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DCE Magazine

Good for Business, Good for the Planet

Spring 2019

Companies are turning to environmental managers to create sustainable new strategies.

Humans have been seeking to manage their environment responsibly and maximize resources for hundreds of years now, but it wasn't until the 1960s that the effort began to gain a planet-wide urgency, said James Boretti, CEO of Boretti Inc. and a leader in the environmental, health and safety field.

Driven by rampant industrialization, air and water pollution had grown to become a serious public health concern, sparking a new ecological awareness that intensified in the ’70s and ’80s. Today, the specter of catastrophic climate change has accelerated the urgency and placed responsible environmental stewardship among the most pressing issues of our era.

Although it may seem there's a frustrating lack of action in the public sector, the private sector is responding in dynamic, inventive ways — and creating an entirely new career path that is set to grow exponentially, Boretti said.

“Shifting to a new green economy is creating a huge growth area that's being embraced by companies and organizations, creating enormous potential for the future,” said Boretti, instructor in the DCE's Environmental Management certificate program. “Think of it: For the first time, there are more jobs in wind and solar power than petroleum. Cost of electricity through these renewable resources has become competitive with fossil fuels, and it's definitely trending downward.”

Corporations go green

New clean energy resources coupled with responsible environmental management are starting to drive innovation, and growth, in the corporate world. Boretti points to new green strategies being implemented by some of our largest companies.

“Look at BMW's production plant in South Carolina, the biggest in the world, I believe,” he said. “The plant is powered by recycled garbage, known as the Landfill Gas to Energy program. BMW recycles methane gas from landfills and creates fuel that's used to run their operations. Methane isn't completely clean, but it produces a much smaller carbon footprint than drawing electricity from the grid.”

Although it receives criticism in other areas, Walmart has set a great example for other large retailers by making a major push toward sustainable practices, Boretti said. The retail giant, which sells over 200,000 products from a huge number of providers, refuses to stock items if they are not produced in an environmentally responsible manner. Costco is adopting similar policies.

The result is a burgeoning demand for environmental managers and other professionals who can devise, develop, and implement these new sustainable strategies.

“My company advises a number of corporate clients on green initiatives,” Boretti said. “We have six staff members assigned to Google on environmental, health and safety issues, for example. Aside from real ecological concerns, sustainable strategies are seen as effective marketing tools. We're at the point where businesses have to think in terms of Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) or people won't buy their products.”

That's especially important among millennial consumers, who pay very close attention to sustainability policy and environmental concerns when making purchasing decisions.

“Corporate Social Responsibility is a growing issue that drives a company's bottom line, especially among millennials. If you're bringing something to market today you have to really think about how it impacts the environment if you want to attract these early consumers.”

As a result, the demand for environmental managers is clearly on the upswing. Currently there are about 55,000 employed in the U.S., drawing a median annual salary up to $110,000, with a growth rate of 10% forecast through 2028, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

A new career path

The Division of Continuing Education's Environmental Management certificate program is designed to prepare participants at every career level to master this challenging and fulfilling new field. The online program lays a strong foundation, teaching basic science, current regulatory framework and strategies for compliance and creating new sustainable initiatives.

Delivered by expert, experienced instructors, the program is intended for a wide range of participants — those transitioning into the environmental field as well as current specialists and mid-level pros who want to keep abreast of the latest advancements and issues.

“Environmental management is actually a really broad field that encompasses facilities management and occupational health and safety,” Boretti said. “It all goes hand-in-hand. But really it's evolving into its own singular career path — environmental management as it relates to the growing movement toward Corporate Social Responsibility.”

Boretti's course — Sustainability & Green Initiatives for Environmental, Safety & Facility Professionals — takes a hands-on approach to applying CSR and sustainability principles to management strategy. Participants study the field and examine how companies can operate efficiently while reducing their carbon footprint.

Participants learn to leverage interdisciplinary relationships to develop and implement green initiatives in the workplace. Finally, the programs are presented and evaluated on their potential impact and validity of data.

“My course is for anyone interested in a career in environmental management, whether they're career changers or current professionals looking to learn the latest regulations, science, and CSR strategies,” Boretti said. “I get a lot of people who are already in facilities management who want to transition and learn to run a facility in a more environmentally responsible way.”

As a final project, course participants are asked to pick out an environmental sustainability project from their place of work, or from another source if unemployed, and develop a strategy for producing and delivering the product that would reduce the company's carbon footprint.

“Everyone who takes the course has to submit a paper on exactly how they'd develop and implement their sustainability strategy,” Boretti said. “It's a good way to get them thinking about corporate environmental management, get real-world experience and actually apply it directly to their careers.”

Learn more at ce.uci.edu/env