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May 15th, 2009

Proof in the Pudding: Environmental Initiatives and the Bottom Line

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tom_green_face_biggerPenned by Tom

It’s always good to look at the bottom-line when assessing the environmental movement. There are a plethora of interesting success stories which demonstrate to executives the importance and benefits of going green, even if you’re a climate-change denier. Here are a few examples from Sustainable Business Consulting:

  • A Global cleaning products company maximized natural lighting, installed occupancy sensors and enabled employees to control heating and cooling at their work stations. The ROI: Saved nearly $100,000 a year.
  • A Fortune 500 global technology company gave employees the option to telecommute from home. The ROI: Saved $67.8 million in real estate costs in just one year and reduced 29,000 tons of CO2 emissions, and increased worker productivity by 34 percent.
  • A 41-story, Class A+ office building with 1,000,000 square feet of office space located in the US reduced unnecessary after-hours and weekend lighting and initiated a high efficiency lighting retrofit. The ROI: Saved $386,000 in annual operating expenses.
  • A Global cleaning products company restored native and drought tolerant plants, such as prairie grass and wild flowers, to the site. ROI: Saved $2,000 per acre in annual maintenance costs.
  • A Global forest products company encouraged employees to commute using vanpools, carpools, walking or biking. ROI: Reduced total vehicle miles driven by 1.2 million and reduced emissions by 66,884 pounds of CO2 in one year.
  • A US-based independent federal agency developed an advanced preventative maintenance inspection process for its delivery fleet. The ROI: Saved $3 million and 330,000 quarts of oil to date.
  • A Cancer research center utilized off-hour lighting, fan shutoffs, occupancy sensors, high-efficiency chillers, L.E.D. exit signs, heat recovery from washers and efficient lighting. The ROI: Saved $317,000 annually, which is enough electricity to power 1,200 homes annually.
  • A Medical center sent used toner cartridges to a recycling company that refurbishes and refills them. The ROI: Saved $20,000 annually.
  • A Healthcare company recycled more than 6,000 tons of paper, plastic, glass and aluminum waste. The ROI: Saved more than $300,000 in disposal costs, diverted more than 18,000 cubic yards form landfills.
  • A Major US-based retailer changed the specifications for individual item packaging and reduced the quantity of excess pins clips, bags, paperboard inserts, tape and tissue paper in its items. The ROI: Saved an estimated $4.5 million in labor costs and eliminated approximately 1.5 million pounds of waste.
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April 17th, 2009

Green Businesses' Dirty Little Secret: Implied Ethics

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dsc_1294-1Penned by Nick

The question of ethics for environmental employers is a landmine issue that few people explore. In Wendy Jedlicka’s recent article, she suggests that getting a job at a firm with “eco-ethics” is both difficult and desirable. Though true, this misses the more pressing questions about how ethics apply to environmental organizations.

Finding employment with any employer right now — green or otherwise — is difficult. However, this insight doesn’t cut to the core of the question of ethics. Ethics aren’t constrained to “eco” companies alone. As business schools teach the world over, ethics are universal — both in business and in life.

What’s interesting in the domain of environmental companies is that these companies rely on their “ethical business models” to attract employees more than do traditional “brown” employers. The dirty little secret is that employers — from solar companies to sustainability consultancies and the like — rely on jobseekers’ assumption that they are ethical more than other firms because of their “eco” business models.

Having worked with employers worldwide to find and secure the top green talent, its become clear that not everyone embraces the same level of business ethics. Indeed, many businesses fail to highlight their ethics at all when we ask them what separates them from other employers.

Ethics in the environmental business are — at present — largely taken for granted. Yes, most employees at these firms believe they have a more ethical occupation, but the business practices themselves often don’t exude ethics. Quite to the contrary, many of these businesses fail to push their ethical practices as far as their products or services.

At a time when the very value of long-standing business models has been called into question (read: investment banking, insurance, etc), it strikes me that more employers should be focusing on their ethics.

