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To “Do-Well-and-Do-Good,” Consider Sustainability Entrepreneurship


By Rubin Patterson, Ph.D.

The Truth Contributor


Americans are giving more thought to entrepreneurship in light of continued corporate downsizing, offshoring of production in faraway places such as China and India, as well as the increasingly common practice of contingency work “We’ll call you when we have work, then dismiss you the moment it dries up.”


Some are considering entrepreneurship today out of a sense of necessity (due to the issues above) while others are doing so out of a long-held desire to be their own boss.  Either way, those who take the entrepreneurial plunge often share the characteristics of: (1) discovering opportunities to satisfy needs; (2) innovating a product or service to satisfy specifically identified needs; (3) possessing the drive and determination to see the entire operation through completion and (4) possessing a willingness to take the risk of failure – without anticipating a government bailout!


Let’s not romanticize this idea of self-employment – most people who want to become entrepreneurs never gain access to requisite capital to implement their dreams. And most of those who do so fail to make their enterprises work.  Some individuals even suffer a double-whammy: first they are downsized out of their former place of employment, then, after opening their own enterprise, it subsequently fails. 


Broadly speaking, there are two types of entrepreneurship: business entrepreneurship and social entrepreneurship. The former is concerned with profit maximization for the owner, while the latter is concerned with maximizing social impact through meeting the unmet needs of a targeted area.  Social and business entrepreneurship, however, basically share the same skill sets. 


A targeted area of entrepreneurship that some individuals might consider is “sustainability entrepreneurship,” which will become a major phenomenon in the near future. Essentially, sustainability entrepreneurs identify ways to satisfy social needs or markets with diminished adverse impacts on the environment. In other words, sustainability entrepreneurs do-well-and-do-good because they earn income from identifying and implementing ways of preventing economic activity from harming the environment.       


Consider that the world’s population is growing by over 100 million new citizens every year, 90 percent of them live on less than $2 per day in poor or developing countries and basically all of them want to live lifestyles closer to ours compared to what they experience in their own countries.


However, with today’s fossil fuel-based general production paradigm, there simply aren’t enough resources to satisfy the lifestyle desires of 90 percent of the world’s new citizens. Moreover, the planet isn’t capable of absorbing the destructive impact of pollution from ramped-up production even if enough resources did exist. 


Transnational corporations (TNCs) such as Procter & Gamble, General Electric and Unilever are in the process of rethinking their consumer products and their production methods so as to sell products to people who represent 90 percent of the world’s population growth. These companies, with operations in over 80 countries, recognize the potential economic gains from countries representing the bulk of future population growth. But these markets or social needs aren’t just for the TNCs to satisfy; there is also opportunity for micro-size sustainability entrepreneurs. There are small firms making $100 battery-operated refrigerators and $300 solar cookers for sale and distribution where 90 percent of the world’s population growth is occurring.


On the other hand, if you want to operate closer to home, there is also tremendous need here for sustainability entrepreneurs.  American companies and households are trying to cut back on costs.  Sustainability entrepreneurs can help them to do so by eliminating or at least reducing pollution. Pollution is the unwanted byproduct in the production, delivery or use of a product or service. Pollution, which adds no value to the product or service, represents the waste of material or energy that one pays for to acquire a service.


Take, for example, the charcoal or even gas-operated barbeque grill, which is about as non-hi-tech as you can get.  Both charcoal and gas emit heat-trapping gases into the atmosphere, and consumers have to keep buying more charcoal and gas to cook those mouth-watering ribs.  In this instance, both the carbon emissions as well as the charcoal and gas constitute pollution. 


Last week, Olivia Holden of Assets Toledo and I discussed, among other issues, the need for better solar-powered barbeque grills, which, of course, would have no pollution: neither heat-trapping gases nor the repeated purchasing of charcoal or gas.  The production of such a grill is just one of countless opportunities out there for micro-level sustainability entrepreneurs.


Assets Toledo, under Holden’s outstanding leadership, has provided entrepreneurial training for over a thousand citizens from the Toledo metropolitan area over the past decade. At Assets Toledo, clients learn the techniques of producing business plans, overcoming the challenges of entrepreneurship, financial reporting and budgeting, executing priority management, and much more, all from people who have “been-there-done-that” with brilliant success. If clients would acquire these insights and techniques and then the skill to apply them in the area of sustainability entrepreneurship, some will no doubt experience personal success, and the environment will consequently experience less ecological stress.  (Feel free to contact Assets Toledo.)


Put on your thinking caps and get busy developing your sustainability entrepreneurial enterprise!





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