I had a wonderful experience participating in a panel discussion before an audience of MBA students at San Francisco State at an event hosted by the local chapter of Net Impact. (Net Impact is a global network of leaders who are changing the world through business.)
The topic of our panel discussion was green jobs, where are they and how to find them?
Most of the initial focus was upon a discussion about corporations creating and hiring Chief Sustainability Officers. For example, Coca-Cola just announced their first Chief Sustainability Officer. She is Beatriz Perez, formerly a marketing officer for the company.
Here’s the question I asked these MBA students:
“Do you want to be a sustainability officer or a CFO, CMO or COO or CEO?”
The question cuts to the core of best practices Earth 2017 has been profiling of businesses making money going green. The leaders, entrepreneurs and CEOs I have interviewed are NOT sustainability officers.
Kate Swann, COO of Frog Design is a good example. Her company is driving innovations in design that align with consumers seeking “in me, on me and around me” solutions. But the point is that she is a COO.
Another example is Kevin Cleary, CEO of Clif Bar. Clif Bar is built upon a management culture targeting the achievement of five aspirations that, in their total, define a sustainable business. Sustainability in Clif Bar is not a function reporting to a Chief Sustainability Officer. Sustainability is both a best practice that cuts across their organization and their defining corporate culture.
This distinction also holds for entrepreneurship. Green Carpet Clean is one of my favorite entrepreneurial examples. They clean carpets. They sell INDOOR AIR QUALITY! Their passion is helping others live a better life, sustainably.
So the challenge I asked these MBA students to consider is what is their business passion? Was it in finance? Then sustainability is a best practice that can be their competitive advantage in competing to win a job in finance. Too often from my experience the finance department serves as a firewall blocking sustainable projects. Yet there is a growing inventory of businesses winning competitive advantage when their finance department is engaged in enabling the adoption of sustainability. That is a path for winning a job in finance and growing a successful career.
Is your passion to win a job in marketing? A consumer sea-change is occurring as consumers increasingly question how their product purchases align with their expectations on price and values. Building products and brands that align value with values is a best practice that is creating competitive advantage for companies like Whole Foods, Blissmo, SunRun and others.
It is also a best practice for building a business career!
Bill Roth is the founder of Earth 2017, a website posting analysis and trends on the emerging $10 Trillion annual revenue smart, healthy and green global economy. His book, The Secret Green Sauce, profiles best practices of businesses making money going green.