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Young environmental professionals were in full attendance at the recent Globe 2010 Conference on Business and the Environment. Some, including myself, were there to attend the Globe Forum for Emerging Environmental Leaders. After spending a day engaging with students and young professionals around green jobs and sustainable ventures, I was convinced: This is the Change Generation!

Why are they the “Change Generation”? The people I met were pursuing PhDs in ethical fashion, engineering green buildings and applying principles learned from biology classes to business. They were actively involved in community action projects that ranged from using theatre to educate people on sustainability (ACT NOW) to organizing fundraising campaigns to place windmills in remote aboriginal communities so that they could have a source of renewable energy.

Ultimately, they were passionate about using their skills to make a difference.

Green careers

It’s great to see young people interested and involved in green careers. I consider green careers to be work that has a positive impact on the environment either directly through the job itself (e.g., clean tech engineer) or indirectly through the organization’s mission (e.g., delivery driver at eeko Couriers).

So who are some of these emerging environmental leaders? Here is a sampling of the 100 that attended.

Jill Doucette, Synergy Enterprises

Jill Doucette, a UVic biology student, has built an award-winning business that specializing in sustainable business practices for coffee businesses. Her company, Synergy Enterprises, provides a complete solution: assessing their operations for issues like energy usage and waste management, sourcing green products and finally marketing these initiatives to the public. Her company name defines her philosophy around sustainable business, and even the dictionary agrees—defining “synergy” as “the working together of two things (environment and business for example) produces an effect greater than the sum of their individual effects.”

I think Jill chose a great niche market to target. High-traffic locations like coffee shops have a great opportunity to help educate people by providing them with sustainable options like eco-containers, fair-trade coffee, local food selections, washroom recycling bins and discounts for personal mugs. Check out the Going Green page on Black Stilt Coffee’s website for a great example of a local café going green (they also happens to be one of Jill’s clients).

Sustainable business consulting is on the rise and a great career choice for people interested in using business as a force for change.

Kim Poldner, Ecofashionworld.com

Clothing can make a statement. So why not make it an eco-friendly one? Kim Poldner is co-founder of Ecofashionworld.com, a site that helps people find everything from bamboo fibre shirts to organic jeans and hemp skirts. Kim says, “When we support ethical fashion, we help reduce poverty and environmental damage. Our actions have an impact.”

She walked the talk at the conference, outfitted in eco-clothing from head to toe.

Clement Bourgogne, mechanical designer

Clement Bourgogne, recently graduated with a degree in mechanical engineering. He went on to become a LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) accredited professional, through the Canada Green Building Council.

He now works as a mechanical designer for a consulting firm specializing in energy efficiency and green buildings. A great example of a traditional career with a green twist!

Scott Macdonald, government project manager

There are also many opportunities within the public sector. Scott Macdonald is a project manager within a large government department in Ottawa. He holds a Bachelor’s degree in Environmental Engineering and currently works with issues involving contaminated sites and abandoned dumpsites.

Advice on green careers

What advice did these emerging green leaders have for other students and young professionals interested in a green career?

• Get involved with students organizations like Common Energy, which works to find local solutions to climate change, or Net Impact, which focuses on corporate responsibility and sustainability.

• Become a member of Young Environmental Professionals! This national organization has more than 120 members involved in its Vancouver chapter and frequently organizes networking and educational opportunities (like this forum).

• Attend networking events like Green Drinks, an informal gathering of people passionate about the environment and sustainability. In Vancouver, Green Drinks is held on the third Wednesday of every month at Steamworks. Also, check Granville’s events calendar regularly for similar opportunities for meeting industry professionals and community members.

Green job and educational resources

For those interested in green careers and related educational programs be sure to check out these great Canadian job boards: GoodWork Canada, ECO Canada, and Work Cabin.

For local green organizations, jobs, events and programs be sure to check out my site TheChange.com, which launches in Vancouver and Victoria on Earth Day, April 22, 2010!

How are you participating in TheChange?

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I attended a day-long conference hosted by the Sustainability Purchasing Network (SPN) this week on Greening Your Organization Through Purchasing. Having studied logistics and supply chain management as a student, I was excited to learn more about the role of sustainability in purchasing.

SPN describes sustainable purchasing as considering:

* What the product is made from and how long it lasts
* The energy, material, and emissions “footprints” associated with its manufacture and transport
* Who has made it, how it’s made, and under what working conditions
* How it will ultimately be disposed of
* Whether the purchase needs to be made at all

What was made very clear by all the presenters, is that purchasers have a tremendous opportunity to help the environment and society. In my opinion, they are one of the most important champions of change in an organization.
If purchasers are informed about eco-alternatives, ethical purchasing policies, factory conditions, carbon offsetting etc. they can affect change by spending their organization’s dollars on products and services that are socially and environmentally responsible. Just like consumers can affect change with their dollars, purchasers for corporate, not-for-profit, academic, government, public sector, labour and co-operative organizations have the power to make a difference with their spending. Local leaders in sustainable purchasing include Vancity, MEC and BC Hydro. I was also pleased to see provincial and municipal government representatives in attendance, signaling to me that local government is looking to green their supply chain. Yahoo!

And what’s even more exciting, is that job opportunities abound within this profession! Even in this recession, there is a skill shortage in the supply chain/logistics industry and with companies looking to be energy efficient and community oriented, people with an awareness of sustainable purchasing will be in high demand! So if you want to work for change, consider a career in purchasing/logistics/supply chain management!

I was also interested to learn about the effects that sustainable purchasing policies and practices had on employees retention and recruitment. One of the speakers, Cathy Rodgers, VP of Global Services from IBM, raved about the improved employee moral and reduced turnover that she witnessed in the supply chain division of IBM, when she implemented sustainable purchasing practices and policies. Employees were united by new goals that included reducing IBM’s waste and carbon footprint. A provincial government representative shared a story about recruiting purchasers. They had updated their usual job advert with the requirement that an applicant has an interest in or knowledge of sustainable purchasing. Not only did they receive 3 times as many applicants, but also much more variety. Usually they only had people with purchasing experience apply, but now they have people with degrees in environmental science applying. They ended up hiring someone with much more experience in the environmental industry than the purchasing profession as they were so attracted to the applicant’s enthusiasm and commitment to sustainability. These are the types of people that will lead the way to a sustainable economy and world! So organizations take note … communicate your sustainability goals and hire for change!

Making a difference while making a living may sound like an oxymoron to some, but I’ve never really thought of the two as mutually exclusive.

Opportunities abound with the advent of greener enterprises and technologies, socially responsible business and innovative nonprofit work. Whether you are an entrepreneur running a mission based business, an executive addressing social or environmental issues in a large corporation, a consultant working to advance the business case for sustainability, an employee working for an ethical business or a staff member at a nonprofit – you are affecting positive social or environmental change and helping to create a more sustainable world.

It used to be that the social sector was seen as the main source of meaningful work; however, with the private sector undergoing a paradigm shift, there are new opportunities to make a difference in companies small and large.

Resources:

A great read on this topic is: “Making a Living While Making a Difference” by Melissa Everett.

Also “Occupation: Change the World” at www.myoccupation.org answers the question, “How do you make money and change the world?”

Yours for a sustainable future,

Annalea

Welcome to Sustainable Pursuits!

This blog covers my journey into various sustainable pursuits.  I also share my reflections on corporate responsibility, social enterprise and values-based work. I welcome your comments and hope that by reading my blog you’re inspired to purse sustainability in your life and career.

Yours for a sustainable future,

Annalea Krebs