Big Business

Want A Career With A Future? Try Sustainability

There has been lots of "he said she said" over green jobs, and whether they are truly benefiting the economy. Part of the controversy is related to semantics and differing interpretations of "green," but there is one segment that appears to be expanding.

Sustainability departments.

Big businesses are expanding their green teams as they become more aware of the environment and of carbon footprints. If this study by is correct, budgets and the number of employees devoted to sustainability at billion-dollar firms each expanded an average of 6 percent. also reported that, "Management takes sustainability more seriously: Fifty-six percent of respondents said that sustainability is "on the agenda permanently, but not core" to operations, while another 29 percent called it "a permanent fixture and core strategic consideration."

This may come as a surprise to those who listen only to what politicians in full election mode, but not to those of us who work in this business. Corporate America is developing a definite green hue, as this blog post notes. In this report, global management consulting firm McKinsey & Company notes that more executives say such programs increase value and reduce costs.

Here is a quote from the survey: "In just the past year, we’ve seen a shift in the results from our annual salary survey where the word sustainability is etched on a manager’s or senior manager’s business card more than twice as often as it was the previous year (56% of the time in 2011 and just 26% in 2010). Similarly, almost 50% more vice presidents and senior vice presidents have sustainability in their title compared to 2010."

Here from is a hint of specific sustainability jobs that could gain a higher profile in 2012.

We are also finding that younger people care about sustainability, and are making it part of their decision-making process. Studies show that students are attracted to colleges that practice sustainability, and that more campuses are adding related programs. UC Davis, for example, just announced a new major in sustainable agriculture. Community colleges also are getting into the act.

Sustainability not only is a growth industry, but it pays well too. says, "Vice President-level sustainability execs make an average of $218,409 annually; Director-level leaders earn $161,510; and Manager-level leaders make $105,345 annually."

That's a lot of green.

College Students Getting Energized Over Green Campuses

We here at the nonprofit San Joaquin Valley Clean Energy Organization in California see an increasing awareness in all things green. The military, professional sports and Big Business are already on board, and schools - and by extension, their students - are right behind.

I spent much of last week in Eugene, OR, where my daughter is a sophomore environmental studies major at University of Oregon. I noticed this story about the campus committing to limiting energy consumption, and then got to wondering:

How important in a student's college selection process is the university's commitment to sustainability?

As it turns out, it is getting more important. Nearly 70 percent of college applicants this year said it would factor into their decision. That is up from 64 percent in 2008, according to USA Today.

Cost and academic reputation still top the list, but an environmental awareness is important, according to a Maine college student interviewed by USA Today. My own daughter echoed that sentiment, saying "if all other things were equal" the university with the strongest environmental commitment would win out.

The Princeton Review, which ranks universities, recognized the growing environmental awareness, and publishes a green guide. Here is a link to this year's list of 311 schools. (University of Oregon is on the list) and to an accompanying press release.

To us, going green also includes energy efficiency. And schools across the country (check out what is happening in California here) are taking steps similar to University of Oregon to reduce their carbon footprints, and to reduce their power bills. The federal government is strongly behind that effort, as evidenced by a $30 million commitment to 24 campuses, including San Francisco and San Diego state universities. The money will be used to train engineering students to slash energy consumption in manufacturing processes.

Young people helped end the war in Vietnam and are making a difference in the Middle East. Collectively, they are a force to be reckoned with. It remains to be seen how much noise they make about clean energy, but clearly it is becoming a higher priority.

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Could Renewable Energy Be The Next Big Thing?

It is safe to say the Internet, which started as as a military application, revolutionized society.

Now, a new Pike Research report suggests a similar scenario is possible in renewable energy, which the Department of Defense is aggressively pursuing as it seeks to cut costs, reduce its carbon footprint and increase energy security. Going Green could be the next big thing.

"Pike Research sees the DOD as a key driver in a (renewable energy) revolution that will directly impact non-military sectors, much the way the Internet and GPS have progressed over the last decade," the study says, noting a caveat: the energy must be reliable, and meet extensive testing and certification standards.

