How to find a job in a tech company helping to combat climate change? Practical guide
I’m a software engineer. A few months ago, I’ve decided to move to a job where I can make an impact on slowing down climate change.
I started my search from Bret Victor’s essay “What can a technologist do about climate change?” While providing a good overall perspective, the essay is now a bit outdated and doesn’t cover some newly emerged business areas. It also lacks practical details about how to find as many as possible job opportunities in a reasonable time.
In this post, I aim to fill this gap, summarizing my three months-long job search experience.
This post is focused on tech companies that hire engineers and scientists (mechanical, chemical, electrical, software engineers, programmers, etc.) to build their core business value. However, many of the companies mentioned in this post, especially established ones, hire specialists in all usual areas, such as management, operations, support, administration, sales, marketing, legal, design, HR, business analysis, etc. So, even if your job is not technical, this post may be useful in your search.
UPDATE 2021: for software, DevOps, and ML engineers I’ve written a more targeted guide: How can software engineers help to build climate solutions?
This website is live since January 2020. It Mapping the global landscape of climate-saving organizations and resources. This site largely supersedes this post. Please contribute to it if you know organizations not listed there!
Climate.careers is a growing database of green jobs. You can also register there as a job seeker and recruiters in green companies can find you.
Other job boards and aggregation spaces
There are a few other boards:
but their coverage seems to be smaller than of climate.careers.
Another job board is Green Jobs Network. Not all tech-related, but a broad scope and regularly updated. They also have email signup so you can get updates direct to your inbox.
If you’re looking for more early stage, then angel.co/clean-energy is a good place to find angel and seed-funded companies as well as Series A/B/C range.
Some green job boards for the German market are listed in this checklist by Pablo Oliva.
There are also jobs posted in Work On Climate’s Slack.
However, because of the very small exposure of these resources, to discover the jobs that match with your strengths and meet other criteria such as the location, be prepared to proactively look for companies yourself and visit their “Careers” pages manually, one by one.
Another reason why using job boards alone might be an insufficient strategy is that a good company may not have a position for your skillset open at the moment, but it may have an “open application” vacancy to which you could apply.
So, the next question is: how to find all relevant companies which help to slow down climate change?
A good place to start looking for established companies in the renewable energy sector.
Some big companies are mentioned in this report.
Industry recognition lists and associations
The second thing you should probably look at is industry recognition lists and awards:
- CleanTech Global 100
- Energy Awards
- Platts Global Energy Awards
- The Association of Decentralized Energy (ADE) — members
- Global Cleantech Cluster Association — company directory
- Europe’s top 30 cleantech startups (EIT Climate-KIS)
There is a myriad of environmental, sustainability, and “green” awards (just google “environmental awards” to find several meta lists of these awards, including this directory on Wikipedia), but scanning through them may be a rather low-output activity. I think it may be more fruitful to search for awards and associations in particular business sectors, such as Renewable Energy, FoodTech, Smart Grid, etc. See the full list of business areas below in this post.
Relevant to the UK market. Prepared by Regen.
Energystartups.org is an independent directory of companies in the Renewables and Energy optimization areas. While not nearly comprehensive, it is useful to quickly identify the biggest players in specific fields such as Wind, Solar, Smart Grid, Smart Home, and others because it sorts the companies by the amount of investment.
Targeting large companies in the job search might be not for everybody, but it’s a practical tactic worth consideration. Working in an established company rather than in a small startup provides more confidence that your effort won’t be wasted. Large companies may also give higher leverage to make an outsized impact, but this highly depends on the specific company and the role.
Lists of speakers on CleanTech conferences
Source the lists of speakers on some past CleanTech events and look at what companies they are working.
- CleanTech Forum San Francisco 2019 — speakers
- CleanTech Forum Europe 2019 — speakers
- CleanTech Forum Asia 2019 — speakers
- Baltic Clean Technology 2019
- InterSolar Mexico — speakers
- National Cleantech Conference & Exhibition (Australia) — speakers
- Asia Clean Energy Summit 2019 — speakers
Companies by type
If the above approaches don’t lead you to enough interesting companies with open vacancies relevant to you, you could “go deeper” by scouting companies sector by sector.
For every specific industry, you can:
Search for awards, “top” lists of companies, industry associations, and conferences — i. e. apply the techniques presented above to the particular business field rather than generic “CleanTech”, “GreenTech”, or “Energy”.
Just google “<Field name> companies”, e. g. “Electric aircraft companies” if you are looking for positions in the companies creating electric aircraft.
