Green Entrepreneurship: The Innovative Way Forward

With the cause for environmental concern rapidly growing because of the fallout of global warming and climate change, there has been a drastic shift of attitudes from traditional practices towards more eco-friendly alternatives and increased stress on personal accountability. This change has been seen in almost every single sphere of life— from entertainment sectors to industrial realms, from homes to public spaces.

Most recently, with the growing consciousness of sustainability, this shift has also affected the entrepreneurial world. In this article, we will discuss what green entrepreneurship is and some great startup ideas based on this novel concept.

What is Green Entrepreneurship?

The GREENT Project describes Green Entrepreneurship as: “the activity of consciously addressing an environmental/social problem/need through the realization of entrepreneurial ideas with a high level of risk, which has a net positive effect on the natural environment and at the same time is financially sustainable.” The idea is not an ultra-modern, groundbreaking one, for the movement first appeared in the 90s with Gustave Berle’s pioneering use of the term ‘Green Entrepreneur’ in his 1991 book called The Green Entrepreneur: Business Opportunities That Can Save the Earth and Make You Money. He perhaps described this idea best and most succinctly by saying that “Green entrepreneurship is taking responsibility to create the world we dream of.”

Green Entrepreneurship thus has its foundation in the idea of dual sustainability. On one hand, it seeks to create eco-friendly, green products that do not put a strain on the Earth’s resources, through sustainable methods and factors of production. On the other hand, like all business ventures, it also aims at the financial sustainability of the business model and practices itself.

Who is a Green Entrepreneur?

While there is no clear-cut definition of what a green entrepreneur looks like or how they work, there are some features that are inherent for green entrepreneurs, and as the Greent Project points out, these values should be at the heart of any eco-friendly business initiative.

First and foremost, the core of their business activity must consciously and actively address and help to alleviate some social or environmental problem.

Second, the net effect between their practices and the final outcome should result in a positive impact on the natural environment, but at the same time should provide adequate financial turnover.

Third, their high internal motivation should be inclined towards their sensitivity to the environmental issues plaguing the Earth.

Fourth, they should diligently strive to create sustainable opportunities for the future, and ideally, keep the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals in mind while developing projects and scaling their business.

Last but surely not least, they must imbibe the work ethic of typical entrepreneurs by visualizing and materializing ideas with a high risk level.

What does a green business model look like?

With the growing awareness of the need to be eco-friendlier and more sustainable, consumers have begun to support more and more green entrepreneurial ventures now. However, the secret to building a successful green business is a meticulously designed, scalable business model. The first thing to do is to keep in mind that as opposed to a traditional business model that seeks to minimize costs and maximize profit, green business models depend on financial stability from ample revenue and instead focus heavily on the environmental impact of their ventures. For example, they may forego electricity generated conventionally and cheaply from fossil fuels and instead choose to be solar-powered. All said and done, the key goal of the business is sustainability at every single step of the process.

4 Innovative Green Entrepreneurship Ideas

1. Handmade Products

The demand for handmade, artisanal, and organic products is at an all-time high now. Products ranging from personal essentials like luxuriant shampoos, soaps, scrubs, and fragrant body washes, to makeup like eyeliner, vibrant lip tints and colorful natural hair dyes, and uniquely designed, stylish apparel made with natural fibers (cotton, khadi, silk, wool, etc) sell like hot cakes. Thus, setting up an online store or an actual boutique with sustainable business practices and products is easier and cheaper than you would think!

2. Eco-consultancy

If you are an expert in and have excellent people skills, you could consider opening an eco-consultancy for individuals and businesses. A typical list of services you could offer could include advice and guidance in matters of reducing carbon footprints, or undertaking sustainable development practices while minimizing costs, risks, and liabilities, and even providing contacts for services to interested parties. Also, you could practice environmental advocacy and push for businesses and corporates to adopt cleaner, greener alternatives for their practices.

3. Upcycling Business

Upcycling isn’t a new trend— mothers and aunts have been recycling and upcycling old items for generations now. However, upcycling businesses are definitely a new phenomenon that has been developing in the past few years. These dedicated companies accept items like old clothes, décor, and glass objects transform them into completely new pieces by picking them apart, adding elements, redesigning them— basically spinning gold from what would eventually have become trash. This creative reuse of old items breathes new life into old items and is a niche business that is both financially and physically sustainable.

4. Thrift Store

The clothing industry is one of the most polluting and environmentally harmful industries on Earth. More than 19 million tons of clothing waste end up in landfills each year and reports clearly show that most of the clothes are in good, wearable condition. With the rise of fast fashion companies like Zara and H&M, this number is only expected to rise meteorically over the next few years.

However, on the bright side, this incredible wastage has been recognized and the thrifting culture is picking back up again. Branded and off-brand clothes, accessories, and jewelry in current, trendy styles are resold to second-hand buyers in proper condition at low prices. In addition to physical thrift stores, there has been a boom of resellers online on platforms like Instagram and Facebook where such articles are aesthetically presented to attract even more customers. Thrifting is one of the most directly impactful and also financially sustainable businesses that you can invest in as a green entrepreneur.