How to Make a Social Impact as a Green Entrepreneur

You can either make money, or help the planet and your fellow human beings. But not both.

That statement used to be true, but not so much anymore. The modern world is chock full of “green entrepreneurs”. These individuals want to start a business and give back to the Earth. These entrepreneurs launch businesses that either benefit the planet or humankind, or reduce the harmful side effects associated with a service or product. And there’s a growing market of “green consumers” that only want to do business with them. Exclusively.

But what does it mean exactly? How can you make an impact as a green entrepreneur? Prepare to become an entrepreneurial tree-hugger. 

Accentuate the Positive

The image of the greedy, cold, and uncaring corporation is changing. They still exist, of course, but there are just as many people actively working to improve things. They base their entire business plan of doing good things, and if they happen to make money doing that, then fantastic. Two birds with one stone.

Listen to the market. What do people want? What green products are in demand? Look to local and close sources for everything. You support your community and reduce shipping-related pollution. Use other green businesses and products in support of your business or idea whenever possible.

A green business from scratch is usually connected in some way to making other things greener. In fact, “green consultancy” is a growing industry in many countries. From businesses to private homes, a green consultant goes in and conducts an audit, presenting a list of ways to make the business or home greener and more eco-friendly.

Other green businesses might be connected to waste removal and disposal, recycling, and other eco-practices.

Eliminate the Negative

The other green route is to improve on an existing product or service, making it more green-conscious. There is much in the world that does harm, but we can’t exactly stop doing them entirely. Instead, green entrepreneurs work to eliminate the negative aspects.

A few simple ideas for going green in business include:

  • Reducing waste related to production

  • Reducing the amount of water used during production

  • Reducing the amount of energy needed for production

  • Using renewable energy sources like wind and solar

  • Eliminating harmful/toxic chemicals

  • Reducing overall pollution

    job search
    job search

These are good ideas for all of us, but the more that business and manufacturers do it, the stronger the positive effect on the planet.

And you don’t need to reinvent the wheel to make this work. You could start a clothing company that only uses organic, natural materials and eco-friendly manufacturing techniques. Or a limousine or taxi service that only consumes bio-fuels. Or a furniture business that only builds with reclaimed wood. Or a cleaning service (or line of cleaning products) that doesn’t use strong, harmful chemicals.

Combine these kinds of eco and green-friendly tweaks with charitable donations, and you’ve really hit on something that a) people like to see and support, and b) actually makes the world a better place. Earmark a certain percentage of sales (or profits) to go to a charity related to your business in some way. That reclaimed wood furniture manufacturer, for example, could make a donation to a local tree planting charity with every sale. That organic and eco-friendly clothing company? How about a donation to charities that benefit Indian and Bangladeshi textile workers, a group that has traditionally been abused by the industry.

There’s no limit to the possibilities. And while many cynics may see this as a gimmick meant to increase sales (and for some businesses, it might be), the truth is that most green entrepreneurs actually care about what they’re doing. And even if it is a gimmick, the result is still the same. Better products. Better conditions. Less pollution and toxins entering the environment.

And in your efforts to be green, remain green, and get even greener, seek out other green entrepreneurs and businesses to work with. Google “green [blank]” in [your city or state/province]” to see what is out there.

Some Useful Links

Going Green

How to be a Green Entrepreneur

Being a green entrepreneur is good on so many levels. Good for the planet. Good for the human race. And nowadays, good for your bottom line. There is very little reason not to like it. It kind of turns you into some kind of a green superhero, and those guys are always awesome (The Incredible Hulk, the Green Lantern, Yoda, Kermit...the list goes on). Go green!

Photo by Andy Smith

Creative Commons License