2011 Good Job Green Jobs Conference: Career Insights - Part 1 of 4

This week, lots of great responsible career insights were shared at the 3rd Good Jobs Green Jobs (GJGJ) Conference in Washington, DC.  The GJGJ Conference is a unique conference created by the BlueGreen Alliance, 'a national, strategic partnership between labor unions and environmental organizations dedicated to expanding the number and quality of jobs in the green economy'. This alliance between environmental activists and unions workers is really at the center of what the global socio-eco innovation movement aims at accomplishing:  getting business done better by advocating for the growth of jobs that pay employees livable wage (not minimal wage) while creating operational practices across sectors that are environmentally sustainable.

Launched in 2008, the GJGJ Conference has grown to over 2,000 participants this year.  Most amazing at this conference is the consistency of career insights coming from such a variety of participants' backgrounds.  Participants and presenters came from unions, nonprofits, academia, government agencies, workforce investment boards, small businesses, social enterprises, and big companies.  During the 3 day conference, concurrent sessions focused on topics that included 'Business, Investment, and New Markets, Workforce', 'Economic Development and Youth Education', 'Emerging Green Sectors: Recycling, Chemicals, Water, Agriculture, and Other Growing Industries', 'State and Local Initiatives and Partnerships', as well as 'Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency'.  The goal of the conference was to facilitate the emergence of shared goals that can lead to partnerships, shared resources, and common ground among participants.  These shared interests and common grounds can of course lead to collective action and pressure on legislators to change laws to create an environment that will force (big) businesses to get business done better.  In the US, where wealth concentration and economic disparities are increasing, it is central to have this cross-sector dialogue taking place.  But who were some of the organizations in attendance?

  • Unions came in large numbers, including the American Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrial Organizations, United Steelworkers, the Service Employees International Union, the Laborers' International Union of North America, the Union of Concerned Scientists, the Utility Workers Union of America, the American Federation of Teachers, the Amalgamated Transit Union, the Sheet Metal Workers' International Association, the United Auto Workers and the United Food and Commercial Workers.  Together, these unions represent over 15 million workers in the US and globally.
  • Nonprofits represented at the conference included the Sierra Club, the Natural Resources Defense Council, the American Sustainable Business Council, Wider Opportunities for Women, the US Climate Action Network, the Solar Energy Industries Association, the Social Enterprise Alliance, the National Youth Employment Coalition, and the National Wildlife Federation.
  • Federal, state and local government agencies represented at the conference included the Environmental Protection Agency, the Department of Labor, the Department of Education, the Department of Transportation, the U.S. Green Building Council, the City of Philadelphia, the City of Pittsburgh, the National Association of State Energy Officials, and the DC Office of Planning.
  • Big and small companies represented at the GJGJ Conference included Alcoa, ArcelorMittal, AT&T, Aztec Solar Power, Byrum and Fisk Communications,  General Motors, Honeywell, Hydro-Stop, Phillips Lighting, and Seventh Generation.

Seeing people from such varied background debate important issues of economic, social, and environmental justice is amazingly invigorating.  Furthermore, the GJGJ Conference further shows that responsible careers can be found at all levels of the corporate, union, nonprofit or government career advancement ladder.  Career insights were provided for workers at all levels of organizations.  Examples included public/private partnerships built around programs teaching high school drop out youth to deconstruct houses, government funding projects to build high speed trains or building smart grid technology, or founders of successful socially responsible businesses advocating for changes public policy to redistribute wealth.  Leveraging the well-known 'power in numbers' tool, the GJGJ Conference provides a convening event where professionals from a variety of backgrounds find common ground around social and environmental justice, and can build coalitions that can lead to real change when it comes to getting business done better.

In my next posts, I will share some of the key career insights I gathered at some of the GJGJ Conference sessions!

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