Net-Zero Economy

Climate change is drastically affecting the field of global industrial production, and manufacturing leaders are responding to the challenge. By investing in sustainable strategies like green collar jobs and adapting to change, we can improve upon the framework we have built for global production and exchange.

Insight for this topic comes from Green Collar Jobs, the latest report in RBC Economics and Thought Leadership’s climate series, as well as the United Nations’ 2030 Breakthroughs report on the #RacetoZero campaign.

Key Takeaways

  • Net-zero is a global dedication to reducing fossil fuel emissions

  • As climate change escalates, sustainable manufacturing approaches are necessary and individually beneficial

What is a Green Collar Job?

A “green collar” job plays on English slang used to describe different classes of professions. A “blue collar” job is one requiring physical labor in a field like construction, agriculture, or manufacturing (among others). A “white collar” job is usually an office managerial position, and the term references the clean office environment which would not soil one’s white collar.

This slang is very old-fashioned, and was once used to differentiate between upper and lower classes of jobs (along with their associated social lifestyles and salary expectations). Today, in contrast, the skills and expectations of professions overlap greatly. Of course, lawyers aren’t usually required to mill the paper for their court documents, for example, but especially in modern manufacturing, supervisors and directors are often required to do more than just sit in an office, as would be expected by the outdated term “white collar” worker.

That’s the thing about the addition of “green collar” as a key term — it’s changing our perspective of industry moving forward with a focus on climate by challenging our past conceptions of how we manufacture industrial jobs.

Green jobs predicted growth by occupation

What is a Net-Zero Economy and Why Must We Pursue It?

A net-zero economy is one that either emits zero greenhouse gas emissions, or or compensates for emissions using strategies like tree planting and carbon capture.

As for why we should pursue a net zero economy, well — I don’t think we’ve fixed up Mars enough in time for it to be a viable option.

Ok, for real, though: even if you’re unsure that net-zero should be a priority for your business, here are some other benefits besides doing your small part to be environmentally sustainable:

  1. Better lean results & efficiency in production cycles
  2. Better community reputation for sustainability
  3. Lower costs overall when switching from oil and gas to clean power
  4. Better adaptability to market fluctuations and supply chain disruptions
  5. Building a future-focused company that is meant to last generations
  6. Investing in your own hiring market by creating green jobs and skills training
  7. Tax and opportunity benefits for green initiatives or green companies
Climate change has hugely affected manufacturing management

Much like the adoption of computers in business, this is inevitably where global industry is headed, and if you want to keep up, you have to learn the new technologies and methodologies the bigger players are using (and no, we don’t mean new-fangled fads like NFTs, we mean data-proven strategy and smart reorganization).

If all that seems like too much to tackle all at once — and look, the COVID pandemic and subsequent inflation economy really did a number on some businesses, so it’s okay to take a breather — start small but effective with going paperless. This ensures proper standardization of tasks and operations so that you have the best lean framework for lasting improvement going forward.

"The race to zero is on. The world is moving towards a healthier, more resilient, zero carbon world. Now that 73% of global emissions are covered by a net zero goal, countries must translate national commitments into credible policies, while every sector must undergo an exponential transformation."

United Nations Climate Change, "2030 Breakthroughs"
United Nations Climate Change, "2030 Breakthroughs"

How Can Individual Companies Invest in Green Collar Jobs?

There are four main categories that represent areas of investment available at large:

  1. New skills at green companies (e.g. operators for new green tech requiring new skills)
  2. Existing skills at green companies (e.g. traditional office roles at new green companies)
  3. Increasing demand for existing skills (e.g. trades workers applying skills more widely, AKA multiskilling)
  4. New skills in existing jobs (e.g. upskilling)
Green collar jobs bring opportunities for upskilling

You don’t have to target all areas — for example, if you’re not a newly established company with sustainable solutions as your key service or product, you may just want to start with upskilling your current workers and assessing the extent of administrative waste between departments. The reason why is that creating green collar jobs is not about firing an old workforce and hiring a new one with an “environmental” outlook; creating green collar jobs can mean upgrading a white or blue collar job by instituting a paperless standard or encouraging an employee to put more of a focus on assessing the environmental impact of certain shipping routes for distribution rather than merely the cost factor.

Essentially, here’s where you can get creative with what works best for your company’s style. Maybe that’s divesting from fossil fuels in production, maybe that’s rallying a team for literal tree planting to offset emissions — go wild and go green!

"Technologies and new markets often grow on exponential curves, rather than in straight lines. From the motorised car to colour TVs, disruptive solutions can scale from 2-3% market share to over 80% share within 10-15 years. Consider renewable energy: in 2014, one year before the Paris Agreement was reached, electricity from solar and wind was cheaper than new coal and gas plants in only about 1% of the world. Today, in 2021, solar and wind are the cheapest form of new generation in countries covering over 70% of global GDP."

United Nations Climate Change, "2030 Breakthroughs"
United Nations Climate Change, "2030 Breakthroughs"

What is the Timeline for Becoming Green?

As annoying as this answer is, it’s yesterday.

Specifically for the net-zero economy, every G7 nation (Canada, the UK, the US, Germany, Italy, France, and Japan) has committed to net-zero emissions by 2050 along with over 120 other countries.

Like every good management methodology preaches, the next step is to break down that goal into incremental steps and assign goalposts for each success so that you can track your progress.

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