Harvard Green Career Panel

GreenCareer

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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