2011 Good Jobs Green Jobs Conference: Career Insights - Part 3 of 4

In this series, we are focusing on the career insights that emerged from the 2011 Good Jobs Green Jobs Conference that took place last week in DC.  Our first insights emerged from the vast diversity of organizations and perspectives present at the conference.  Representatives from unions to nonprofits to government agencies to big and small businesses were present to share information and find common ground around creating well-paying US-bsed jobs by finding opportunities to accelerate the growth of the Green Economy.  In the second part of these series, we focused on how educators are combining classroom teaching with experiential learning for workers at all levels of the green ladder.

To facilitate this conversation, the 2011 Good Jobs Green Jobs Conference featured a session titled 'The Role of Business in Building a Just, Vibrant, and Sustainable Economy'.  This session moderated by Richard Eidlin (from the American Sustainable Business Council) included remarks from 4 panelists from a variety of backgrounds:  Jeffrey Hollender (Co-Founder of Seventh Generation), Frank Knapp (President of the South Carolina Small Business Chamber of Commerce), Jill Harris (CFO of the Social Enterprise Alliance), and Vince Siciliano (President and CEO of New Resource Bank).   Here are 3 career insights that emerged from the conversation:

Career Insight #1 - The 'Business Community' is not monolithic - All panelists, but especially Frank Knapp were very insightful in terms of how to approach this issue.  As citizens and responsible professionals, we must go beyond that the 'business community' is a single voice.  Let's face it, the loudest voice of the business community is that of traditional businesses that use their deep pockets to lobby politicians into creating and maintaining the best policies for them.  The US Chamber of Commerce is pretending to represent all businesses, but does little to go beyond the usual rhetoric of 'cut our taxes, we'll create jobs'.  This common belief has shown to be false.  Indeed, despite the highest profits on records posted by big companies for Q42010, US jobs are not being created.  We must educate politicians and the public, and help them understand that the true business community, the one that truly creates jobs is that of small business owners.  This point was also re-emphasized by Vince Siciliano, the CEO of New Resource Bank, which offer banking services akin to those of big banks, but lends money to values-driven entities that create a better world. The Obama administration has understood that and is trying to increase the visibility of smaller businesses through its Startup America Partnership.  A key career insight here is that looking at smaller to medium size businesses seems to be a much better way to build a responsible career.  See also a previous post on where to find these responsible jobs across sectors.

Career Insight #2 - Wider gap between rich and poor in the US is the result of the current public policy ecosystem - Jeffrey Hollender made a strong statement about the fact that the current US policies are doing what they are supposed to be doing - Create a system that concentrate wealth and help richer people get richer.  Both in business and in politics, a winner take all approach is predominant.  Building upon career insight #1 about moving past the business community as a single entity, Hollender and other business leaders are contributing to the American Sustainable Business Council (ASBC), a coalition of business owners that is dedicated to 'advance public policies that ensure a vibrant, just, and sustainable economy'.  Even more encouraging, 35 representatives of ASBC, including partners, business supporters, and allies met with Secretary of Labor Solis and six members of her senior staff the day after the panel.  These ASBC supporters that came to DC to speak to Secretary Solis included Ben Cohen, Jerry Greenfield (both of Ben & Jerry's), and Dal LaMagna (IceStone).  This meeting further reinforces the idea that the Obama administration team is clearly paying attention and wants to amplify the voices of smaller businesses (i.e. the ones that are most likely to continue creating the lion share of livable wage jobs in the US).

Career Insight #3 - Social innovation transcends sectors - Jill Harris from the Social Enterprise Alliance emphasized that social innovation occurs across sectors.  Indeed, whether a social enterprise is set up as a nonprofit or as a business, they all use market-driven approaches to eradicate a social issue.  One of the most famous social enterprise model is microfinance.  By lending money to the poorest of the poor, microfinance institutions have developed profitable entities while enabling their clients to lift themselves out of poverty.  Other social enterprises that focus on building employment opportunities for vulnerable workers include, Harbor City Services in Baltimore, MD.  This nonprofit organization offers fee-based services, including warehousing, shredding, & moving services to customers. They do so while creating vocational opportunities, treatments & supports for workers, who are recovering from mental illness & substance abuse.  Good responsible jobs can be found in social enterprises that operate across sectors, either as businesses, nonprofits, or hybrids.

Overall, this panel and the follow up meeting with Secretary of Labor Solis bring to the forefront that responsible job creation is not generated by traditional businesses.  Instead, responsible job creation is fueled by small to medium size businesses, nonprofits, and hybrids that truly operate to provide services and products while creating livable wage jobs and preserving our environment.  Think about that when looking for your next good job!

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