Getting Ahead of the Pack on Your Green Job Search

Given that we're smack dab in the middle of graduation season, the time is right for an article providing career advice to freshly minted MBAs. As a head hunter specializing in corporate social responsibility (CSR) and corporate sustainability executive searches, I'm here to offer you some insight on trends in the job marketplace, and what that means for you as you hit the bricks on the job front.

Trends in the Market

My company, Sustainability Recruiting, recently published our biennial CSR Jobs Report, which followed trends of corporate social responsibility job postings over six years. One of the key findings revealed an 80 percent increase in CSR job postings between 2006 and 2007 -- and then a precipitous 57 percent decline between 2008 and 2009. 

There are two divergent trends in the marketplace that explain this: The economy and the sustainability movement. As the figure below shows, the economic downturn in 2009 put a large percentage of sustainability efforts on hold. Countering this, the sustainability movement has gained momentum, particularly in 2010.

green jobs growth chart

We also found an increase in senior level CSR positions. Before 2006, the VP title did not exist in CSR job postings; by 2009 almost 20 percent of CSR posts were for VP-level positions.

Around the same time as our report, the Boston College Center on Corporate Citizenship published their excellent Leadership Competencies for Corporate Citizenship. This presents a competency model for CSR leadership positions. The framework suggests that being a change agent is a key competency for a CSR leadership position. CSR is a relatively new initiative within a traditional corporate structure. Therefore being able to affect change internally and externally is a key competency.

What Do These Trends Mean?

Sustainability jobs exist, but not in the corporate sector as you might initially assume. Positions within the sustainability department of a well known brand are far and few between.

Furthermore, the data shows that those positions that are posted are most likely not the right fit for a graduating MBA. They often require greater leadership experience (demonstrated by the rise in VP postings) than a graduating MBA likely has, or they require a sustainability specialization.

For example, Tiffany's currently needs an environmental manager, which requires minimum of 5 years experience in the practical implementation of energy and carbon conservation, emphasizing sustainable design.