Five Good Reasons for Going Green

Last Updated Apr 21, 2009 11:46 AM EDT

Want to save money, attract investors and feel good about your business? Clifford Schorer, a professor at the Eugene Lang Entrepreneurship Center at Columbia Business School, suggests that you go green.

Green business, or businesses that focus on ecological sustainability and social responsibility, are gaining traction in today's marketplace, so much so that Green MBAs are popping up to train entrepreneurs in these practices.

Schorer sees his share of sustainable businesses working with students in the Lang Center's Entrepreneurial Greenhouse Program, a semester-long intensive that helps students launch their businesses. Past successes have included The Recycle Bank, a program that gives rewards for recycling, and Out2Play, a non-profit that builds playgrounds for elementary schools in New York City.

In honor of tomorrow's Earth Day celebration, here are some excerpts from my recent conversation with Schorer, speaking about the benefits of green business.

1. Possibility of attracting venture capital
"There are some venture capitalists who look at green space very seriously," says Schorer. "There's a lot of data that shows that companies that are environmentally conscious have performed on the stock market better than those that are not."

While Schorer warns that the current economic environment is making it difficult to find VCs who have funds and are willing to use them, he believes that more VCs will continue to get involved in green business. For the time being, he suggests, "the best way to search out funds is to look for those that are specifically targeted to that space."

2. Green businesses fill a growing need
As unsustainable business practices fall by the wayside, companies practicing green innovations will have the chance to make serious profits. Pointing to the example of fossil fuels, Schorer says, "We just went through $150 oil last year. Companies like Toyota, Ford and Honda got the idea that the world isn't going to be able to keep using gas. Between the hybrids and the hydrogen fuel cell batteries, some real interesting ideas are coming up."

Green businesses will have staying power, Schorer explains. "There are drivers in place that are very economic in nature that are going to help this process. If there's money in it, then people are going to focus on it."

3. Saves your company money
"You see money running out of businesses for no reason: inefficient systems, outdated equipment, excessive heat, inefficient lighting," Schorer explains. Fixing such problems usually takes less time and energy than businesses realize, and the results will be worth it. "In any business, you can look around and find ways to save energy consumption and waste, both of which are very significant in terms of your bottom line."

4. Good PR
Just because you're green doesn't mean you can't be shrewd. "Make it part of your sales presentation and fund raising presentation," advises Schorer. "Emphasize it because right now that's a hot button. People talk about green business, they're aware of it, and it won't get a negative response."

5. You'll feel good
"If you do something with your life that benefits others, it gives you a great personal reward," says Schorer. "Doing good green initiatives, you get a great feeling about yourself that you're helping others and you're helping our planet."

A caveat: economic logic
A green idea alone will not ensure business triumph; economic logic will be the backbone of any successful company. According to Schorer, "People come to me with ideas that sound wonderful, and they're going to be very positive for the Earth. But at the same time you look and say, 'Why would people do this?' Is it economical? Is it efficient? Is there a measurable benefit? That's the most important thing of all."

Earth image courtesy of Flickr user woodleywonderworks, CC 2.0

  • Stacy Blackman

    Stacy Sukov Blackman is president of Stacy Blackman Consulting, where she consults on MBA admissions. She earned her MBA from the Kellogg Graduate School of Management at Northwestern University and her Bachelor of Science from the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania. Stacy serves on the Board of Directors of AIGAC, the Association of International Graduate Admissions Consultants, and has published a guide to MBA Admissions, The MBA Application Roadmap.