By Bernie Dixon
Leading up to 2020 there was a commonly known axiom among big businesses: Companies can make more green by going green but only by taking a patient, holistic approach involving the environment and social endeavors. Did you hear that sonic boom? It is the sound of commerce increasing in speed beyond the sound barrier. A patient, holistic approach will no longer work. Customers in all industries and all levels now are demanding a “green” approach and a “local” appearance when it comes to selecting brands.
As evidence of the Green and Local trend, in the five years prior to 2020, the value of foods sold via US farm stands, family markets, on-line and community supported agriculture doubled to over $2.8 billion. With COVID-19 and the spike in home cooking, more Americans are turning to local farms as food options over Amazon pantry delivery. Be it health driven, convenience or save the planet concerns, people appear to be choosing a greener lifestyle and expecting businesses to do the same. To close out this example, the strongest trend in buying “local” food sources is coming from Vermont, California, Hawaii, Washington, and Maine. Researchers expect more states to join those ranks shortly. Georgia, Florida, and Texas are on the rise.
This year bicycles are in short supply. Vegetarianism is on the rise and companies of all sizes and industries are doing more to save energy, lower their carbon footprint, use sustainable materials, and streamline packaging. Supporting local businesses is “on-trend” while pricing is no longer the most important factor in consumer buying. Price is considered along with local availability and brand association with being green. It is another trend that, once adopted, is difficult to slow. Hiring locally, appearing as a local brand and meeting customers where they are have become imperatives for growing businesses.
With the growing popularity of being green, sustainability and appearing local, it is not surprising that the trend is also growing in popularity among entrepreneurs. Sustainability entrepreneurs are a new breed of entrepreneur that work to combine social, economic, and environmental aspects. These business owners are leading the trend towards successful sustainability. These entrepreneurs are starting their companies from the ground up in a way that produces an immediate advantage in their respective industries. Locally sourced talent, locally sourced and sustainable materials, energy efficiencies and minimal use of environmentally damaging materials and processes are easy and inherently less expensive to build from the ground up rather than experiencing the seismic shifts and high cost when making the same transition in an established business.
While profit is key to the success of any business, it is not necessarily the primary concern of the new “green” entrepreneur. Instead, these business owners focus on environmental health and social concerns. These owners are more likely than the traditional entrepreneurs to focus on minimizing their companies’ carbon footprint and keeping their employees happy.
Employee happiness is essential to the long-term viability of any company. However, it is difficult to imagine a company finding long-term success using a strategy that places social or environmental concerns above all else. Sustainability entrepreneurs, by definition, show a concern for society, the economy, and the environment. However, another group of entrepreneurs is known for their ability to combine an environmental focus with their for-profit business. These entrepreneurs have been dubbed “ecopreneurs.” By definition, ecopreneurs are entrepreneurs who combine their business activities with an environmental awareness in order to “shift the basis of economic development towards a more environmentally friendly basis”. These ecopreneurs are at the forefront of modeling the way towards “going green” and being investable. Their businesses are on the rise and attracting the attention of “green” venture capital with a similar focus.
It’s generally acceptable that the emphasis on “going green” and “appearing local” is a winning formula with customers. Even more important for early stage “green” companies is to find that desirable balance between profitability and concern for society and the environment. It can be a powerful strategy for long term impact, and profitability.