Hello everybody and welcome to episode 35 in the series in which we will talk about Green Jobs and Sustainable Jobs. As the green economy continues to grow the number, type and skills levels of such jobs is evolving at a rapid pace. So too is the confusion about how the related terms are being used and we hope to shed some light on this. I am delighted to have Tim here to support me with this episode.
Hi everyone. The green economy is that section of the economy which involves protecting the environment and reducing the risks associated with many current industry practices. It has grown rapidly from meaning just the green energy sector of the economy. In 2011 the United Nations Environmental Programme issued a report on the ‘green economy’ which stated that such an “economy must not only be efficient but also fair”. So this brings social justice right into the heart of the green economy. The report stated that a green economy would be “low-carbon, resource efficient and socially inclusive”. This is another example of the use of the word green having a much wider meaning than just environmental as we have spoken about in other episodes. The word sustainable embraces the economic, environmental and social elements so this broader use of green is quite similar to saying the Sustainable economy.
Thank you Tim and because the word sustainable in English means to keep going or continuity this leads to problems. When politicians say “we must try to develop a sustainable economy” it is often unclear if they are referring to a new ‘green’ economy or to the standard economic model that is somehow capable of being more robust and able to withstand economic shocks. So the green economy then is a wide term that refers to the production of goods and the provision of services that restore and preserve environmental quality and which is also socially inclusive. It is what is called an Umbrella or Aggregate term – that is it covers a lot of issues or ideas. What is included, what is not – the answer is ‘it depends’ – it depends on who is speaking and in what context.
Embedded within the green economy are green jobs. Again, this is a fluid term without a precise definition as it depends on where we decide to draw the line. Take for instance working in forestry, planting trees. This may involve planting non-native species in an intensive, monoculture type development which some would feel is not really ‘green’ as it does not meet many of the long-term sustainability criteria. Using public transport is good for the environment, so do all train drivers now have a green job? A green job should either actively contribute to reducing the harmful effects human activity has on the environment – known as mitigation – or attempt to cope with the current climate change conditions – known as adaptation.
Many people may be aware of the terms blue collar and white collar jobs referring to the distinction between manual and clerical work. The term Green collar worker is now used to refer to people with jobs within the green economy. It covers all types of jobs including professionals and trade jobs. The word career is used to describe a person’s progress or course through their working life which often includes several jobs. A Green career is a broad term and can relate to a wide variety of jobs which a person may pursue. It can be used for all sorts of work from the electrician installing solar panels to the designer of the building, the manager of a social enterprise or the owner of a green business. They are said to be pursuing a green career. We can also say sustainable jobs but this is not used quite so often because of the confusion mentioned before. Also, many of the websites for jobs in the green economy mainly use the term green jobs.
The term Green Work is slightly different to green job. Someone with a green job would do green work however, green work may be applied to a project or a business that does green work and this might involve lots of different jobs, only some of which are green. For example, a manufacturer of solar panels might employ a truck driver – the company is doing green work but the truck driver doesn’t strictly have a green job. The term Sustainable work suffers from the same confusion as sustainable economy mentioned earlier. So we sometimes use the term ‘working in sustainability’ to refer to people doing all sorts of work that is aimed at developing a more sustainable future. For instance, my own work on producing this podcast series could be described as working in sustainability. Similarly, to get around the same problem when saying a sustainable career we can use the term a career in sustainability. The word occupation refers to a category of jobs such as ‘accountant’ but we don’t really use the term green occupation as there would be no occupation in which all the jobs could be considered green rather they consist of both green jobs and non-green jobs.
All this new work is estimated to create millions of jobs globally over the next few years which is generally referred to as Green Growth. This will involve what is called up-skilling for many workers – which means training and education of new practices, skills and attitudes. Again, originally this was focussed on the re-training of trade people such as plumbers or electricians to install new types of energy products. As the reach of the green economy grows it now involves many different types of workers across all sectors of the economy. The term Greening the economy is used to describe this expansion. Within the green economy there are now different sub-sections such as the Environmental Goods and Services Industry and this includes technologies, products and services that reduce environmental risk and minimise pollution. Another very common term is Clean Tech Industries used to describe products or services that improve operational performance, productivity and resource efficiency while reducing costs, inputs, energy consumption, waste, or environmental pollution.
So with the development and expansion of the green economy it is fair to say that most workers will have to adapt to the greening of their jobs. This may be driven by personal choice, legislation, market demand or an evolving economic reality. As in any broad economic change or disruption some jobs will cease to exist and this will cause hardship for people. It will take time for the greening of the economy to reach into all sectors. It is difficult to define the boundaries of what a green job is but all indicators are that there will be many more of them over the next twenty years.
That concludes this episode in the series which I hope you have found useful and informative. My thanks to Tim for his help with this episode and to you for listening. We look forward to you joining us in future episodes in the series.