Shital Parmar regularly browses online recruitment platforms for job opportunities at corporates focussed on climate action. An educator, Parmar (53) is passionate about empowering children to lead a climate-conscious life. “Around seven years ago, I started teaching students about climate change and we worked on projects that made me realise how immediate action is the need of the hour,” she says.
Parmar completed a postgraduate diploma in environmental sustainable development from IGNOU last year, and is now looking for jobs to help companies build a climate strategy. She says there are openings, but not enough. “With the kind of crisis we are dealing with, every company, big or small, should have a special team for climate action, which seems like a long shot at present,” says the Ahmedabad resident.
With an increased awareness of the impact of climate change and the evident implications of it being felt, more professionals are looking to build a career to drive climate action. Mumbai’s Disha Sadhnani is one such climate enthusiast who completed her master’s in communications and started looking for opportunities specifically in corporate philanthropy.
“I’ve always wanted to do my bit for society, in whatever capacity. The climate crisis needs immediate action and I want to be a part of building a sustainable future,” says Sadhnani, who is an assistant manager under Tata Trust’s partnerships team and works on rural upliftment, water, and sanitation, education, nutrition, and health projects.
Shaurya Sharma (25), a management graduate from Ludhiana, Punjab, scouts through LinkedIn each day to look for climate consultancy jobs. “I’m looking for a job in the sustainability arm of a company. I want to work towards reducing the severe implications of climate change,” says Sharma. “While there are jobs, those aren’t enough, just like there is awareness that lacks action. If someone today is not building on an environmentally conscious presence, in whatever field they are in, they are either too privileged or have no voice.”
A YouGov study that polled people aged 18 to 35 in Canada, Ghana, India, Pakistan, the UK, and the US in June 2021 showed an increased inclination to work with climate-conscious organisations. Seventy-eight percent of respondents believe their generation can create solutions to some of the world’s biggest challenges; 74 percent of job seekers are interested in a green job that helps tackle climate change, and only 3 percent are currently employed in the sector.
With an average age of 27, the Indian population is increasingly becoming conscious of businesses’ impact on climate. Ruturaj Singh Parmar from Ahmedabad is another climate enthusiast who is building a startup for a sustainable future. He, along with co-founder Hemang Boricha, is working on ‘Waterbox’, a plastic bottle alternative. “I’m building a series of climate-friendly products, with Waterbox being the first of them. My main aim is to find alternative environment-friendly products,” he says.
Parmar envisions building these startups to recruit climate enthusiasts like him and create climate jobs. “A proper in-depth research and development team that is driven to change current consumer habits to build a sustainable future is what I would look for. I want to contribute to building green jobs,” he says
The jobs that are aimed at improving operations effectively to reduce a company’s carbon footprint, and preserve and restore the environment are labelled green jobs. Such jobs help protect the ecosystem by reducing energy, materials, and water consumption through high-efficiency strategies.
At COP26, India announced a 500 GW non-fossil electricity capacity goal by 2030, which might lead to the creation of over 3.5 million green jobs in the short and long terms.
Companies in India are steadily yet increasingly recruiting a workforce technically skilled in climate action, who can drive the necessary technological shifts, and structure financing mechanisms to support the transition that every company will need to make to achieve net-zero emissions, which is what India aims to achieve by 2070, as announced at COP26.
“There has been a definite spurt in organisations working on climate change,” says Satyam Vyas, founder and CEO of Arthan and Climate Asia, a social enterprise dedicated to climate action. “While renewable energy has always drawn attention, an increasing number of organisations are working towards the challenges of climate finance, food, agriculture, biodiversity, water, etc. Many related fields such as education, migrant welfare, and women empowerment have also started inculcating climate-based approaches in their work,” he says. A fifth of Arthan’s talent management portfolios are related to climate jobs, “as against nearly none in the past. We expect this to grow at 100 percent year-over-year”, he says.
Arthan (Climate Asia) is strengthening the impact sector in India through capacity building and consulting support in the areas of human capital, organisational development, and thought leadership. Since its inception in 2016, it has worked with more than 1,000 social impact organisations, and engaged with over 200,000 job seekers.
LinkedIn’s global green skills report 2021 reveals that sustainability manager, safety manager, and water resources engineer are the top three fastest-growing green jobs in India. And sectors like software and IT services, manufacturing, and education are the biggest recruiters. “Jobs in India remain highly green-skill intensive—the average job in India uses roughly 1.5x more green skills than the average job globally,” the report claims.
The sustainability manager job role saw a total growth of 28.6 percent since 2016—and is the fastest-growing green job across APAC—with India observing a 16 percent growth in demand, as per an International Labour Organisation (ILO) analysis.
“Having spoken to multiple leadership teams of climate organisations, we have gauged that there is a large shift in interest of both young and experienced professionals to create a career in the climate space,” Vyas adds.
Shital Parmar says while there are environment-related jobs, they are still very limited. “Look at the education sector. A qualified environmental studies teacher isn’t hired to teach climate impact… instead the duty rests on science teachers. With the proposed action plans under the New Education Policy, schools also should start hiring climate educators,” she says.
Who is offering green jobs?
Green jobs are mostly created by traditional sectors, including manufacturing and construction, and by emerging green sectors like renewable energy.
Sakshi Kapahi, director at HR consultancy Omam Consultants, says the firm is witnessing an increased focus among manufacturing clients on sustainability and renewable energy. “Within sustainability, the job role has changed from being part of EHS [environment, health and safety] to being more specialised, with specific roles of chief sustainability officer/ sustainability head. There is also significant focus and investments in the renewable energy space by several leading corporates across manufacturing players, including metal and mining, chemicals, auto, and heavy manufacturing.”
