How to Build a Green Future: Sort Through the Sounds of Discontent to Find Notes of Change

How to Build a Green Future: Sort Through the Sounds of Discontent to Find Notes of Change

It jars my entrepreneurial instincts to listen too closely to the chorus of voices diving in to comment on the woes of the economic crisis. The entrepreneur's nature is to rise above the fray, to spot opportunity where others see problems and to rail against the norm. As soon as you become another negative voice, we presume, you lose what is uniquely yours -- creativity, resilience and possibility.

But entrepreneurs should learn to engage and listen, because somewhere amidst the din lie the answers: both to questions that we find ourselves asking at this time, and those that we are currently being bombarded with – namely, what next for the environmental movement, and therefore where is the opportunity for my company, Bright Green Talent, working to help people find green jobs?

A year ago, nothing could stop the green movement from its surge into the hearts and minds of the corporate and political world. Today its impact is somewhat precarious. Many, hanging on Barack Obama's every word, believe that the environmental problems we face, particularly energy security and climate change, might help form part of the solution to our economic crisis. Yet what currently remains rhetoric for the future, no matter how promising, does little to bring confidence to those affected in the here and now. No one expected a quick-fix cure-all, no matter how clever the people or dynamic the administration.

Many others, understandably, believe that new pressures displace old and that there is little room for longer-term concerns about the environment while the problems rage around us. It's easy, they say, for the Davosians to private-jet in and head-scratch together, but what about those that have lost their livelihoods, their houses or their pensions? Why should they worry about carbon offsetting, recycling or renewable energies when they can't afford to fly or even to feed their families, or when oil and gas are cheaper than the alternatives?

Within the environmental labor market, Bright Green Talent has seen both sides of the argument play out: Fewer companies are hiring and non-essential operations are being scaled back. Organizations are trying to do more with less. Some are letting people go, many have hiring freezes that are suspending their growth. Yet environmental professionals were often stretched to begin with, and most organizations are unwilling to backtrack on their corporate responsibility or sustainability agendas for fear that it might provoke further declines in their fortunes, given that strong environmental sentiment remains. Certainly, the concept of sustainability is not likely to be abandoned in the eyes of the consumer if all other things (especially price) remain equal. Other organizations, of all sizes in both affected and unaffected sectors, remain committed to their environmental plans and are still hiring. The bravest, albeit few, are scaling up, not down: They realize that this is a unique opportunity to secure top talent, or believe that the environmental sector will be a greater opportunity and differentiator as we roll forward.

In addition, tight times also provoke creative thinking, efficiency and alternative approaches. We've been heartened to see organizations use the economic crisis as a trigger to make environmental changes, particularly under the auspices of saving money; many realize that reducing flying, using less energy, reducing waste and improving efficiency are some of a number of activities that bring symbiotic benefit to both crises. We've seen organizations spending money on green consultants in the knowledge that they can get many times their money back through cost-saving, environmentally-friendly improvements.

From the perspective of jobseekers, interesting changes are also afoot -- from the good, bad to downright ugly. Certainly these are some of the most testing times our generation has faced, but there is still great hope in the environmental sector. We started our firm because we believe that more and more people want to find fulfilling jobs that make a difference. We believe that people are the most important element in the move towards ensuring a brighter, greener future -- and by finding or even creating jobs, we would help stimulate that move. The good news is that people want those jobs more than ever before. The number and ferocity of the voices that we hear on a daily basis reflect the demand, sentiment, excitement, as well as desperation within the job market. It seems that every ex-investment banker has long been dreaming of a worthwhile career; that a new tsunami of unemployed, or those looking to move careers, are focused on finding a dream, green job.

So stand back and listen closely to the voices that affect you … you'll hear the subtle sounds of a renaissance building, of hope and promise. It certainly won't happen overnight, but by engaging and by supporting this sentiment, it seems that the collective crises we face are conquerable. And for those that have the humility and foresight to start now and to listen and learn from the opportunities that present themselves, bright green pastures lie ahead.

Tom Savage, who has founded several green businesses, is the managing director and co-founder of Bright Green Talent. For more information about the firm, visit

Image by clix.

This article appeared in the March/April issue of Sublime Magazine. It is reprinted with permission from the author.