Are Green Collar Jobs Affected by the Shaky Economy?

Bright Green Talent green jobs recruiting agencyIt seems no matter where you look these days, there’s bad news about the US economy. Does that extend to the budding green collar jobs market as well? Yes and no. I spoke to Nick Ellis, Managing Partner at Bright Green Talent, a US/UK based recruiting agency with a focus on green jobs, and a commitment to walking the talk within their own company as well. Ellis was frank, encouraging, and insightful.

Well then, what does the green collar jobs market look like?

From where Ellis sits, there is an enormous demand on the client side (those looking to hire) and there is a shortage of green collar job candidates. Really? Yes, and that includes an intriguing factor: Many of the client companies have set their expectations so high, who they’re seeking doesn’t exist. An example Nick gave is asking that the candidate have 5 years experience with LEED certification. Many people may have tremendous experience in techniques and knowledge that falls within the green building realm, but LEED is fairly new, most don’t have that much experience with LEED specifically yet.

How to remedy this?

Bright Green Talent works with clients to give them a more realistic, broader perspective of who might fit what they’re seeking. On the job seeker side, they take time to coach their clients how to craft an effective story and resumĂ©. This a recipe for both parties being much happier with an eventual hire.

But what of this limping economy, it has to have some effect on green collar job prospects, right?

Yes, and in a different way than you might expect: Ellis says that the credit crisis has resulted in larger, blue chip/Fortune 500 companies scaling back their green efforts, focusing more on their core business. However, this has provided an opening to smaller, innovative companies to have a bigger pool of talent interested in working for them, when they may have headed straight for the bigger, more obvious targets.

Ellis gave the example of Intel recently reporting average, rather then stellar earnings, and how an engineer from there could perhaps see the strong viability and interest in cleantech companies, and decide to bring their talent there instead.

So cleantech is hot now, but what about the future, the longevity of this excitement?

Ellis sees a fair amount of consolidation happening, largely driven by VC trends. For example, silicon is in short supply, and for solar energy companies that were able to place advance orders 3 years ago, they’re able to float this tight time. Those that have not are finding themselves either without supplies or spending much more than they anticipated. They go to VCs looking for additional funding, and find them more risk averse, choosing to give money to more established solar companies, and perhaps to less established, towards being merged with another more solvent player.

The upcoming US presidential election will also shift the clean energy landscape as well in terms of government subsidies, Ellis predicts. There has been a lot of emphasis on biofuels, but at this point they are proving problematic, in terms of the use of food crops to make them. Ellis thinks subsidies may shift to Wind power, as it is starting to prove itself viable. I would agree, as it becomes more efficient with less wind needed, resulting in a less intrusive execution, it will more likely be accepted by a larger number of communities. And the production of wind turbines is frequently much less toxic than solar panels.

Not all (green) recruiting agencies are the same.

But what of Bright Green Talent? What makes them different from the scores of recruiting agencies out there, and those that profess to be green focused? A lot. Ellis, who shepherded the January 08 opening of the San Francisco office of BGT, came from an investment banking background, and he’s parlayed the “white glove” customer service standards to this company. Their orientation, both with clients and candidates is of an ongoing relationship, rather than find a hire, than disappear in search of new commissions.

They also choose to be highly transparent in their interactions, rather then with guarded secrecy. The clients know what BG is doing, who the talent pool is, and the talent pool isn’t subjected to an under the gun, “We’ve got a job, do you want it or not?!” mentality. Sudden opportunities yes, but placement despite ill fit, no. The emphasis is less on quantity but quality of placement, so that companies that are just beginning to commit to being greener don’t feel burned by having talent sent to them that doesn’t fit, therefore sabotaging their and others future enthusiasm for going and hiring green.

Finally, BGT as a business is no mere trend rider, seeking to make a huge profit quickly then sell. Their aim is to grow big, but in a slow, steady manner, on a solid foundation of strong ethics and green internal practices. This includes hosting their site completely via renewable energy. Not mere energy credits/offsets. And they want to engage the broader world via their internal activities like their Green Olympics. Though slightly tongue in cheek, this competition among and between their London and SF offices, rolling out on Youtube as episodic videos, will serve as a springboard to talk about the environmental impact/possibilities that the Beijing Olympics holds.

The future does appear bright green. What do you want to do with your career?

Readers: What’s been your experience been looking for/hiring for/creating your own green collar jobs? Where have you found help and resources to better be able to do this?

Additional reading on the green jobs and the economy:

Stagflation: Green Businesses Preserve More Green when the Going Gets Tough ~ Ecopreneurist

Green Collar Jobs Defined ~ Ecopreneurist

Social Networking and Online Marketing for the Ecopreneur ~ Ecopreneurist

About the Author

Paul Smith is a sustainable business innovator, the founder of GreenSmith Consulting, and has an MBA in Sustainable Management from Presidio School of Management in San Francisco. He creates interest in, conversations around, and business for green (and greening) companies, via social media. Who he has and wants to work with includes consumer, media, clean tech, NGOs, social ventures, and museums. For more on GreenSmith Consulting, see He also writes for Triple Pundit
  • Rob

    Very insightful.

    It seems that although many of the blue chip companies are reverting to their core business, the talent disruptions create an enourmous opportunity for well capilized startups to run hard towards the green niche. Ultimately the few who pull this off will have a sustainable competitive advantage.

  • Pingback: Apollo Daily Digest » Blog Archive » July 25, 2008: A Texas Wind Project Moves A Step Closer To Reality()

  • I agree Rob, there’s a lot of opportunity happening, right now. Those that work smart and quick, seeing possibilities, will be rewarded. “Going green” in some senses is a fad, but in other ways is just about doing business smarter and with a deeper/broader approach. That’s truly sustainable.

  • Tim

    Although “green” may be a fad, I think a good point has been made that many green jobs are part of something bigger. Green architecture, for example, is increasingly showing to have economic benefits of sustainability in the long run, so it would seem that the economy getting the squeeze in many ways will only accelerate this green movement. I would also think that the many awards programs for green design, often federally funded, provide some fuel for the industry even in slowing economic times.

  • Absolutely. As someone at a global shipping company I was talking to the other day said, he sees a time when it’s no longer green business, but just business.

  • It’s great to see that BGT is going niche, because it is tough for most people to narrow down their focus so much. But I think recruiting agencies have to do more than just recruit by the numbers…they have to invest at least some time in their resource capital, or at least those they think are valuable to build those relationships and truly provide value to their clients. This means: good niche=smart marketing and branding, but as you say it is business as usual.

  • andar909

    hi, andar here, i just read your post. i like very much. agree to you, sir.

  • Well said, Clara. Andar, where are you? What’s it looking like where you are?

  • Pingback: Rahm Emanuel: Obama Picks the Ideal Chief of Staff for Rebuilding the Economy With an Environmental Focus : The Inspired Economist()

  • You are absolutely right Rob, the greener jobs have so much more to offer. Less pollutant, More readily available jobs, Basically our future in where its headed.