRI funds now make up 2.71 trillion dollars, or approximately 11 percent, of the U.S. investment marketplace2.
Community and Economic Development Finance
This field applies financial mechanisms to social and environmental issues. Many firms using these principles are categorized as social enterprises who take a business approach to solving society’s most pressing issues.
To learn more about how financial principles can be applied to solving societal problems and why a career in this field is worth looking at read this article by Investopedia: http://www.investopedia.com/articles/financialcareers/07/social_finance.asp
Alternative Energy and Energy Efficieny Finance
Alternative energy and energy efficiency finance is the use of financial mechanisms to spread the upfront cost of a renewable energy and energy efficiency projects over the course of the projects life. Most alternative energy and energy efficiency projects require higher than optimal upfront investments and then reward the developer with savings over the life of the project. Energy finance overcomes the hurdle of high upfront costs by providing the necessary capital to develop the project, then capturing the profit from the energy savings by entering into an agreement with the developer where the developer pays the financer a fixed rate over the course of the projects life. This field is particularly appealing today for solar project financing due to the high value of Solar Renewable Energy Credits (SREC’s) which provide a higher return on investment for the financer.
To learn more about this field go to the Energy Information Administration’s website or the UNEP’s Sustainable Energy Finance Initiative’s website
Sustainable Real Estate
Sustainable real estate is the investment and development of environmentally preferable properties. Typically sustainable properties have more value over the life of the asset because they are built with the intention of maintaining long term viability and energy efficiency while traditional buildings and properties are simply built to code in a low cost manner.
To learn more about these opportunities you can read the Journal of Sustainable Real Estate
MicroFinance is the use of small loans and other financial mechanisms to help people escape poverty. Microfinance has challenged the rules of traditional financial institutions by providing financial services to people who traditionally are considered to be too risky. This field has proved very impactful for poverty reduction in the developing world.
To learn more about this field you can read The Microfinance Promise by Jonathan Morduch
You can also get involved in Bentley University’s microfinance initiative by contacting Professor Chip Wiggins or going to Bentley Micro-Finance.
Project management skills can be applied to a wide variety of undertakings in the business world. Project management skills are extremely valuable for any manager or consultant but there is a specific need for project managers to coordinate green building projects and alternative energy projects. This is one of the best ways for business majors to break into the alternative energy and green building development fields.
As sustainability and social responsibility risks continue to become more apparent with the rising tide of corporate consciousness there is a need to manage these risks appropriately. Due to this need the field of sustainability risk management has been born. According to an article by Dan Anderson of Allbusiness.com, “Sustainability risk management deals with emerging environmental and social justice risks. Risk managers will need to anticipate these risks and develop appropriate risk mitigation and financing strategies for them…”4 The valuation of sustainability risks are not just important to large corporations but also to insurance companies. Many insurance companies are beginning to incorporate the risk of climate change related disasters into their insurance premiums for particularly at risk areas such as Florida.
For more information about sustainability risk management read The Critical Importance of Sustainability Risk Management by Dan Anderson
Green marketing deals with creating marketing strategies for organizations to display their environmentally preferable products or services. As more organizations attempt to capture market share by creating environmentally friendly products there will be an increasing demand for people who have an expertise in promoting green products. This is one of the fastest growing fields in the sustainability market due to the favorable opinion that green products currently hold.
Green Brand Management
Green brand management is the development of strategies for an organization to appear green from a public perception point of view. This is extremely valuable for an organization because if the public believes that an organization operates in an environmentally friendly way they will tend to trust the company more and have a generally more favorable opinion of the firm. However, once a firm is positioned as a sustainable or responsible organization there is a lot of pressure for the firm to live up to its values because if it is exposed as being environmentally irresponsible it will quickly lose the trust of the public. Therefore, there is a need for people to help organizations develop sound brand management strategies to make sure that the brand is ready to proclaim itself green.
For more information on this field read the APCO Worldwide Viewpoint Journal article: Business and Policy Perspectives on Corporate Responsibility
Cause marketing is the generation of marketing campaigns that build awareness for certain issues. Marketing is an extremely powerful way to create awareness and support for specific issues. Cause marketing is not a new niche in the marketing world but it remains crucial for any cause or mission based organization.
For more information go to the Cause Marketing Forum’s website
be careful about how they communicate their initiatives. This ties in heavily with green brand management (see above) as it is vitally important that the public believes a firm is genuine in its efforts to go green. Thus, firms need people who have an understanding as to what should be publicized in each stage of a green campaign.
For more information about this field go to the GreenBiz Marketing and Communications webpage
As more and more organizations develop green initiative, PR departments will have to learn how to properly publicize these projects. This would be an interesting niche for anyone pursuing a career in PR.
To learn more about the field go to a GreenBiz article on Green PR
Green IT Development
Computing technology has rapidly made our society work quicker and more efficiently. The next generation of information technology promises to make all the systems we rely on work cohesively and therefore achieve far greater efficiency. Achieving greater efficiency is the most cost effective way to combat climate change. There are many ways to direct an IT career in a way that is beneficially to the environment. An IT professional has the tools to work on vital projects such as the creation of a smart power grid, the development of process software which makes businesses work more efficiently, and network virtualization which can make organizations drastically decrease the power consumption of their IT needs.
For more information about Green IT go to GreenBiz
Sustainability, Energy Management and GHG Modeling Software
A rising trend in the sustainability market is the creation of software programs which help organizations understand their environmental impact and achieve their sustainability goals. These programs range from applications that model the GHG emissions of an organization and pinpoint the main sources of those emissions to products that allow an organization to see, in real time, how much energy they are using and what the cost of that energy is. Programs such as these are extremely valuable for behavior modification and collection of meaningful data that can be used to inform decisions as to which sustainability initiatives hold the most potential for reducing a company’s impact on the environment.
For more information read the Software Solutions Ease Sustainability Management and Reporting article by the Environmental Leader website.
Green Web Design
As more organizations are created to deliver sustainable products and services there is a growing need for website designers with specific knowledge of how to build a “green” website.
For more information check out these examples of green website design services:
Make A Difference in Any Career
Even if you do not choose a career in a sustainability specific field, or even a socially minded organization, you can still make a real difference at work. You can be an environmental champion at any organization and voluntarily take on sustainability initiatives that will make whatever organization you work for more sustainable. In addition to taking on specific initiatives you can also help the company you work for realize why green business is good business. In order for our society to effectively combat the climate problem every job must become a sustainability job and therefore it is vitally important that no matter what organization you end up working for you bring your ideals with you.
There is a plethora of materials that can help you be an environmental champion in any organization. If you are interested in learning more you can read The Necessary Revolution by Peter Senge or any of hundreds of articles on Greenbiz.com.
Organizations Which Offer Sustainability Certification (Crucial for some of the above careers)
Sustainable Job Sites