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Where to Find 'Sustainable' Employment: The Opportunities are Increasing Mark Swartz, M.B.A. M.Ed.

About the Author

Mark Swartz, MBA, M.Ed., is Canada's Career Activist. His insights reach millions yearly as the Career Advisor, as author of the best seller "Get Wired, You're Hired," also as a professional speaker and coach on career/work issues. A former Toronto Star careers columnist, Mark's advice is forthright and practical. For Canada's biggest directory of free career articles, and for personalized coaching, please visit

The idea of employment being sustainable has a lot of appeal in this day and age of job insecurity. Now there's a whole new meaning to the term. Sustainability these days means your job involves green, environmental initiatives, or else falls under the umbrella of Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR).

It's a great new way for you to increase your marketability. You can differentiate yourself as a capable employee who can also get profit-enhancing CSR done. But don't just take it from me.

Being a Strategic CSR Employee

Adding his viewpoints is Dr. Andrew Crane, George R. Gardiner Professor of Business Ethics and Director, Business & Sustainability Program at the Schulich School of Business, located at York University. He says that this is the right time for people to clarify their role as an employee involved in CSR initiatives: ''You are not merely the company's conscience or donations person. You are uniquely prepared to deal with complexity and multi-stakeholder relationships on a strategic basis.''

Andrew adds that those who can create new socially responsible products and services (e.g. fair trade coffee, green mortgages), or who can reshape processes to enhance the triple bottom line (e.g. using fewer scarce resources, leaving less of a carbon footprint, making governance more effective), will be in demand. He also notes that ''Consumers will purchase responsibly - assuming that price, quality and branding are equal to the alternatives. Thus we need business-savvy employees who can make or promote exciting products and services that have CSR built-in and the potentially daunting tradeoffs removed.''

Jobs for Responsible Business Employees

As for where the jobs might be, Andrew says that you needn't focus your search exclusively on employers in the environmental or not-for-profit sectors. ''When you look at who is winning awards for being socially responsible, it includes companies such as Walmart, IBM, Loblaws, Vancouver City Savings and Home Depot; places you may not have thought to look first.'' Each of the companies cited above is on the ''Best 50 Corporate Citizens'' list for 2008 or 2009, prepared by Corporate Knights (the Canadian magazine for responsible business).

How to find an employer that might value your CSR credentials? Well, it makes sense to look at that Best 50 list above and also review the Canadian Business for Social Responsibiltiy (CBSR) membership roster, for starters. To that you can add member organizations of the Canadian Centre for Ethics and Corporate Policy, and the top performers on the Jantzi Social Index.

Here is a tip from Adine Mees, President and CEO of CBSR: ''Seek out industries where there are already obvious aspects of CSR that directly impact profitability and the capacity to function within communities, such as mining or oil and gas.'' Your goal is to be at the intersection ''where significant stakeholder concerns and corporate strategy meet head on.'' As well, search for employer websites where they boast of their sustainability efforts. And keep an eye out for those that issue a CSR or Sustainability Report in addition to the standard Annual Report.

Andrew adds that ''So far there are few actual jobs with CSR in the title, yet employers often look for people who match their values and vision statement, who can position themselves as a solid recruit based on respecting integrity while also being a champion of innovation, profitability and sustainability.'' He reminds us that to meet the needs of multiple stakeholders (both internal and external), you may need to prepare yourself to be ''politically astute and tough, declaring yourself a true agent of change.''

Earn and Return

So that's where things stand for now. Employers who aren't serious about CSR may well cut back in this realm during a downturn. Those who have seen that the benefits of deeper corporate citizenship outweigh the investment are likely to continue their core commitment to CSR, though they may need to defer major projects until conditions improve. In any event, hiring in the Green Collar workforce is picking up steam as environmental issues and carbon reduction become more pronounced. Not a bad way to make a good living while making a difference.

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