Victor Ononye is an engineer by training. The environment is his passion.

“From being an engineer, I see that you can’t put a price on safety,” he says. “It’s the same with the environment. You can’t put a price on the way we’re taking resources. For the benefit of our kids, we need to protect it.”

Ononye will be one of 25 students starting the new Green Business Management program at Seneca College this month.

The eight-month program will teach the skills needed to assess and develop corporate environmental and sustainability strategies. It will also provide students with the leadership skills to educate and inspire their colleagues on how green business practices improve competitiveness, productivity and profits.

“It’s no longer, ‘That office down the hall that handles the green stuff.’ It’s moved beyond that,” says Chris Dudley, chair of Seneca’s school of business management. “It’s being integrated into all areas of business and it has to be to be effective.”

The course is aimed at recent graduates and professionals who want to become experts in how to help companies adapt to a low-carbon economy. It will prepare them for a range of careers, such as sustainability officers, strategists, managers, analysts and environmental auditors.

“The jobs our graduates will be going after are not the so-called green-collar jobs. They’re white-collar jobs with green pinstriping,” Dudley says.

This year’s class runs the gamut from recent university and college graduates to international students and business professionals, he says.

As part of the eco-productivity course, students will go into a local company and assess its current environmental practices. Then they will develop a comprehensive plan that includes recommendations and implementation strategies to reduce the firm’s ecological footprint.

At the end of the course they will present their plan to the instructor for grading, but also to the company’s executives.

That practical focus is what drew Hosep Avakian to register. With degrees in political science and environmental studies from McMaster University, Avakian says he’s now eager to learn more about the nuts and bolts of a corporate environmental strategy.

“In university, we looked at the big picture of what was going on,” he says. “But I know that, at college, it’s more hands-on learning.”

A limit on the number of students will help preserve the hands-on approach, Dudley says. The course will likely be limited to 25 students this year, and about 35 next year.

Program the first of its kind

• Seneca’s green business management program is the first of its kind in the GTA.

• Students must have a degree or three-year diploma, or mature student status with at least three years of related work experience.

• Courses include eco-productivity in the workplace, sustainable business plans, corporate social responsibility and business ethics.

• The program teaches skills to help companies move to a low-carbon economy.