For Work / Against Work
Debates on the centrality of work

"Environmentalism put to work: Ideologies of green recruitment in Toronto"

by Castellini, Valentina (2019)


Market-driven green economies are premised upon the exploitation and ongoing commodification of both labour and nature. Yet their concrete incarnations experiment with new strategies to “secure and obscure” such processes. These strategies include the formulation and dissemination of an ideological representation of green labour in which environmentalism is “put to work.” In this paper I focus on worker recruitment in Toronto and analyze its role in constructing green jobs as a venue for environmentalist politics, and therefore as “good” and “meaningful” work. My empirical material consists of green job announcements posted on, the main platform for green worker recruitment in Canada. Building on a Gramscian understanding of ideology, I query the concrete and symbolic functions performed by job ads and discuss them in relation to the structural processes that characterize Toronto’s contemporary labour market. I suggest that an ideological representation of green work is used to select motivated and productive workers, justify the offer of non-specialized, precarious, or unpaid positions, and ultimately extend the reach of labour subsumption into spheres traditionally considered outside the employment relation, such as environmentalist activism. In turn, such a representation conceals the extent to which green economies rely on the exploitation of labour while it circumscribes environmentalist critiques within market-driven and economic growth-centered initiatives.

Key Passage

“Paying attention to labour is strategic not only to expose the assumptions that sustain the green economy paradigm, but also to understand the ways in which green economies intertwine with processes of labour transformation, such as employment casualization. Interventions on the role of green economies in transforming contemporary work are arising within political ecology debates. For example, Neimark recently used the case of environmental service payments to rethink precarious and informal labour in the GlobalSouth (Neimark, 2018). My analysis points out that green recruitment mobilizes environmentalist values, beliefs and tropes to articulate an ideological representation of green work. As it constructs green jobs as sites for pursuing environmental politics, such a representation performs an ideological function that advances employers’ interests. First, employers can use an ideological representation of green work to attract and retain motivated and productive applicants, despite the offer of unskilled, precarious or unpaid jobs. Second, such a representation conflates employment and volunteer work. By depicting work as a voluntary and altruistic activity, recruiters normalize the widespread offer of unpaid work and conceal the extent to which the presence of motivated cheap labour contributes to green businesses’ bottom line.” p. 64 ()


Green Jobs, Recruitment, Ideology, Precarious Work, Wageless Work, Environmentalism



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