What Green Really Means for Infrastructure Jobs

I’ll say it until the cows come home: collaboration is key to building the future of sustainable infrastructure. Unfortunately, fear of climate change continues to be associated with the elimination of jobs in traditional infrastructure, minimizing collaboration opportunities. But as the world and America are feeling the real effects of an unpredictable climate, we’re at a pivotal point. The largest investment firm in the world has acknowledged the need for change. If we’re going to bring down our carbon intensity globally, it’s going to require all hands on deck.  

The great news is that a green revolution means the creation of jobs, breathing life into the economy and the livelihoods of individuals. It also means it’s time to come to a unanimous agreement—climate change is real, and we can all do our part to address it. Rather than associating sustainability with “less,” let’s focus on the abundance that collaboration can create. 

How Collaboration Creates Infrastructure Jobs

Collaboration will inevitably lead to more jobs through two main avenues. First, sectors can be open to creating larger strategies to bridge their strengths and weaknesses. This is a circular economy mindset. One sector’s trash is another sector’s treasure. Case in point: waste-to-value plants want our waste for feedstock. Building these bridges means new roles and new jobs. 

Second, and equally important, we can acknowledge that resisting the facts of climate change is a dated way of thinking. Sustainability doesn’t mean eliminating any one sector or the jobs in it. Was there a time where your financial stability as an engineer or tradesperson depended on working in traditional infrastructure? Absolutely. I know from personal experience that this was once a very real pressure. I also know from personal experience that it no longer has to be that way. 

When we ditch the fear that climate change is a threat to the economy, it means we can collectively be open to taking small and large steps in the right direction. Our team at Nexus PMG is proof of this. We have no special eco-certification. We come from traditional career paths and we made the decision to focus on low-carbon projects. Now we’re starting to create the change we want to see.

The Green Revolution Wants You

If we’re going to reach the goal of The Paris Agreement to keep the global temperature increase below 2 degrees Celsius, we need to mobilize now. Relying only on government regulation to make this happen would be a mistake. Larry Fink, CEO of BlackRock has called for a “Fundamental Reshaping of Finance.” This is just one sign of the normalization of sustainability. It’s time for a fundamental reshaping infrastructure.

Instead of getting crippled by the elephant in the boardroom that is climate change, let’s rise to the challenge. This doesn’t mean eliminating any sectors. Waste still needs to be managed. Power still needs to be generated. We still need to get from point A to point B. Let’s solve problems through the lens of sustainability within our existing systems where we can. Let’s learn from these systems and move on to the next idea where we need to. Making all of this happen in a way that doesn’t harm the planet is going to require a lot of great minds. Jigar Shah recognizes this on the My Climate Journey podcast:

“I think frankly, the thing that inspires me the most about you’re coming into our industry is that it’s been what I’ve been waiting for for a long time is to get the country’s best and brightest minds to be focused on these topic areas instead of some of the other areas that have attracted those minds in the past.”

Green Collar Jobs Take Many Forms

We absolutely need engineers and problem-solvers, but we also need skilled tradespeople. Mechanics, electricians, welders, pipefitters and other essential trades are already in high demand. Rethinking infrastructure means big projects that will require a lot of hands-on work. For anyone wanting a career with a bright outlook, a trade school is a great option. 

Whatever your role may be, every person applying themselves to the challenge of solving climate change has the opportunity to make an impact. 

How Workplaces Can Take the Lead

Sustainability isn’t just about the environment. Sustainability is predictability, and predictability is good for business. It’s also something you can create within your workplace environment.

A desirable workplace is beneficial for employees, but it also affects a business’s bottom line. Replacing people costs money, so why not create an environment where people want to work? When people don’t have to worry about job security and their basic needs being met, that’s when innovation can really happen. You have to put people first.

This is where workplace culture comes into play. I said on The Market and The Good podcast that you can’t fake culture. What I mean by this is that you can’t fake having the right people. If you have the intention to make change happen and you surround yourself with the right team, you can all lift each other up. Your team can always learn new skills to make ideas happen.

The backbone of workplace culture always comes back to clearly defined values. 

  • Build a better world. 
  • Build better people. 
  • Enjoy what you do. 

These are values that Nexus PMG has defined as the core of our “why”. When we defined our values, we recognized our responsibility within our spheres of influence. Aligning with our values meant setting the goal to move away from traditional infrastructure by the end of 2020. But it doesn’t always have to start with a huge step. Maybe it looks like implementing sustainable practices in the workplace. It all depends on your “why” and what feels authentic to your team’s mission. When your values are set in motion, like-minded people will come to you and the collaboration will happen naturally.

If you need some inspiration for defining your professional values, I have two recommendations.  

  1. Small Actions, Big Difference By Dr. CB Bhattacharya 
  2. The Responsible Company: What We’ve Learned From Patagonia’s First 40 Years By Yvon Chouinard & Vincent Stanley

Grow Your Network with Intention

In this green revolution, you can align your values with your profession. If you’ve found yourself in a sector that has you questioning why you go to work every day, there are alternatives. Start growing your network and let people know what your skills are and what your goals are. Be patient and persistent whether you’re a job seeker or employer. Use the tools available to you like LinkedIn and networking events. Eventually, something will click. 

We believe in networking so much at Nexus PMG that we created the Bigger Than Us podcast as a platform for ideas. Even though the ideas are from different industries, they’re all rooted in a common goal: to benefit the planet and ultimately, our existence. 

Sustainability Supports Everyone 

I’m not afraid to say that I’m a capitalist at heart. I also don’t believe that sustainability has to be a dirty word in infrastructure. It can be the catalyst for building a better world, and part of building a better world is creating jobs that support people and the economy. Let’s start having conversations and open the door for collaboration. We have a lot of work to do. Let’s do it together.

Learn how we’re building a better world at Nexus PMG and hear from other people innovating for the planet on the Bigger Than Us podcast. 

Roshan Vani