What role do international forums such as the Rio+20 Corporate Sustainability Forum and UNEP Sustainable Consumption and Production conference play in pushing for green business? AW: The leading businesses are ahead of most governments. The U.S. government is kind of broken – we can’t really get anything done. We’re so dysfunctional and that effects the governments of the rest of the world who are trying to do global agreements so it’s going to be very tough for us to get any kind of global agreement, especially on really tough issues such as a global price for carbon or paying for an appropriate price for water that actually reflects the supply and demand circumstances. The government is going to trail behind companies and increasingly companies are going to ask for help and an even playing field and some of these restrictions as the leaders are able to meet them its good business to raise the stakes. I think we will see more of the push coming from corporations and I don’t think we can count on government to lead the way. Not with the way the U.S. government is functioning today.
Finally, what would your advice be for undergraduate students who are interested in corporate sustainability? AW: here are a few different paths for people who want to get into corporate sustainability. There is going to work in a sustainability role within a large company and that’s certainly a path but keep in mind that there are not a lot of jobs – while fortune 500 companies may all have someone assigned with sustainability, most companies have very few people in sustainability. They may have a leading officer of some kind and they might have a couple of staff members and often these people come from within the company in some senior role so they won’t be hiring people right out of college for that. There aren’t a lot of jobs in that path. But there’s also going towards the consulting route pathway and there’s going to NGOs that work with companies on this and there are often some roles there.
For more information on Andrew Winston, visit www.andrewwinston.com. Mr. Winston blogs biweekly on corporate sustainability issues such as renewable energy and other strategies/technologies that corporations are implementing. You can sign up for an email feed on his blog as well as follow him on twitter, @AndrewWinston.
09 PENN SUSTAINABILITY REVIEW
I think the largest kind of pathway is really just going to a corporation that you think is doing the right thing or offering products that are more sustainable and finding a job that you like in a specific department and function. But do it in a company that is clearly focused on sustainability such as B-Corporations or just even big companies that seem to be doing the right thing and be someone who has a business degree and environmental management knowledge and understands these issues. That’s going to be a high demand over time. There is going to be a lack of people in roles with functional expertise whom also understand sustainability pressures. That’s going to be the big gap for students to take advantage of.