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Go green, earn green

The GreenMan | Friday, September 9, 2011

At last night’s career fair, did you find that perfect match — an exciting and inspiring company that will launch your career? While I hope many of you did, I’m also sure there is a large group of you wondering, “What do I do now?”

Maybe the companies sounded dull, maybe you didn’t make a great connection with the representative or maybe you just felt like something was missing. Notre Dame students are known for their commitment to service and active involvement in the community. We want to feel that our work has a purpose, that we are doing some good for those around us. Domers are also known for being high achievers, with a tremendous drive to succeed professionally.

Now this could be a bit bold for me to say, but maybe, just maybe, a focus on sustainability was what was missing from your night at the Career Fair.

Making sustainability part of your work clearly would give you an opportunity to contribute to the common good, but did you know that companies with an emphasis on sustainability also tend to outperform the market? Companies focused on identifying ways to reduce their reliability on limited resources are truly at an advantage.

Many American companies have claimed a seat in the Global 100, the Global Responsible Investment Network’s list of the most sustainable corporations in the world. Some of the better-known ones include: Johnson and Johnson (2nd worldwide), Intel (6th worldwide), GE (11th worldwide), Proctor and Gamble, Kraft Foods, PG&E.

Some of these companies were present last night, but maybe you didn’t even give them a thought. I can’t really blame you, after all, who knew that Johnson and Johnson was so much more than baby shampoo? There are some of you, however, who are looking for more than a corporation with a strong sustainability policy. You may want to consider working for a company that is solely focused on promoting practical sustainable products or services. You don’t necessarily need a background in sustainability per se to realize this dream.

No matter what your skills, you can usually find a way to apply them in this field. You could be a web developer or project manager for a green company, work as an architect to design efficient buildings, get into socially responsible investing, design eco-friendly furniture, be a copywriter for a green brand, or my personal favorite, be a baker at an eco-friendly bakery! Go online and search for sustainable companies and job positions and you’ll be surprised at all of the possibilities that will pop up.

And for those of you who are even more awesome, I should mention that there are many jobs out there that focus exclusively on sustainability as their main practice. Many companies have developed a corporate social responsibility position which encompasses sustainability, while others have a sustainability manager responsible for greening all aspects of operations.

Starbucks is one such company. The CSR (Corporate Social Responsibility) team at Starbucks is largely responsible for maintaining the company’s emphasis on Fair Trade coffee, and ethical means of procurement are a critical component of sustainability. In addition, Starbucks has committed to making their cups recyclable, using more post-consumer materials, and designing all new stores up to LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) standards. (I realize I may have just justified your second Starbucks run of the day. Sorry for feeding the habit!) The upshot is, if you’re faced with looming career choices and looking for a way to make a difference, consider sustainability.

Whether you get a job at a company with sustainability as a business strategy, or with a green-minded company or non-profit, or even as a CSR consultant that helps other corporations make more eco-friendly choices, you can make a huge contribution to improving our world for the next generation.

Maybe this was a shameless plug, maybe not. Maybe those four shots of espresso this morning were a bad idea. A large majority of you probably didn’t even go to the Career Fair … Oh well. Until next time, stay green, stay Irish.

The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.

Email your predicaments to the

GreenMan at askthegreenman@gmail.com and let him answer you with a sustainable twist.