Harvard Green Career Panel


On Thursday the Environmental Club at Harvard hosted a “green” career panel called Unlock Your Green Career: Learn How to Get Your Dream Job from Top Experts in the Field!  The speakers on the panel were Anurag Agarval, Co-founder & CEO of JeffCorwinConnect Inc., Rob Berridge, Senior Manager of Investor Programs at CERES, Scot Hopps, Director of Sustainability for the Saunders Hotel Group & EcoLogical Solutions, and Igor Kharitonenkov, Co-Founder and Vice President of Bootstrap Compost.  Before the program began, refreshments were provided in the form of a make-your-own pita sandwich bar with ingredients from Clover Food Lab in Harvard Square.  The panelists described how they ended up in their current positions and their thoughts on the future of green jobs and industry.

JeffCorwinConnect was started by Animal Planet’s Jeff Corwin and Agarval to increase awareness of Asian wildlife by promoting personal experiences and providing the platform for people to participate in and become inspired by wildlife.  The hope is that these connections will ultimately lead to a feeling of greater responsibility and action by the public.  Agarval was quite straightforward in explaining that a successful Wall Street career allowed him to “buy his freedom” so that he could start a venture like this.

CERES is a non-profit that advocates for sustainable capitalism.  By organizing investors and interest groups, they are able to put pressure on companies to change business practices and can specifically address those impacting climate change.  Berridge gave the example of corralling Starbucks shareholders to vote on a resolution to get the company to agree to reduce their usage of palm oil, the production of which is blamed for large scale deforestation and water pollution.

The Saunders Hotel Group, which owns such properties as the Lenox Hotel, eschews chain affiliation and, according to Hopps, sustainability is a core value of the family-owned company and becomes a factor in all decision making, projects and purchases.  When he decided to start pursing a “green” career, Hopps took a job installing solar panels to explore the industry.  While that type of job did not end up appealing to him, he did say it was valuable experience particularly for the knowledge he gained.

Bootstrap Compost picks up compostable trash from residences as well as businesses and then delivers the contents to local farms to turn into compost.  They minimize carbon emissions as much as possible in their operations and customers will receive back compost for personal use a few times a year.  Kharitonenkov began this start-up after leaving a PhD program that he was not passionate about.  He got the idea after spending a year or so doing side jobs while he reached out to Boston-area sustainability leaders for one-on-one meetings where he got an understanding of the local landscape, advice and made valuable connections.

The entire panel agreed that both businesses focusing on sustainability as well as sustainable practices were increasing.  It has become an important element in profitability as well as marketing.  In Massachusetts, composting will get a boost from a new large-scale food waste ban — food waste greater than 1,000 lbs must be composted.  In turn, urban agriculture is also expected to grow.  ESG (Environmental Social Governance) investing is also on the rise and Boston is a hub with some of the larger firms like Trillium, Walden and Green Century located here.  Also mentioned was the introduction of B Corporation (Benefit Corporation) legislation last year in Massachusetts.  This is a designation for businesses for which maximization of profits is not the sole goal but also to benefit society in some way (Boston Organics is a local example).

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Green Jobs Workshop

Green Jobs Workshop

The Office of Career Services at Harvard hosted a workshop on Tuesday entitled “Finding Jobs & Internships in Energy, Environment and Sustainability”.  Director Anthony Arcieri started with an overview of the industry here in Massachusetts, categorized the green jobs subfields and their outlooks, and then described the resources available for job hunting.

Massachusetts has been ranked 2nd after California in 2013 on the Clean Tech Leadership Index, a determination made by tracking technology, policy and capital indicators such as advancements in clean electricity, green building and incentives.  Boston is ranked 10th out of fifty U.S. metro regions using similar indicators including clean-tech jobs.  Our state is ranked 1st by the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy for the third year in a row largely due to the impact of 2008 Green Communities Act which stimulated investments by utilities in energy efficiency.  What this means is that Boston is among the better markets in which to be searching for a “green” job.

The vast majority of these jobs are in the energy sector and in particular wind energy, such as in farm development and turbine manufacture.  There is a smaller market for marine (i.e. tidal), solar and bioenergy jobs.  Other related subfields include green construction (design, engineering, planning), finance (energy trading/carbon offsets), government and policy (departments of energy or environmental affairs) and research and analysis (consulting, think tanks).  In the environmental sector, jobs are typically related to climate change, environmental policy, conservation and natural resources and employers are often the government, consulting firms and non-profits.  The field of sustainability breaks down into corporate social responsibility, sustainable building and development, energy conservation and “greening” and life cycle analysis.  Jobs in these subfields often incorporate sustainability concerns into other duties, but it is not necessarily the main or only responsibility.  A major shift in the past few years has been that sustainability is less driven by branding and more by profitability.

Advice for a successful job search included staying current with trends by keeping up with the latest books, articles, reports and blogs; attending conferences such as the Massachusetts Green Career Conference; and joining groups, networks and job boards.  Some links by sector:

Green Energy Jobs
Professional Energy Jobs
Cool Climate Jobs
American Council On Renewable Energy (ACORE) - internships
US Department Of Energy - internships
National Renewable Energy Laboratory - internships

Orion Magazine Jobs Board
Environmental Career Opportunities
World Wildlife Fund
International Institute for Environment and Development
Union of Concerned Scientists

GreenBiz Job Board
Boston College Center for Corporate Citizenship
SustainableBusiness.com Green Dream Jobs
Green Careers Guide
The Weinreb Group
Net Impact

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