General Electric wants to recruit workers who are looking to "change
the world." Enterprise Rent-A-Car seeks employees who are "committed to
a greener tomorrow." And even Dow Chemical is on the lookout for job
candidates who want to "solve problems with global ecosystems," and
conserve "precious resources."
Call it the greening of the hiring process.
"One of the biggest trends we've seen on staffing pages this year is
the improvement of messages about the environment. Companies realize it
is an issue, especially among top students," says Gerry Crispin, who
keeps tabs on corporate recruiting Web pages for Career Xroads, an annual guidebook he coauthors.
But for the eco-conscious job seeker, there is a big difference in
culture, values, and inevitable job satisfaction between a company that
has been green from the get-go, like Green Mountain Coffee Roasters, a
company that is making a concerted effort to become greener, like Nike,
and one that is inherently not-green, such as Dow.
If it's important to you that your employer be environmentally
responsible, how can you know for sure that a company is green
enough-or even as green as it says it is? Here are five steps to help
you find out all that you want to know about how green-or greenwashed-a
company might be.
Look for the corporate social responsibility report
They're called by various names, and can stand alone or be part of
an annual financial report, but more and more, companies are issuing a
yearly accounting of their good deeds. Often they're downloadable from
the Careers section of a website, and if not, check under a heading
like "community," "culture," or "our values."
If you can't find one on a company's website, CorporateRegister.com
keeps several years' worth of reports from nearly 5,000 international
companies in its online database.
Once you have the report in hand, "check the table of contents for a
page that says 'goals,' says Rafael Reyes of the not-for-profit
Eco-America. "On that page, I look for real metrics and make sure
they're being applied across the board." If there is no such page, but
there are a lot of feel-good photos or efforts that involve a single
product, project, or location, he says, "it could be a sign that there
isn't as much there as it first appears."
Googling a company, along with phrases like environment, sustainability, eco, or greenwashing, will turn up an obvious track record of good deeds, or the black marks companies would prefer to keep hidden.
"I know a company that touts itself as environmentally responsible
but it conveyed to me in a research context that it tests products in
underdeveloped countries because environmental laws are more lax," says
Frank Montabon, a professor of supply chain management at the Iowa
State University. "That's the kind of discrepancy a Google search will
easily turn up."
Scan watchdog websites
A growing number of not-for-profits and activist groups keep an eye
on corporations all day long. Their websites provide quick studies of
those companies whose efforts are consistent and significant, and whose
might be more hype than substance.
Greenwashingindex.com, Corpwatch's Crocodyl wiki, Climate Counts,
the Sierra Club, the Natural Resources Defense Council, and
Greenbiz.com are good places to start.
Take advantage of the interview
Once you've done your research, says Reyes, sustainability efforts
are fair game during a job interview. You can ask about upcoming
programs related to reducing emissions, recycling, and cutting energy
use. You can question how the company's CEO supports these efforts. And
you can ask about opportunities for employees to contribute and
specific roles that might be a good fit for someone in the job you're
And, of course, if you can find employees to talk to, it always pays
to do a reality check with them on what the HR or recruiting folks
touted to you.
Use your own good judgment
No company's environmental record is perfect, and your idea of good
enough is probably different from the next person's. So, the experts
say, everyone needs to decide for himself how far along the eco
continuum their employer needs to be.
For example, some might want to seriously green their careers and
won't be satisfied unless they can ply their trade with the likes of
Whole Foods, Stonyfield Farms, or Timberland. For them, promoting
yourself as the greenest oil company is as far-fetched as claiming to
be the healthiest cigarette maker.
But others might be willing to throw in their lot with an old-line
company that's made meaningful changes to try to make itself greener
from the inside. "It's braver, but in the end that might be more
satisfying," says Ian Cross, a marketing professor at Bentley College
in Waltham, Mass. "It's a question of whether you want to be
evolutionary or revolutionary."
Either way, you'll be more satisfied in the long run if you go in with your eyes wide open.