Where are the green jobs?

The Obama administration has promised the creation of millions of green jobs in the next few years. Well, it hasn’t started yet… these jobs are nowhere to be seen. And I know what I’m talking about: I’ve been looking for them for over a year.

I have to tell you I’m not a job seeker. I’m self employed and the founder of theGreenJobBank. That’s why I’m looking for green jobs. There are basically two types of places you find them online: a green job board, and an employer website’s career section. There are about 50 to 75 green job boards, so it’s relatively easy to find them. A few Google searches, a few hours of browsing, and voila! . As for employers, (you noticed I didn’t say “green” employer because it’s very hard to define,) we’ll see about them later.

When I started The Green Job Bank in late 2008/early 2009, after a few weeks of crawling the web, I got about 1800 – 2,000 jobs that were less than 60 days old, from many of these boards and dozen of green employers websites . That’s not much, but remember, that was in the middle of the economic crisis. Today, I’ve got over 10,000. That’s much, much better. 5 times more. Yes… but I still don’t feel very good about it… I’ll feel better when it’s 100,000 green jobs, that way we would have some hope that we’re on the right track for millions of green jobs created in the next few years.

It’s interesting to look at what people call green companies, and what companies call themselves green. And it’s highly relevant to the discussion, because the more companies are called green, the more jobs are called green, and the more the Obama administration and a lot of others can claim victory.

Example: is BP (British Petroleum) a green employer? They have a solar division operating out or Frederick, MD, called BP Solar. So BP is a green company? I don’t think so. BP Solar is, but it’s such a minuscule part of BP that it accounts for a negligible part of BP’s revenue and number of employees. As a matter of fact, BP Solar decided a few weeks ago to close down the manufacturing side of the operation to relocate it in Asia, and lay-off 320 employees. Only a fraction of the employees will remain in non-manufacturing jobs. In general I would not call any of the big oil companies green just because they invest in some green technologies. For me to call them green, their green activity would have to become a significant part of their revenue (more than 50% in my opinion, but that’s debatable).

At the other end of the spectrum of green companies, we’ve got the ones that are undeniably green: startup companies. Most of them do only one thing, so it’s easy to classify them. BridgeLux, GridPoint, Tesla Motors, Abound Solar, BioFuelBox and many more are typical examples of the new green technology companies. These are the hardcore, 100% green companies, and they create 100% green jobs (yes, even the accountants and the lawyers have green jobs there).

Now here's a question: you’ve got the local contractor who’s putting new windows and siding on your neighbor’s house; he’s using “green” windows, and “green” insulation under the siding. Is that a green company? I don’t think so. Yes, the contractor is using green products, but he would use any material that makes him money. And your neighbor needed new windows and siding. He would have replaced these windows anyway, green materials or not. He’s being opportunistic, good to the environment, he’s going to save some money on electricity, and pay less taxes. So everybody’s happy; Obama, you, me, your neighbor and his contractor. But the contractor’s company is not a green company, and the contractor’s job is not a green job.

So where are the green jobs? 10,000 isn’t close to a good start…

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Newer definition of a green job

There's a newer definition of green jobs in the main part of the site at:
What is a Green Job?

We also added an entire section on
Green Jobs at VC-Funded Green Startup Companies.