Live and dangerous

Shaun McCarthy

May 20, 2011   |   Posted by Shaun McCarthy

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Shaun McCarthy - Live and Dangerous

What is a “green job” anyway?

As we move closer to the Games it is inevitable that the level of media attention directed towards the Commission will increase. It has been a great privilege to represent the commission at public events, to talk to the press and to take part in live TV and radio broadcasts. This week I was grateful to the organisers of Sustainability Now! for giving me my first experience of a live webinar.

It was a bit of a weird experience. The four delegates were squashed in a tiny room in Blackfriars glued to laptops and talking through a telephone. There was a time lag for the audio meaning that you heard the other speakers a second or so after you heard what they had to say in the room. It is not the same as a live conference where you get a lot of non-verbal feedback by making eye contact with the audience, neither is it the same as doing TV or radio. In this genre your audience could be doing anything, digging the garden, doing the ironing or grooming the dog. In a webinar you can be pretty sure you have an engaged audience because they taken the trouble and time to log in but you can’t see them or respond to their body language. Having said that, it is a very efficient and sustainable way to engage a large audience. I was advised that thousands of people registered and we had a live audience of over 350 people on the day. A wide range of questions came in during the session and we made an effort to answer online if we did not have time to cover the questions during the event.

One subject that was advertised but not covered due to time constraints was the issue of “green jobs”. This is a frequently used expression but it is never properly defined. What is a “green job” exactly? I don’t know. If a person does a 50 mile round trip in an old car to work in a Materials Recycling Facility for the minimum wage is that deemed a “green job” because it is not a landfill site? Is the young man in a cheap suit who turns up on your doorstep to sell you solar panels for your roof for commission only in a “green job” because he is not selling you replacement double glazing or offering to tarmac your driveway? It seems to me that giving things a “green” tag is in danger of being seen as simply re-packaging the same jobs that people have suffered for generations. Meet the new boss – same as the old boss.

In our review of skills and employment the commission offered up a definition of “sustainable job”. We said “A sustainable job is one that improves an individual’s life chances and benefits the community – environmentally, socially, and economically”. We have encouraged the delivery bodies for London 2012 to think in this way with some success. There have been some great schemes to encourage people out of unemployment and to learn new skills during the construction phase of the project. As we move towards Games-time, over 200,000 people will have a unique experience working to help deliver the “sustainable Games”.

I would encourage employers and policy-makers to think about our definition of “sustainable job” before the expression “green job” is dismissed as simply papering over the cracks.

Shaun McCarthy

May 2011

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