More importantly, both employees and jobseekers of green companies should be challenging these firms to “walk the walk” and create a truly triple bottom line enterprise that embraces sound ethical practices, sound environmental practices and sound business practices.

Jedlicka’s article is right to raise the question about ethics, but readers should examine a company’s purpose/service to determine who’s ethical and who’s not.

Use the interview itself as a place to ask questions about how an employer’s environmental practices translate into more ethical business practices. Questions like these leave little room for maneuvering, but if a jobseeker’s goal is to find an ethical employer, those that are truly ethical will jump at the chance to respond to such a question. If they don’t, you may have found a case where an organization doesn’t truly “walk the walk.”

Continually pushing employers to keep ethics at the center of their businesses — green or otherwise — is the best way to ensure that your values align with your employers’.

[Originally published on GreenBiz.com]

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April 9th, 2009

"Extra! Extra! It's Not All Bad News!"

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dsc_1294-1Penned by Nick

So I admit it, I’m a news junkie. My fiance is quietly considering putting me into therapy for information addiction disorder. Its got me by the brain, (quickly deteriorating) eyes, and mouse-clicking finger all at once. Worse yet, I don’t want to kick the habit. I crave information and news 24/7.

Just as everyone’s nearing total burnout on the never-ending news stream of bad news, I’m finally feeling in control. It’s weird, but the more I consider it, the more it makes sense. The world’s changing fast right now — particularly for job seekers. Entire industries are rising and falling by the week, and with them, the fortunes of millions of people. The bad news is already a known quantity–it’s the good news that keeps me reading and positive.

At a time when the only certainty is change, I’ve come to enjoy the little news stories that feature people doing positive things with unfortunate events. Consider the new crop of DJ’s popping up in local clubs, or the unemployed who are discovering their thespian talents.

Another small factoid: I consider myself a pessmistic planner with an optimistic outlook. Yes, times are tough, but I’m convinced that from all the penny-penching and thumb-twiddling will come something greater: a cultural renaissance. That the arts are enjoying a newfound constituency in the unemployed is, I believe, a newsworthy story. Out of misfortune and hard times tradtionally come great ideas and a newfound inspiratoin. It’s a story as old as time, but easy to forget. For those who have, join me, and “read all about it“.

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April 1st, 2009

Brother, Sister – Can You Spare a (Green) Job?

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On our lunch break today, we saw this guy walking down Market Street in San Francisco: “sign of the times”? All puns aside, we know things are tough out there, but Bright Green Talent is here to help.

can-you-spare-a-job

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March 12th, 2009

Reflections from the East Coast Tour

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dsc_1294-1Penned by Nick

I just returned from a week on the East coast — Boston, New Haven, and New York — where I spoke with graduate students, local officials, and the NY Times about green jobs. The conversations were varied, but a few common themes emerged:

  • There’s a paucity of good information out there for those who want green jobs;
  • Strong federal support for green jobs has generated immense interest, but with few jobs available, many job seekers are starting to view this movement as a “shooting star”; and
  • Educational institutions are slow to evolve their curriculum to meet our environmental challenges.

Indeed, despite the warm reception we enjoyed on the East coast, the experience was slightly troubling. Nearly everyone I spoke with is just trying to “figure it out” — “it” being green jobs. How do we create them? How do we train people for them? And what will be their impact in the years ahead?

All good questions. And it’s important to think through the implications of pushing wind versus solar jobs, or a cap-and-trade system versus a carbon tax.
As I recently wrote, we’re nearing an inflection point in the environmental movement. Thomas Friedman observed that 2008 was, indeed, the year of change for the environment.

But these observations about the enormous opportunity in front of us run the risk of falling on deaf ears if people do not translate theory and talk into decisive action.

