Sustainability from a Personal Perspective #3pVOTE

This post is part of our year-end “year in review” sustainable business writing contest. We’ve asked 3p readers to submit their own thoughts about the state of sustainable business in 2010. More information about the contest is available here. All submitted articles will be available on this page. Voting will happen in January!

By Fred Paul

This post is not so much on sustainability in business but more on the job potential within the Sustainability Sector.

My impression of the year in Sustainability has been a disappointing one and painful to endure.  Let me forewarn the reader that this is going to be a not so green perspective on the so called ‘Green Economy’ so if you don’t want to hear this stop reading now.

The timing of this contest and my repeated failures to move into the Green Economy couldn’t have been better timed.   Many people post  or blog online about endless dribble I just couldn’t pass up the opportunity to include mine as well.

I’m an experienced professional with a varied background mostly in the computer software business.  I was presented the opportunity by my former employee to pursue other employment over a year ago.  I took a step back and looked at my education; professional experiences coupled with my real interests and determined I wanted to participate in the ‘Green Economy.’ What a perilous disappointing journey it’s been, as you will read.

I evaluated where I wanted to focus, what my gaps were and set a course.  It has been a whirl dervish of a ride and I see time slipping away.

I begin this emotional roller coaster of a ride focusing my aspirations on the green building sector.  I dusted off my architectural degree and professional experience from the early 80s as a baseline. I determined that I had to have this thing called a LEED-AP designation by name, as it was all the rage.  I quickly learned everyone and their mother were getting LEED-AP designations in advance of the USGBC rolling out their new version 3 or 2009 rating system.

I came to three conclusions.  First, this didn’t distinguish me from the tens of thousands doing the same thing from all walks of life.  At the time there was a flood of, what I thought were not very qualified, candidates becoming certified professionals who had limited knowledge of buildings practices and systems.  Second, in hindsight it was more about memorizing stuff to pass a test that I found not to be all that insightful with green building practices.   Obviously focused on memorizing credits, intents and requirements but not so much on the value and why.  Lastly, the building industry was in the same bad shape as it was when I got out of the architecture field back in the early 80s.  I asked myself why I was looking to pin my hopes on the industry that failed me years ago, given its current situation.  How foolish could I be?

Be aware, I’m not knocking the USGBC I enjoy learning about green building concepts and I’m active member of the local USGBC chapter.

The next stop on my evolution was with a home grown green business operations rating system, which will remain nameless.  I learned a lot with their training/certification process.  However, I quickly learned that the small businesses I was focused on were interested in staying afloat and not spending money to certify themselves as ‘green.’  Regardless on how much I illustrated the savings on implementing certain green measures. Plus I realized that there wasn’t much science or diligence behind the rating system itself.

Now keep in mind all along the way I’ve been actively networking and looking for work in the new Green Economy, but to no avail.

This brings me to the current stop on my journey, Sustainability.  I determined that I should cast a wider net and started looking at this thing called Sustainability.  I finally realized in my mind that my true interests were in Sustainability.  I felt I could do better looking at broader environmental issues.  But of course I had no formal education or experience in the subject.  To address the former I enrolled in a Leadership in Sustainability program at a local university with some name recognition.  In addition to participating in too many webinars to count, and reading numerous reports and white papers on the subject.  The latter is really the most frustrating aspect I’m encountering now.  My 20 plus years of professional experience seem to carry little weight with companies seeking sustainability professionals with 8-10 years experience in the field (where are these people by the way?).  I don’t know how to get over this hurdle. I’m confident in my knowledge and abilities but it appears others are not.

Finally, I know there’s a lot of activity around Sustainability but I don’t see the job growth.  Companies appear to be making due with who they got and not adding people.  Regardless, I remain forever optimistic on my Sustainability quest.  This leads me back to my original statement that the year in Sustainability to me personal has been one of disappointment and much introspection.

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