EcoInterview Dan Smolen, Founder of The Green Suits

On 12/5/11, I had the pleasure of interviewing EcoApprentice member Dan Smolen. Dan is a nationally recognized executive recruiter, serial entrepreneur, environmental and public policy activist, and published author.

What inspired you to create The Green Suits? I’ve been an executive recruiter about fourteen years, a business executive twenty-eight years, and an environmentalist for over thirty years. About six years ago, the “green jobs” fervor was well underway, and I knew that as a “head hunter” I had to be involved in a big way. But most green jobs at that time were what David Foster of the Blue Green Alliance described as “blue-collar jobs done for a green purpose.” Absent from that and most of the other green jobs discussions was a green business executive narrative. That absence provided me an interesting opportunity to help empower the millions of sustainability and purpose-driven business executives in the U.S. and abroad who wanted to turn their careers green. That is what inspired me to write Tailoring the Green Suit: Empowering Yourself for an Executive Career in the New Green Economy and to rebrand my recruitment firm and business executive community, The Green Suits.

For executives seeking to change the world for the better, is it easier to try and create shift from the company they are in, or seek out a new company that has already adopted a sustainable mind-set? This is a very interesting question, one that I am asked at least a half-dozen times each week. For most sustainability-minded executives—who have been rendered risk-averse by the current job climate—the idea of creating shift in their current companies truly resonates. I am counseling them to turn their current jobs and companies green before they venture out to apply for and land an obviously green position in another company (such as Director of Sustainability). I think it is easier to turn one’s current job green, because the executive already knows the business culture and is likely aware of what it will take to create positive and lasting change in the company.

For new college graduates, what are a couple of the top value propositions they can bring to the table to inspire a green executive to hire them? The most important is to demonstrate that they are indeed capable of creating great value for their company or organization. And it all starts with the positive sustainability and social-responsibility contributions they have already documented in their apprenticeships and volunteer program assignments. Their unique value propositions must communicate that they are serious, hard-working, efficient, productive, and passionate—a great ambassador for sustainability, social responsibility, and the New Green Economy.

In your book, Tailoring the Green Suit, you are optimistic that the best days for the Green Executive lie ahead. What suggests such optimism? If for nothing else, the ninety-million strong, sustainability and socially responsible ‘Millennial Generation’ which is currently entering the work force en masse will demand that the companies and organizations where they work become greener. They will also demand that the assignments which they hold positively impact the Triple Bottom Line, so that they and their companies become stewards of the planet and people while they increase their profits.

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We are happy to be collaborating with Dan and The Green Suits as a Partner for the better good!

To participate in the conversation to turn environmental challenges into sustainable solutions, become a member of EcoApprentice.