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Some Really Great Bad News: The Right Choice for a Sustainability Student

Leslie Back | Thursday May 27th, 2010 | 3 Comments

By Leslie Back

Last week, while speaking at the Green Economy Business and Leadership Briefing, Will Day, Chairman of the UK’s Sustainable Development Commission and advisor to the UN Development Program (UNDP), suggested that sustainability is the greatest business opportunity of the 21st century. The presentation, delivered to Irish business leaders, served fair warning that the trends towards global warming, food scarcity, oil and mineral depletion, overpopulation and more have necessitated new business opportunities. We are, insists Day, on a destructive, even apocalyptic path, especially as it relates to our warming planet. We are running out of oil, food, fish, and we are cooking. Wow, I am depressed.

But, there is hope. There is still time. Day insists that the decarbonization of economies will happen so opportunities will be there for those who are willing to take the plunge, unglue themselves to the power of black fuel (oil and coal) and find new and sustainable methods for business.

I hope the business world is listening. According to Ellen Weinreb of Sustainability Recruiting, year-over-year as of Q3 2009, CSR (Corporate Sustainability or Corporate Social Responsibility) job postings decreased 68%.

I suppose the doom and gloom offered by Day provides hope for my cohorts and me. I am seven weeks into my Sustainable MBA and I chose this route because I want to make my living being a part of the solutions to these seemingly overwhelming problems. I am an optimist and we have not passed the point of no return. This little blue planet is facing so many environmental and social dilemmas we should all have plenty of opportunities upon graduation.

Of course, I jest. I would willingly and happily find myself gainfully unemployed at the end of this pricey green MBA because the oceans were cleaned, crude oil was replaced with French fry grease and the air was cool and clear. I am an optimist, yes, but also a realist. Regrettably, my prospects are good. I have work to do and much to learn. There is much for all of us to do. Here we go.

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Leslie Back is a first-year Sustainable MBA student at Green Mountain College. Study interests include environmental conservation, social responsibility and the power of corporate and non-profit partnerships to bring about positive change. Other areas of interest include social media in sustainable marketing and public policy. She holds an MA in Organizational Management and a BS in Leisure Management. On the rare occasions when she is not studying, she enjoys writing, reading, running, nature walks and yoga. She hopes to use her skills, talents and education to make a positive impact with an environmentally and socially conscious organization.


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  • Tim Woodall

    Having recently graduated with an MBA in 2008, and pursued a career solely in the CSR/sustainability realm, I'd like to give some hope to recent grads with similar interests. I managed to find two jobs in my time since, both of which had a green focus.

    However, it is important to have a strong enthusiasm for sustainability that is combined with work experience that bolsters this commitment. It is not enough to want to “find a green job.” With so many people out of work these days (the unemployment rate among 19-29 year olds being at 37%), that you really have to stand out as someone with marketable skills and experience.

    If graduates have minimal experience, but still want to enter the CSR/sustainability field, I would recommend internships at NGOs (EDF, Ceres, NRDC, or others) to help bring credibility to your resume. Or consider taking a lower level job at one of these firms, and work your way up. Having an MBA doesn't guarantee you anything these days, and graduates have to expect a steeper climb to reach their career goals.

    That said, the energy and environment sector is one of the last remaining industries that is far from its maturity (think 1996 in terms of the tech boom), and the job opportunities are only going to increase in the years ahead.

    Good luck!

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  • http://www.care2.com/c2c/people/profile.html Leslie Back

    Hi Tim,
    Great comments and I could not agree with you more. An MBA is not a guarantee, no matter the profession, but is a starting point. It lays the foundation from which to build. And, I agree with you. I am quite happy to take a lower paying or entry level position, indeed would be honored to do so. At this time in my life it is not about money, prestige or incentive trips. It is about doing work I love and for the right reasons. On we go!

  • http://www.care2.com/c2c/people/profile.html Leslie Back

    Hi Tim,
    Great comments and I could not agree with you more. An MBA is not a guarantee, no matter the profession, but is a starting point. It lays the foundation from which to build. And, I agree with you. I am quite happy to take a lower paying or entry level position, indeed would be honored to do so. At this time in my life it is not about money, prestige or incentive trips. It is about doing work I love and for the right reasons. On we go!

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