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Demand for professionals who understand environmentally sustainable business on the rise

Demand for professionals who understand environmentally sustainable business on the rise

The demand for professionals who understand environmentally sustainable business is on the rise. Experts estimate 8,000 to 10,000 green jobs have been opening up each year for the past 10 years.

Kunal Singh worked with human resources consultancy Aon Hewitt for two years before he decided to go green. The 25-year-old joined a master's programme in economics with a special focus on environment at The Energy and Resources Institute (TERI) University in Delhi. "At Aon Hewitt, we were looking at how companies in the oil and infrastructure sector will be needing professionals who can handle issues related to environmental sustainability," says Singh. "From policy changes to the business risks involved, this will be the next big skill requirement."

Singh is one of the many Indians chasing so-called green jobs. Most of them are driven by the growing demand in India for professionals who understand the business of environmental sustainability. Experts estimate 8,000 to 10,000 green jobs have been opening up each year for the past 10 years. These are not just in purely green businesses such as green buildings, renewable energy, energy efficiency and carbon consultancies, but also in big companies which have launched green initiatives. Ambuja Cements, for instance, has an environment management department and a geocycle department, which deal with sustainable solutions for industrial waste. The environment management department coordinates with various Ambuja plants on matters related to environment, climate change and sustainability. It also acts as an interface on these issues with the company's management. "This year, we recruited five environment engineers from Indian School of Mines (ISM) Dhanbad and 15 mining engineers from other universities," says Meenakshi Narain, Joint President of Human Resources at Ambuja Cements.

While government policies and company guidelines (see Driving the Green Shift) are nudging this green shift, several firms are also wracking their brains to find the most effective way to manage these issues. "The issue of sustainability requires knowledge of multiple issues," says Prashant Vikram, a senior executive with PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC). "While there is a good framework of government policies to encourage environment-friendly operations in industry, management expertise within a company which understands green business issues is really what is required right now."

TERI Director R.K. Pachauri (on top) with students
TERI Director R.K. Pachauri (on top) with students at the institute's campus in Delhi TERI Director R.K. Pachauri (on top) with students at the institute's campus in Delhi Photo: Aditya Kapoor/

In the last three years, companies have started making senior functional directors, such as legal or supply chain heads, responsible for social and environment issues.

Designations such as Chief Sustainability Officer (CSO), though, are still limited. "Sustainability is the buzzword across the industry and in policy decisions around the world now," says Astha Ummat, a 23-yearold student at TERI University, who worked with Google's Online Sales Operations for seven months before going back to university. "A Master's degree in economics with special focus on environment resources is an added advantage."

Going Green
Some companies are also outsourcing their corporate social responsibility (CSR) jobs to outside consultants. IndusInd Bank is one of several companies that has been working with the Centre for Environmental Research & Education (CERE) to reduce energy consumption by 15 per cent per annum. It currently has 100 solar-powered ATMs across India.

Companies such as Apollo Tyres, Cisco and IL&FS have also managed to reduce their energy consumption and increase employee productivity through green initiatives such as water recycling and construction of green buildings. "Being a manufacturing company, our engineers work on some of these initiatives, while for initiatives like carbon footprint analysis and reduction, we work with external agencies," says an Apollo Tyres spokesperson.

Even pure green businesses, such as those in the renewable energy space, are looking for talent. Emergent Ventures India (EVI), a climate change and clean energy solutions consultant, has hired fresh talent from the Indian Institute of Technology, Indian Institute of Management and National Institute of Technology, besides TERI University. "There will be great growth in demand for professionals specialising in the green sector," says Ashutosh Pandey, President at EVI. "Apart from domain expertise, this sector will also need expertise in large programme management and business development."

It is not the only one. Green Infra, a renewable energy company, is looking to hire fresh MBAs with a background in investment and equity finance. The company has 307 megawatts of operational capacity across its wind, solar, biomass, hydro and energy efficiency verticals. India has a large base for core skills in the renewable energy and energy efficiency businesses.

Government mandates to encourage wind energy and, more recently, solar energy have allowed talent growth in pure green businesses. This has helped emerging segments in the green sector draw talent from related sectors, as professionals in the latter upgrade and adapt to new businesses. For its environment-related departments, Ambuja Cements, for instance, is sourcing lateral hires from chemical, manufacturing and process industries. It looks for people with traditional educational degrees such as a B.Tech or M.Sc, together with a strong environment background.

"Five years ago, solar energy was very small. But when government policies encouraging this sector were introduced, people realised this could be a big thing. Talent for this was drawn from traditional sectors like energy and environment, which have been around for the past 20 to 30 years," says PwC's Vikram.

Training Programmes
Besides government policies, even industry associations are helping the green shift in business by initiating training programmes to develop talent for this growing sector. The CIISohrabji Godrej Green Business Centre (CII-Godrej GBC), funded by the Godrej Group, is working with 20 architectural and engineering colleges to introduce training programmes in the green building segment under its Indian Green Building Council's student chapter.

Experts say the design and construction of green buildings hold enormous job potential. Green buildings account for just three per cent of all buildings being constructed in India at present. CII-Godrej GBC is working to increase this figure to a range of 30 to 50 per cent. Among the companies whose offices are green buildings are Wipro, Cisco, Infosys, HSBC and ITC. K.S. Venkatagiri, Head of Energy, Environment and Water Management Activities at CII-Godrej GBC estimates that India's green building footprint is likely to increase to 100 billion square feet by 2030 from 25 billion square feet in 2010.

"Since 75 per cent of the buildings that will exist in 2030 are yet to be built, this will provide increased job opportunities in the green buildings segment," he says.

The only downside is in carbon consultancies. While the business and talent needs of the renewable energy, energy efficiency and green building segments are all looking up, carbon consultancies are going through a downturn. With Europe's carbon credit market going through a slump, Clean Development Mechanism projects, which companies in India adopted a decade ago, have been doing poorly. Some have even shut shop. Professionals in this business have either gone back to the traditional energy and environment sectors or have been absorbed in segments such as the solar and biomass businesses.

But industry experts are still optimistic. "The fall in carbon prices has impacted our business. But because of our diversity of business areas, we are able to withstand this impact," says EVI's Pandey. "We feel the next two years will be crucial for the climate change industry as all of us try to reinvent our business models. I foresee a tremendous growth post this period."

PwC's Vikram is also optimistic about the sector's ability to adapt and flourish. "If two to three years from now, we find new carbon markets, companies will find a way around it, just as we are doing in solar today. We won't be left without a skill base."

Published on: Mar 22, 2013, 12:00 AM IST
Posted by: Navneeta N, Mar 22, 2013, 12:00 AM IST