The study projects the military's investment in the procurement and production of renewable energy will reach $3 billion by 2015 and $10 billion by 2030. As the largest power consumer in the world - using 80 percent of the government's total energy annually - the military's influence is immense. It's easy to see the logic behind Pike's projection.

Every branch of the military is going green. The Army is building solar arrays. The Navy and Air Force are turning to biofuels, fuel cells and hybrid-electric technology. Marines in Afghanistan have solar-powered equipment to avoid deadly oil-supply runs. Read more about that here.

The military also is testing wind turbines and geothermal, and conserving more energy by replacing pumps and lighting. The Department of Defense has about 450 clean energy projects as of early 2010. One of the most ambitious: creating net-zero military bases that produce as much energy as they consume.

But even the military, with all its resources and $809 billion budget (23 percent of all government spending), has limitations. This blog, written by a retired general and a green-minded business leader, notes that the private sector isn't developing the sought-after technology fast enough.

The Pike report cites some military/private sector partnerships, such as testing camelina-based fuel developed by a Montana company, but the bloggers suggest the military establish more relationships between the private and public sectors - just as past partnerships between military and business advanced the Internet and space travel.

The support of the military - and the increasing awareness by Big Business that sustainability pays off socially and economically - bodes well for the green movement in general. If renewable energy takes off like the Internet, the resource-rich and geographically blessed San Joaquin Valley in California's heartland could reap huge benefits.

The Lemoore Naval Air Station is on tap to get solar panels, but much more could come to the area. Dozens of solar projects are already proposed in the region between Stockton and the Grapevine, and the fast-growing Valley, blessed with land, sun, wind resources to its north and south and wedged between three major population centers, is well positioned to capitalize on the emerging green economy.

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Business, Military and Professional Sports Become Leaders in Green Movement

There is no denying the influence of professional sports on consumers.

Professional football, basketball, hockey, soccer and other sports generate $19 billion in revenue annually. Star athletes earn multimillion-dollar paychecks, make millions more in endorsements and have throngs of admirers.

Stick their face on a cereal box, and it flies off the shelves. Footwear makers see sales soar if an athlete promotes their sneakers. So, it is nice to see that professional sports is starting to increase awareness of green living and sustainability.

Six teams - Seattle Mariners, Seattle Seahawks, Portland Trail Blazers, Vancouver Canucks, Seattle Storm and Seattle Sounders FC - are founding members of the non-profit Green Sports Alliance. The mission, to quote from its Web site, is to, "reduce the environmental impact of professional sports and to inspire fans to join us in these efforts."

Here's a link to a story on the new sustainability league, which in turn links to the Green Sports Alliance.

One goal is to share best practices on water, energy and waste management. and to share them with other teams.

With big business, the military and now professional sports spurring the green movement, it is only a matter of time until it gains a foothold and takes off.

Big Business Takes Lead On Clean Energy Movement

Corporate America is taking up the mantle for the green-energy movement, realizing that renewable fuels and energy conservation are good for the environment and make sense economically.

The latest evidence of this came forth today, when General Electric and General Motors announced they are teaming up on an energy-efficiency program with a payback period of only six months. GE says in this story that the annual energy savings to the automaker's production process will be significantly more than the cost of implementing the program.

The new system is surprisingly simple and, according to this CleanTechnica story, involves, among other things, GE synchronizing the conveyors in GM factories with lights and other equipment. This is just another example of energy-efficiency measures producing a robust return on investment - and of Big Business taking up a leadership role in Big Green.

Consider what Mike Duke, CEO of Walmart - which is greening its supply chain and installing solar panels, wind turbines and fuel cells - said in a recent statement that we noted in a blog: "Business should not see a conflict between doing what is right for business and what is right for the world."

As if on cue, Diageo, the world’s leading premium distilled spirits, beer and wine company, followed up by announcing today that it achieved carbon neutral status for its North American corporate fleet in 2010.

Want more evidence? On Friday, the United Nations implemented a program encouraging businesses to share best practices on sustainability - and immediately signed up 54 companies, including heavy-hitters such as Nestle, Shell and Coca Cola.

With business leading the charge, the green movement could pick up speed.