Redeploying finance talent

The bleak labor market for finance professionals may create an unexpected opportunity — for environmental sustainability efforts.

“One casualty of the financial crisis and subsequent global economic downturn has been employment in the financial sector,” observes McGill University’s Dror Etzion in an essay in the Summer 2009 issue of MIT Sloan Management Review. But, in that bleak labor market for finance professionals, Etzion sees an opportunity for an unexpected area: environmental sustainability efforts.

In his essay “Creating a Better Environment for Finance,” Etzion reasons that some of the efforts to create and redefine markets to address sustainability challenges will require financial acumen — in areas ranging from cap-and-trade programs to biodiversity offsets to financing for solar projects. He writes:

Perhaps even more intriguing is the possibility of crafting new offerings that integrate economic and environmental concerns. For example, the city of Berkeley, California, is working with Renewable Funding LLC, a financial services company based in Oakland, California, to offer an innovative new program that helps homeowners purchase solar installations. The model allows property owners to install solar panels with little upfront cost, via funds generated through the sale of bonds. The property owners then pay for their solar installations over 20 years, through a line item on their tax bills — and thus repay the bonds.

Etzion’s conclusion? Companies pursuing environmental sustainability initiatives may find this downturn is a good time to attract financial professionals.