Use crunchbase.com to search for companies in the category. The free tier of Crunchbase search shows only the top 5 companies, so to discover all the possibilities you should iteratively apply additional search filters. For example, if you are looking for AgTech companies, you could first search for those with HQ in SF Bay Area, then for those with HQ not in the US, etc.
From my experience, it makes sense to check out the companies with CB Rank lower than 20,000. Top 5 results by the industry and the specific location are all companies with CB Rank stronger than that, you can continue partitioning your search, e. g. by the “Founded Date” field:
Fortunately, Crunchbase search is powerful enough to make possible comprehensive startup field research using their free tier if you are willing to invest some time.
The “blind spots” of Crunchbase are non-startup companies and “internal startups” within large enterprises.
Look for professional market reports for the industry. Then often include the companies operating in that business sector. Google “<Field name> industry report”, “<Field name> landscape”, or “<Field name> market analysis” to find such reports. For example, if the industry you are looking at is Smart Home, you can google “Smart Home market analysis” or “Smart Home industry report”. Unfortunately, many of the reports are not freely available, but you may find some that require only a business e-mail address to download them.
The business areas below are listed approximately according to the directness of their impact on climate change.
Carbon removal may not seem economically viable yet, but it must become so if we want to meet safe global warming targets such as at most 2 °C above pre-industrial levels.
A very good signal is Stripe’s commitment to pay for carbon capture at any available price.
Tree planting: a special type of carbon removal :) The notable company in this field is DroneSeed.
The largest wind turbine manufacturer is Vestas.
Other Renewable Energy
Energy Storage and Batteries
Energy Efficiency and Cogeneration
Crunchbase categories: Power Grid, Energy Efficiency, Energy Management. You can also combine one of these categories, or simply “Energy” with either “Artificial Intelligence”, “Predictive Analytics”, “Machine Learning”, “Internet of Things”, or “SaaS” to narrow down the search. For example, see Energy + AI.
Smart Grid and Energy Trading
Companies in this field may help to slow down climate change not as directly as some of the companies from the business areas listed below. I placed this category here to keep it close to other related energy sectors.
An assessment of the economic value of demand-side participation in the Balancing Mechanism document prepared by Charles River Associates provides a good overview and analysis of the market (including specific companies).
See also this post which includes a nice picture mapping out the biggest energy trading and utility companies.
Blockchain for Smart Grid and Energy Assets is a subcategory which is very populous on its own: GreenTech Media reported there are 122 startups in this space in March 2018. Considering this, and also limited production applications so far, choose a company in this area with caution to increase chances that your effort won’t be wasted. Check out blockchain2energy.com or search Energy + Blockchain on Crunchbase.
Green Power Providers and Distributors
HVAC, Heating, and Cooling
Smart Home and Smart Building
Industrial, Manufacturing, and Supply Chain Optimization
Crunchbase categories: Manufacturing, Industrial, Industrial Automation. You can also combine one of these categories, or simply “Energy” with either “Artificial Intelligence”, “Predictive Analytics”, “Machine Learning”, “Internet of Things”, or “SaaS” to narrow down the search. For example, see Industrial + Predictive Analytics.
Electric Aircraft: not a very practical direction yet, but one day it should become so if we want to keep the option to travel fast across the globe.
Classifieds and Second Hand Economy
Companies in this area help to reduce excessive consumption and production of goods.
Freight and Shipping Optimization
Efficient Regional Travel
Crunchbase category: Fleet Management
Electric Bikes and Scooters
There is a concern that this sector might be overhyped and doesn’t need more working hands right now.
Crunchbase category: Last Mile Transportation
Personal Transportation Optimization
There are many concerns with artificial meat which I don’t want to go into in this post. However, there is no doubt that companies in this space help to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, because growing natural meat is very methane-intensive.
Crunchbase category: Construction
Delivery with Autonomous Electric Vehicles
Nuro (roads) and Starship (sidewalks) are the two prime examples of companies in this field. There is some concern that this technology could be easily overused and that our cities would look a little dystopic if this kind of technology is deployed very widely.
Drone delivery may be more energy-efficient than any type of land delivery.
Energy/Climate Change Analytics, Data, Trading
Finding similar companies
Whenever you find a company which is a strong lead, it makes sense to explore direct competitors and similar companies, too. I found the following tools useful in this process:
Thanks for reading! Corrections and amendments to this post are welcome in comments.