By: Samantha Pederslie
"Ecopreneurship" is an increasingly popular concept in the modern business world. Our environment and climate are in an uncertain, unstable place. Many entrepreneurs have a hard time realizing that a major share of negative environmental impact stems from the corporate pursuit of profit maximization. More and more, startup owners are considering it their duty to take up stewardship of the environment. Businsesses should no longer answer exclusively to shareholders; they should consider all stakeholders involved, our planet being the largest one. Read on to find out how you can become an ecopreneur.
What Is An Ecopreneur?
"Ecopreneur" is a relatively new term that has risen in popularity as consumers and businesses become more aware of climate change and other environmental problems. In a literal sense, an ecopreneur is someone who sells products or services that are beneficial to the environment in some way. This might manifest as an app that helps plant trees, or a training program to educate people on proper composting and recycling.
An ecopreneur isn’t just someone who sells eco-friendly products and services, however. This concept can - and should - be applied to virtually all industries. With positive net impact in mind, you can change nearly every aspect of the way you operate your startup. Whether it’s a sustainable business model, charitable donations, waste reduction, or local sourcing, there are ways for every business owner to incorporate ecological mindfulness into their company.
In the economics of conservation, one of the most hopeful factors is technological innovation. Society is counting on firms’ ability to innovate and create technologies that solve our oldest problems in new ways. If you’re interested in the tech startup space, consider how your product could be leveraged to remedy environmental issues.
The Importance of the “Triple Bottom Line”
For any startup, a great place to start would be to align company values with the “triple bottom line” method. Traditionally, companies have only cared about the financial bottom line -- that is, minimizing expenses and increasing revenues for profit optimization. Sustainable businesses and ecopreneurs are proposing that there are three bottom lines that should be considered in conjunction with each other:
- Social Bottom Line - Is your company acting as a beneficial member of the local community? Are you providing resources to those in need? This is a major consideration for corporate social responsibility (CSR) initiatives.
- Environmental Bottom Line - How is your company taking steps to reduce its ecological footprint? How about its carbon footprint? What can you do to improve your impact?
- Financial Bottom Line - How profitable is your company (or, in many startup cases, when will it be profitable?) What ways can you re-invest these profits in a sustainable fashion?
Recognize that these three bottom lines are significantly intertwined. Companies that don’t support and care for their communities are bound to face financial consequences -- and those that don’t respect the environment can expect to receive public backlash.
Becoming a Credible Ecopreneur
In general, consumers are becoming more aware about sustainable consumption, and they’re embracing new buying habits with that goal in mind. As an ecopreneur, you can make all the claims you want about “green” values and practices. Regardless, you need to have concrete proof that you’re following through on those promises. There are many ways to go about this:
- Publish blog posts about your company’s goals, progress, and initiatives
- Engage with customers on social media and highlight green practices
- Apply for third-party certifications for your products (if applicable)
The last technique is the most important if you are going to be selling a tangible product that’s meant to be sustainable. Third-party certification is (currently) the primary way to truly validate the environmental efficacy of a product. If you skip this step and use “green” marketing and verbiage, your company could be accused of greenwashing. This will turn away many customers who are genuinely interested in sustainable businesses, and you’ll likely be losing a sizable portion of total customer lifetime value.
Therefore, integrity is key. Simply deliver on your promises, and let your actions communicate your values. Remain transparent, and invest time into acquiring the necessary accreditations.
Ecopreneurs Reap What They Sow
With a triple bottom line, ecopreneurs enjoy tripled benefits. For one, surrounding stakeholders will benefit from your company’s presence (the primary example of this being your immediate community). In this way, people are likely to forge a deeper - and more meaningful - connection with your vision. As a startup, showing everyone that you’re setting your values from day one is highly appealing. It garners customer loyalty. On a financial note, there has been a sales growth trend for products and services that are environmentally conscious. There is an urgent demand for more sustainable solutions.
Finally, the most important benefit is that becoming an ecopreneur is intrinsically rewarding and enriching. Many find that directing their businesses with a sense of greater environmental purpose is far more fulfilling than operation solely for material wealth and capital gain.