You could say that the green economy is the victim of its own popularity.
With so many people representing such diverse opinions on green growth and green jobs, there is bound to be a corresponding proliferation of misconceptions about what exactly the green economy is and what it involves.
However, you could also say that the green economy is too important to be misunderstood.
The growth of the green economy translates into tremendous potential for both new and existing industries. Environmental professionals and employers cannot afford to remain in the dark about the opportunities associated with this remarkable shift in the way that many companies are now operating.
For a better understanding of what Canada’s green economy encompasses, here are 5 common myths that demonstrate what it is not:
Myth 5: The green economy is something new and completely unprecedented
This myth is a natural consequence of all the recent political and media attention that the green economy has garnered. Maybe the term “green economy” is of the moment
, but the environmental industries and employment that the green economy encompasses are far from new.
Rather than a completely novel and distinct phenomenon, the green economy is better conceived of as an expansion of environmental activities across all sectors, including those that would not be traditionally defined as “environmental.” As a result, the green economy is unlikely to be just another passing fad, since the adoption of sustainable practices translates into major cost savings and a competitive advantage for a wide variety of businesses.
Myth 4: The green economy is just another way of talking about emerging environmental industries
All those photos of wind turbines are probably not helping in debunking this common myth. While new industries, such as renewable and alternative energy, represent essential components of the green economy, it is not restricted to these.
As noted in Myth 5 above, the green economy is best represented as a fundamental change in the way that companies do business, making it a movement that spans across a wide spectrum of industries that are both traditional and new. An excellent example of this can be seen in the case of building retrofitting, in which an existing industry (building design and construction) changes in response to the spread of green practices.
In this way, the green economy is not just about innovative and new sectors, but also about an expansion of environmental work into existing industries.
Myth 3: The main effect of the green economy on employment is the creation of entirely new jobs
So far, ECO Canada’s Defining the Green Economy
report has found that the primary impact of the green economy is through the adaptation and reallocation of existing work. Consequently, a growing number of workers are “having to learn new skills and/or broaden their pre-existing skill sets,” according to the report.
While the growth of the green economy has also created new jobs as businesses adapt to changing consumer demand and new markets, the study found that this is not as large of an effect.
This finding carries important implications for green skills training and development. If workers in current jobs need to add on different competencies, more information is needed on what types of skills these professionals require and what training options are available. To address this information gap, the Green Employment Trends project
is currently underway here at ECO Canada.
Myth 2: Only workers with advanced, specialized technical skills will find employment in the green economy
Perhaps because of its frequent association with new industries and major technological innovations, the green economy is often equated with very technical types of work. By extension, there is the common assumption that green employers are only looking for staff with highly specialized skill-sets.
Contrary to this view, many green businesses emphasize the importance of interdisciplinary thinking and a broad awareness of sustainability issues. In the blog post, 3 Skills Green Businesses Need Now
, green employers mentioned a need for staff who were able to adapt to technological change, knew about sustainable development and demonstrated interdisciplinary thinking.
Instead of looking for extreme specialists, green employers need strong integrators who can effectively bring together ideas and solutions across diverse disciplines and industries.
Myth 1: There is a small, select number of green workers
This is one of the most potentially damaging misconceptions about the green economy that stems from the associated myth that the green economy only encompasses a limited set of “brand new” industries.
When the type of job activity is taken into account, about 682,000 Canadian employees perform environmental work for 50% or more of their time, according to the 2010 Profile of Canadian Environmental Employment
. This number grows to 2.2 million workers when any amount of time spent on green activities is considered.
These stats hardly demonstrate a small, select number of workers.
In addition to the myths mentioned here, what are some of the other misrepresentations that you’ve seen or heard about the green economy?