After having worked in and with green organizations for over 20 years, this is how I see it:
Pros of Being Green
- Green is hot: is it a fad or is it here to stay? The answer is “yes”. It is a fad and it will stay. Mostly because it must stay. These days everyone wants to be seen as being green. If you have something that people need that is superior to non-green alternatives, you can do well in certain situations.
- Solid business opportunities:If you have a product or service in the energy, clean tech or green tech sectors, or are dealing with everyday challenges people face AND are competitive in your product/service, you are in a good place.
- Marketability factor: Since the media is still hot for green, businesses can definitely find unique ways to milk this one. Just make sure you do it authentically, otherwise you risk getting busted for greenwashing — claiming you are greener than you really are.
- Easier to compete: As long as your product is just as good as or better than non-green alternatives out there you’re in good shape. Even if you cannot compete on price, there are solid strategies to position your product/service to be quite desirable.
- Strong feel-good component:If your product/service really makes a difference for the planet and society, you can certainly leverage this in your branding and marketing. People like knowing that what they purchase is going to help more than just themselves, with everything else being relatively equal.
- More stable: Organizations that build not only a profitable business but that integrate the social and environmental components that surround it, usually do better than their “non-green” competitors.
However, becoming a green organization is not always rosy. See why there may be cons to being green.
Cons to Being Green
Despite the positives for greening your organization, here are some of the negatives that can come up:
- Green is hot right now: those green organizations that market, position and brand themselves as “green” as the main message will struggle when the green wave subsides. Knowing how to stay hot without relying on “green” as the key differentiator is crucial.
- Keeping up: since green business is here to stay (not to be confused with the “buzz” or fad of being green), keeping ahead of the competition in new green technologies and strategies can be quite challenging at times. For example, it is so ‘90’s to say, “We’re green because we use recycled paper and soy based inks in our materials….”
- Complex business model: it’s hard enough to focus on one bottom line: profits. Try focusing on three! True green enterprises not only focus on being profitable, they also take responsibility of the impact their organization has on people and the planet (known as the triple-bottom-line or the three p’s.)
- Juggling hats: most green enterprise owners I know are traditional business people OR environmentalists, but rarely both. To thrive as a green business owner, you must be great at both!
- Play By the Same Rules For Now: many green enterprise owners expect people will come flocking to their product or service because of how green it is. They usually are in for a rude awakening. If it does not compete on the traditional business components of functionality, quality, fashion, and/or price, it will not succeed. Guaranteed. This may change, but not yet.
And while we’re light-years ahead from where we were 20 years ago, the green business model is quite new and we’re still ironing out the kinks.
Green businesses, just like traditional businesses, must still pay rent, make payroll, figure out marketing and branding strategies and so on.
But there is one major difference: when a green business is done really well, you will see the positive social and environmental impact it has… while making a solid profit.
And when that happens, it really doesn’t get any better than that.
Written by Stefan Doering
Adapted by The Pros and Cons to Being a Green Business
Image courtesy of suphakit73 / FreeDigitalPhotos.net