The sustainability job market is white hot. By many counts, green jobs are being added faster than in any other sector. But what constitutes a green job? Sure there are the obvious industries like clean tech, energy efficiency, advanced vehicles and renewable energy, which includes solar, wind, biofuels, biomass, wave power, tidal power, geothermal, small
scale hydropower, and more. And these industries alone have created more than 2.5 million green jobs, according to E2’s 2016 Clean Jobs America report.
There are great opportunities to make an impact within the public sector too. Green jobs at federal, state and city agencies, as well as non-profits work to develop, implement, and regulate energy, climate and transportation related policies. According to a 2017 EDF report, the public sector accounts for nearly 900,000 green jobs.
EDF estimates that total green jobs across these public and private sectors number between 4 and 4.5 million, up 25% from 2011. Indeed, the green job market is growing fast: solar and wind sectors are creating jobs 12-times faster than the rest of the economy, and the advanced automotive sector saw job growth of 48% from 2015 to 2016.
But green jobs are also being created in more traditional industries, such as utilities and oil and gas—and these industries are on the cusp of massive change. Even non-energy related industries are creating sustainability jobs, from tech companies in Silicon Valley to professional services, banking and retail, to consumer-packaged goods. According to a recent GreenBiz report, 70% of large company CEO’s surveyed were at least “interested” in climate change, and 89% of Fortune 500 companies publish some form of sustainability report. No matter the sector, talented people who are passionate about climate change and other sustainability issues are landing green jobs and creating positive impact.
Green jobs versus green sectors
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics classifies green jobs into two broad categories:
Jobs in businesses that produce goods or provide services that benefit the environment or conserve natural resources.
Jobs in which workers' duties involve making their establishment's production processes more environmentally friendly or use fewer natural resources.
So, either the sector is green or the job function is green. In a few cases we find green job functions within green sectors, e.g. a sustainability manager at solar company. The chart below maps out the range of green jobs and sectors according to their relative green-ness:
How to read this chart
Industrial sectors are listed on the vertical axis. “Pure play” green sectors whose core products or services have a direct carbon abatement impact are listed on the top and highlighted in dark yellow. Big emitting industries that are in transition and have the biggest opportunities for transformation are listed next. Traditional sectors that can drive significant emissions reductions in their supply chains are next, followed by traditional industries that can still lead even though their carbon abatement potential is lower.
Job functions are listed on the horizontal axis. Green jobs that are primarily focused on some form of carbon abatement, other environmental impacts or sustainability are listed to the left and highlighted in dark blue. Jobs that have partial focus on emissions or can use their leverage to create positive impacts are next followed by roles that are not traditionally focused on environmental sustainability. Still, even these roles can be filled by intra-preneurs who effect change within their organizations from within.
The chart cross-sections are in green. Of course, the darker the green, the greener the job.