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by Aman Singh Das | January 04, 2010


Thankful that 2009 is over? You might as well be. For the laid off, for those still employed and for students, 2009 represented a rude awakening. Diversity was sidelined as companies cut ranks vertically and horizontally, and priorities re-focused. Frugality was in and luxury brands out. Gas mileage was a hot topic while mention of a bonus was unmentionable.

Among all the bad news, however, green issues and corporate social responsibility (CSR) received unaccustomed attention like never before.

And it wasn't just because of the climate change legislation that never happened. There were many contributing factors, the primary one of them being double digit unemployment and the realization for many that a career switch might be the answer to their continued unemployment. Add President Obama's focus on energy audits, the smart grid and focusing a significant portion of his American Recovery and Reinvestment Act toward green jobs, and the media began devoting unparalleled attention to this new buzzword. From daily blogs to green experts to trends in the green workplace, everyone wanted to talk green.

So what were some of the biggest developments in the realm of green and sustainability in 2009? Vault's In Good Company brings you the top five in no particular order:

Copenhagen: We know this one. For the three months preceding the summit, there was nothing else to editorialize over, debate on, or issue predictions for. Nothing concrete came of the very-hyped summit, but awareness about carbon emissions, greenhouse gases and alternative energy might have reached new levels.

American Recovery and Reinvestment Act: With President Obama's ARRA announced earlier in the year to jump start a depressed economy, green jobs suddenly became a hot topic, with about $55 million announced in grants for green job creation, training, expanding alternative industries and related occupations. With the Act carrying a specific focus on creating energy efficiency measures and green jobs, calculations, predictions and job creation reports reached a frenzied pace. Even federal agencies were asked to submit plans for their own sustainability. Green Auditor and Energy Efficiency Expert became part of career choices and job search nomenclature.

Predictions on creation of green jobs: These went a little nutty. From millions to hundreds of thousands to the naysayers saying climate change will actually hurt the economy, we got it all, including one poll that surveyed how much we as consumers were willing to give up for climate change.

More business schools adopt CSR modules: Many business schools across the country followed their European counterparts in announcing new additions to their MBA curricula involving CSR elements, sustainability challenges and discussions on green issues. And this wasn't just for executive MBAs, although some of these gained new CSR modules as well. Some of the many colleges, which also featured on Aspen Institute's Top 100 Socially Responsible included Yale, Stanford and University of Michigan. Some schools also reported initiating an ethical code of conduct for all graduating MBA students.

Climate change legislation: Well, this one didn't succeed much, although states were able to do more independently than the federal government. California managed to report a 5% increase in green jobs compared to a 1% decline in overall job creation. CNBC also came out with the Top 10 Hottest States for Green Jobs, declaring Oregon as No. 1.


Filed Under: CSR