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Green-collar jobs, the next wave

Green-collar jobs, the next wave

Obama's promised moves towards a more environment-friendly United States will shift jobs to India and create new ones.

This October, West Virginia's governor Joe Manchin released a video ad ( to promote his bid for a vacant US Senate seat. In the ad, Manchin loads a rifle and puts a bullet through a printout of a proposed climate-change law, the Cap and Trade Bill, pinned on a tree.

The ad, which Manchin's campaign calls 'Dead Aim', had the green-conscious cringing and brought into focus once again the tightrope walk before US President Barack Obama on climate change. Obama sounded resolute in September when he iterated that he would take big steps towards energy security in 2011 to reduce the world's largest economy's dependence on fossil fuels.

Green outsourcing potential

  • Carbon accounting offshoring
  • Advanced bio-fuels
  • Smart grid
  • Geo thermal energy
  • Green chemistry
  • Green manufacturing
  • Solar energy
  • Sustainable agriculture
  • Sustainable green retailing
  • Wind energy
If that happens, it will be good news for India - for a small but fastgrowing segment called 'outsourced green jobs'. The global green economy - ranging from solar energy to eco-friendly chemicals, from smart electricity grids to carbon accounting offshoring - is estimated at over $5 trillion, of which the US accounts for a sizeable one-fifth. As the sector continues to chug along - it was one of the few in the US that grew through the recession - green jobs are being shipped to India. According to researcher Brown-Wilson Group's Green Outsourcing report for 2009, 22,000 green jobs have been already outsourced to India last year.

And, by the time the US green economy creates five million jobs, 20 per cent, or one million, would be outsourced to India. To get a sense of that potential, look at India's information technology and business process outsourcing (BPO) industry: its 2.3 million workers churn out $60 billion in revenues.

Outsourced green jobs - some call it the next wave in outsourcing - will first emerge in some scale in greenhouse gas accounting that uses software tools remotely, predicts Arvind Sharma, Director for Sustainability, at audit and consulting firm KPMG.

Chisk Inc., a California company started by Bhopal-born entrepreneur Shekhar Chitnis, is in talks with companies to get this job outsourced to its partner-offices in eight cities in India. Offshoring of "carbon tax/carbon credit accounting (work) is inevitable", Chitnis told BT.

The other obvious opportunity is the greening of IT infrastructure. Mark Livingston, Senior Vice President of Consulting at Cognizant Technology Solutions, says the need to find new green efficiencies is being driven by a number of factors, including a weaker economy, the growing cost and limited supply of energy, the insatiable demand for more processing power and storage, and the pressure to reduce environmental impact that is coming from shareholders, customers, and employees.

Its peer Tech Mahindra has started offering green IT consulting services. Vikas Gupta, Vice President at Tech Mahindra, says typically, his team can show a company about to expand its data centre "how they can use virtualisation to combine four functions within the same box". Virtualisation refers to running multiple operating systems and applications on the same server or computing infrastructure.

Bangalore-based Wipro believes that dynamic energy control is the answer to global corporations seeking to move to sustainable operations. "The core of this transition will centre around dynamically controlling energy using software and analytics," says T.K. Kurien, President of Wipro EcoEnergy, the cleantech business of the eponymous soaps-tosoftware group.

Cross-town rival Infosys Technologies has started promoting a power strip branded iSmart that helps users monitor and control electricity usage. Examples of tech solutions abound - NXP Semiconductors, spun off from Philips in 2006, has developed a chipset and an algorithm that can help extract more power from solar photovoltaic panels.

But another emerging area, say industry insiders, is blue-collar green jobs in India. Tata BP Solar's India factories have now emerged as one of the top destinations for BP's solar photovoltaic manufacturing after it closed its Portuguese and Australian units in 2008 and 2009 and announced the closure of its US facility in 2010.

California-headquartered Solar Semiconductor, which has a Hyderabad factory, is another instance. With the US market for solar panels opening up, its Vice President Ravi Surapaneni says the company may even set up manufacturing units in that country with experts from India running them. Wind energy equipment, similarly, could be another job creator.

Surojit Bose, Associate Director for Sustainability in India, at PricewaterhouseCoopers, feels that a lot of research work in clean technology is waiting to be offloaded to India if the US Senate approves the comprehensive carbon legislation.

On that count, President Obama will have to woo more than just the Republicans - Governor Manchin is a Democrat.