Manufacturing and transportation companies are primarily looking for sustainability analysts, water waste management experts, solar designers, urban environment impact officers, and environment database administrators, among others. But this trend, Kapahi says, is limited to the manufacturing sector. “We don’t see a trend in the services sector to hire or focus on climate. It is assumed it’s a manufacturing company issue.”
Clean energy is another sector for green job creation in India, which is third in line after China and Brazil in the creation of clean energy jobs, followed by the US and the European countries. In 2020, jobs in the renewable energy sector grew to 12 million, according to International Renewable Energy Agency and ILO.
Businesses building a sustainable future
Organisations and startups are now working towards building environment-friendly businesses. This has led to a rise in demand for specialised roles to help companies achieve their targets. Auto giants like Mahindra & Mahindra, Maruti Suzuki and Toyota Tsusho Group have started projects on recycling automobiles, and setting up facilities throughout the country.
Lemme Be is one such brand that offers sustainable alternatives for period care by ensuring the usage of eco-friendly materials for designing, manufacturing and packaging its products. “We are always on the lookout for talent with a background in climate education, who could steer us in becoming an even more environmentally conscious company and help minimise our environmental impact,” says founder Devidutta Dash.
Interestingly, only around 120,000 people globally, and less than 5,000 people in India, are formally trained to adequately cater to the $23 trillion global climate industry opportunities expected until 2030, as per the International Finance Corporation. It also predicts that India and Bangladesh together are expected to attract $2.5 trillion worth of opportunities related to climate-resilient infrastructure.
Education for climate action
India’s educational institutions are realising the potential of green jobs and are actively working towards bridging the climate skills and demand gap by creating multiple climate-centric courses. IITs, IIMs, Tata Institute of Social Sciences, TERI, IP, SIU and XIMB, among others, now offer specialised courses around environmental sustainability, green economy, sustainable products, green marketing and green manufacturing, to name a few.
Currently, IISc Bengaluru offers MTech and PhD programmes in climate sciences, besides conducting research at its Divecha Centre for Climate Change. TERI in New Delhi offers a master’s degree in climate science and policy. IIT-Mumbai runs an interdisciplinary programme in climate studies at the doctoral level. IIT-Hyderabad offers courses and electives related to climate change. The Bachelor of Technology specialising in climate technologies at Anant National University is an undergraduate degree offered in India that focuses on climate. Gujarat University offers a master’s in climate change impacts management and PhD courses. Ashoka University has mandated ecology and environmental studies in all its undergraduate courses.
“The overall interest of students in climate-related fields has increased, certainly. This sector will see an increase in jobs, especially in the renewables and energy storage sectors, in addition to jobs that focus on the environmental and social impacts of climate change,” believes Gautam Meno, professor at the departments of physics and biology, Ashoka University. “One special course in the biology department relates climate change to evolution. In the coming years, the impact of climate change on disease as well as its economic impacts will certainly figure in our course offerings.”
Despite doing her MSc and MPhil in climate change impacts management and pursuing a PhD in climate change impacts management from Gujarat University, Ashmabanu Kazi is uncertain of the job opportunities she will get post her PhD.
“There are opportunities in the climate field in India, but not enough. There is increased attention towards climate education, but it will take time to build climate jobs across companies, which could take a couple of years,” says the 30-year-old. “It is a field full of patience and perseverance.”
Lovely Professional University is another university that, in collaboration with Erasmus+ Programme of the European Union, has come up with nine courses under the theme of green economy and environment sustainability in January 2021. Approximately 1,000 students across the university registered for them.
Dr Neeta Raj Sharma, head of the school of bioengineering and biosciences at Lovely Professional University, says they are witnessing an increase in companies coming to the campus to recruit green talent. “Companies that are coming to the institute are increasingly focusing on agriculture, architecture, civil and automobile students. For job roles concerning organic farming and alternatives, development of eco-friendly food packaging material, development of sustainable cities and buildings, among others.”
The Ministry of Skill Development and Entrepreneurship has set up a separate skill council—Skill Council for Green Jobs, aimed at developing competencies in the domain of renewable energy, sustainable development and environmental issues.
“Currently, the green business sector generates about 30 lakh jobs. It is estimated that about 2 crore additional jobs will be created by 2030 due to the strategic shift of India towards sustainable development and climate justice,” says a ministry spokesperson. “The success of any technology or technological shift is greatly dependent on its proper execution on the ground through trained manpower. It may not be possible to achieve the desired results of any strategic shift unless our human resource and skill development policies are aligned to address the needs.”
Terra.do, an online climate education platform that “aims to enable and shape 100 million climate-conscious professionals by 2030 across industries and sectors”, has graduated over 1,000 professionals since 2020. “The impact created by these graduates is exponential as some of them are venture capitalists who want to reorient towards climate and green investments; others are founders of climate startups; some are at executive and decision-making positions in businesses across the globe while some graduates have transitioned to climate-oriented careers as well,” says Anshuman Bapna, founder Terra.do.
“The urgency needed by companies in climate action is not enough. Big corporations are finally waking up to the reality of climate change and starting to take action. One of the major reasons that we witness an increase in climate action by companies is because we are nearing the point of no return,” Bapna says.
Bapna believes that climate action could be the next big thing, globally. “BlackRock for example, the world’s largest asset manager managing $7 trillion of assets, has acknowledged climate risk as investment risk. It will factor climate as one of the major variables for its investments and divestments… There is a massive wave coming as far as climate change initiatives are concerned and there are going to be several things that’ll be required, one being climate skilling and education.”
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(This story appears in the 03 June, 2022 issue of Forbes India. To visit our Archives, click here.)