At a time when people are searching for meaningful careers, one of the most meaningful things people can do is act in the interest of the environment. Where there are no jobs, create them by becoming an entrepreneur.
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February 12th, 2009

Weathering the Storm

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dsc_1294-1Penned by Nick

It’s been a brutal year to be a recruiter. We launched Bright Green Talent US on January 7, 2008–1 month into the recession. One year later, it’s only gotten worse: unemployment is nearing decade-long highs, and the green movement is struggling to get its feet underneath itself. Just Friday we learned the economy has shed nearly 600,000 jobs.

In the weeks ahead, our team will share their varied perspectives on where the green jobs are, how to get them, and what the future of the industry looks like.

For my part, I’ll bring together two perspectives: that of a small (green) business owner, and that of someone who works daily in the labor markets and measures macro-trends. The hope is that each week provides you, the reader, greater insight into this emerging space so that you can help make it a reality.

But first, the cold splash of morning water: it’s really ugly out there, and it likely won’t get better for a while. To bridge the next 6 months, Bright Green has made adjustments. For business owners looking for fresh ideas on what’s worked, consider the following:

1) Get a line of credit–if at all possible–so that you can make payroll in a pinch;

2) Diversify your revenue streams. Things are moving quickly, and you need to adjust. Chaos means opportunity for the entrepreneurial;

3) Control headcount, scale back marketing, and focus on reaching more people with fewer internal resources; and

4) Reexamine your contracts and make sure they’re “air tight.” Clients have every right to live the by the letter of the Agreement, and if it’s too lenient, you may find your checks coming weeks later than expected, testing your cash flow.

For job seekers, it’s important to bear the lessons above in mind. The Federal government is brawling over a stimulus plan that’s focused on job creation. Green jobs could benefit, or get lost in the shuffle. To keep the movement alive, rally your elected officials to keep funding towards green jobs in the stimulus

Once you’ve called the calvary, make sure your sword’s sharp for close range battle with other job seekers:

1) Make the most of the next six months until companies start hiring again. Get LEED, NABCEP, or otherwise certified. Take the civil service exam if you’d like to get a government job;
2) Find a sector that fills a need, not a want. Some things are mission-critical, others aren’t. See what regulation is driving business innovation in your area through online research (ex: Californians, Google “AB 32″)
3) Figure out how to differentiate your skill set (more on this next week);
4) Brush up your interview techniques (more in the weeks ahead).

As ever, BGT’s here to help. Together we’ll make it through this tough time.

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November 8th, 2008

From unemployment to green employment

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The US economy shed 240,000 jobs in October alone, bringing unemployment to 6.5%. That’s more than a million jobs lost in one year. Despite the bad news, I remain optimistic. With Obama in office and promising 5mm new green jobs, it hasn’t been lost on me that his first press conference repeatedly mentioned making a transition to “clean energy” as part of his overall retooling of the American workforce. With Michigan suffering worse than most, the auto industry looks poised to serve as a prime petri dish experiment as to how dirty industries can become green ones, and in the process, realize a renaissance. No small challenge ahead, admittedly. My hope’s that Obama’s plan is more than just politics as usual, and that he’s thinking systemically — hopefully realizing our dependence on foreign oil is an unhealthy fact that we can change if we were to reinvest our money in greener infrastructure. With a large public works package being put together as part of the overall stimulus package, my second hope is that this involves wind towers and solar panels on public buildings nationwide, in addition to road revamps, school upgrades, and park restoration.

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December 11th, 2007

Fast Recruitment

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It was good and interesting to note that in the recent Sunday Times Fast Track supplement, there were 17 recruitment agencies. Although I haven’t had time to check previous Fast Track supplements, I imagine that recruitment agencies flourish particularly when the market is buoyant and suffer when it is not – and that this is indicative of the frothy market we are seeing at the moment. Setting up a recruitment business doesn’t necessarily require a big capital investment – anyone can do it with a desk or a telephone. What is difficult is doing it well, carving a niche for yourself and separating your company from the crowd. I hope that our story, our focus and our values (see previous postings) help continue to distinguish us when the market turns.

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