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Sustainability & Social Responsibility

Green Skills That Pay: eSide Asks a Specialist Recruiter


RaeAnn Slaybaugh

November/December 2008, eSide Supply Management Vol. 1, No. 6

Today, many organizations are paying a premium for supply management professionals with green skills — as much as 20 percent above the asking price for most positions, according to Nick Ellis, managing partner of Bright Green Talent. Not surprisingly, job seekers are taking note. But which skills really pay?

eSide asks a specialist recruiter
Green Jobs

These days, taking an interest in the environment doesn't just pay personal dividends; hiring organizations now pay a premium for supply management candidates with green aptitudes. According to Nick Ellis, managing partner of San Francisco-based executive search, recruitment and talent consultancy Bright Green Talent, these hard-to-come-by job seekers can expect 10-percent to 20-percent higher salaries for most supply management positions.

It seems potential employees are taking note. Ellis expects the number of supply management professionals seeking green jobs to increase this year, particularly in the dietary supplement and food markets.

"A number of 2009 regulations will push suppliers to re-evaluate their supply chains and quality control processes," he explains. "And that's just a few examples of industries where demand is being driven by regulation and swelling consumer demand."

Ellis predicts other organizations will soon be forced to take a hard look at their life cycle analyses to find out where their cost and environmental liabilities lie. "Where they're not up to snuff, they'll need to go out and hire candidates who can help them address those problems," he adds.

Case in point: Bright Green Talent is currently placing five supply management professionals in green jobs, predominantly in the dairy and fishery industries. "Our clients want people with market-based supply management experience who understand the ecosystem of fisheries can be made more sustainable or revised and stabilized due to overfishing," Ellis explains. "They really need to take a fresh approach to solving that problem."

Making the Connection and Selling the Skills

Ellis believes a strong correlation naturally exists between green skills and the supply management profession.

"Supply chains really come down to operational efficiency, and efficiency revolves around the idea of reducing waste and eliminating excess wherever possible," he explains. "When you couple that with a set of environmental values a lot of people are now embracing, you see a clear connection."

But which skills sell one candidate over another? According to Ellis, potential employers invariably want one thing: proven change agents.

"It's no longer business as usual," he says. "They're fundamentally reinventing their images, their processes and their leadership. They need people who can go in there not just with 10 years of supply management experience, but also with an entrepreneurial attitude that sets an example."

These qualities are essential to conveying one key message — that environmental responsibility will be core to the way business is conducted from now on. "Without that leadership example, a lot of the green concepts fall back to the fringes," Ellis warns. "People are generally resistant to change."

Acquiring Green Skills: Where to Start

While Ellis is aware of no all-encompassing green supply management credential, he recommends attending related conferences and workshops and incorporating these into a résumé — an approach which has proven successful at his firm.

Additionally, many of Ellis' most sought-after supply management candidates have completed community coursework or obtained master's degrees in sustainable business. In many cities, free public courses are also available which cover every aspect of energy efficiency and touch on how to manage a supply chain accordingly. "These are usually free courses put on by for-profit businesses," Ellis explains. "They realize they have to get the word out."

Above all, employers are looking for demonstrated interest in green supply management practices. "Without that, there remains this huge gap," Ellis advises. "They hear you say it, but have you done it? Walk the walk. Lots of people are out there just talking it."

RaeAnn Slaybaugh is a senior writer for the Institute for Supply Management. She can be reached by e-mail.


Overcoming Barriers to Green Job Growth

While the future of green jobs is undeniably promising, as with any other emerging employment market, job growth is more difficult to achieve in a struggling economy.

Recently, Bright Green Talent Co-Founder Paul Hannam broke down the four biggest challenges currently facing green job growth for, a daily news and information portal, plus strategies to overcome them.

  1. Recession. While going green lends itself to long-term cost savings, Hannam acknowledges that it is perceived as an added burden in tough economic times. "Credibility and long-term relationships are essential to encourage green innovation and, in the process, demonstrate to skeptics that green business practices truly do deliver a measurable ROI," he says.

  2. Talent shortages. As Hannam points out, many employees simply don't have a dozen years of experience in green aptitudes such as solar system design or clean-tech venture capital. This necessitates an investment by the green jobs movement in training programs — and, at times, taking calculated risks — to attract and retain green employees who can help keep an organization's reputation "clean and green."

  3. Greenwashing. Hannam acknowledges that many organizations see green as a short-term branding opportunity, a mind set which needs to change if they hope to attract sought-after green employees and customers.

    "[Incongruent business practices] make it difficult for consumers to sort out who's green and who's not," Hannam states. "And genuine talent will either look elsewhere or leave once the initial allure fades."

  4. Lack of government regulation. Hannam predicts the coming year will herald increased government policies, subsidies and laws that foster the prosperity of sectors such as renewable energy, especially as the new President embraces a forward-looking domestic energy agenda.

Progression is evident around the world, as well. For example, Hannam cites the agreement on a successor to the Kyoto Protocol — a protocol to the international Framework Convention on Climate Change — and the creation of an international authority for carbon trading and investment as positive next steps.

"Indeed, change is afoot," he concludes. "It's keeping both our hopes alive and spirits high."

For more articles and resources on sustainability, visit the ISM articles database.

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