A Hidden Advantage of Environmental Work

Angie - Test Knowles, | March-09-12




Hidden Advantage of Environmental Work
What are the benefits associated with pursuing an environmental career?
In the post here, I mention how recent research suggests that green workers experience higher median wages and greater job satisfaction, along with a better general sense of making a positive difference. 
Now there’s an additional advantage to add to this list. 
Compared to overall employment, green jobs also demonstrate strong economic resilience. A major study by Next 10, Many Shades of Green: California’s Shift to a Cleaner, More Productive Economy, found that a lower percentage of environmental jobs were lost during the economic downturn in relation to total job loss in California. 
According to Next 10’s report, “From January 2009 to January 2010, the state’s overall economy registered job losses of seven percent. Those losses are more than two times higher than the job losses tracked in the state’s Core Green Economy, which saw a three percent loss in jobs.” 
While this study focused specifically on Californian employment, there’s ample evidence to suggest similar economic resilience for Canadian green jobs. Such resilience is apparent in:

The Boom in Environmental Employment Numbers


In 2007, the Profile of Canadian Environmental Employment estimated that there were 530,414 environmental employees in Canada. Just three years later, an updated version of the same report found that the number had increased to 682,000 Canadian professionals who spent at least 50% of their time performing environmental activities. 
When all the workers who spend any amount of time on environmental tasks are factored in, the number grows to over 2 million employees or 12% of the total Canadian workforce.
What is particularly interesting about these stats is the fact that such an increase happened during (and in spite of) the economic turmoil that occurred between the 2007 and 2010 reports.

Green Employers’ Intentions to Hire, Despite Economic Uncertainty


When employers in green companies were surveyed in the Defining the Green Economy report, two-thirds of them expected to hire additional full-time employees within the next five years. These intentions to hire reflected both a current and anticipated increase in demand for green workers.
Similar to the context of the two Profile studies, the Defining the Green Economy report found that even though the economic downturn had recently occurred around the time of the study, green businesses were still planning for growth and expected to need additional staff in the near future.

The Proliferation of Environmental Skills Requirements 


One of the most critical advantages of environmental work relates not so much to the growth of environmental jobs, as it does to the growth of environmental skills, including those required for activities in environmental protection, resource management and environmental sustainability.
As public awareness of sustainability issues increases, and as governments and businesses create additional policies to address environmental degradation and resource depletion, the need for workers who can perform environment-related activities is greater than ever. This is the case for a wide range of industries, not just those that would fall within the traditionally-defined environmental sector. 
In order to meet the requirements for a growing number of jobs that are not wholly environment-related, but still feature environmental tasks, it pays for workers to add environmental competencies to their existing skill-sets. In the 2010 Profile of Canadian Environmental Employment, there were industries that had a declining total number of workers, such as agriculture and manufacturing, but these same industries also had a growing demand for environmental skills.  
For employees in these sectors who are concerned about job security, developing environmental competencies is one means of increasing their value to employers and ability to compete in a tough labour market. 
Overall, these three factors point to the strong economic resilience of green jobs in Canada. With remarkable employment growth, future expectations for continued growth, and the spread of green skills requirements across all industries, professionals who perform environmental work enjoy notable advantages.

What other perks would you add to a list of the benefits of environmental employment? Are there any that you would disagree with or change?