Remember how we all got so jaded after An Inconvenient Truth and the term "globalwarming" became less grave and more...well....business as usual? Movements emerge, trends peak, we all start using a common vocabulary to reference them, and by doing this, the actuality of the cause or circumstance sometimes gets reduced (sadly) to mere diction. Green, as a term to describe a company, product or person's practice of being environmentally awake, may be contracting the same virus. How responsible do you have to be to be green? What about light green? What counts as concious? Ladies Who Launch has dedicated April's magazine to helping business owners understand what "green" really means and how to make it a verb rather than a hood ornament. Check out San Diego member Anke Corbin who puts her carbon footprint on the table for other launchers to learn from.
Amy Swift, Editor in Chief, www.ladieswholaunch.com
San Diego, CA
www.ankec.com (launching late Spring 2008)
About 2 years ago I found myself at a cross roads in my career as the VP Marketing for an action sports media and publishing company, surprised that the traditional rewards of money and status were leaving me more and more dissatisfied. I began to dream about making a small difference in the world, this growing need was driving me to figure out how to be more environmentally and socially responsible. I dreamt about launching a company that offers marketing consulting services to small businesses, and a second business that designs and manufactures outdoor and indoor spaces including furniture and accessories that are completely environmentally and socially responsible.
Fast forward to the fall of 2007, I finally had the courage to leave my corporate, all consuming marketing job to start sourcing materials and launch my dream. After several months of researching organic, recycled and eco-friendly components, one of the biggest things I noticed is how much confusion is out in the marketplace about what is really environmentally friendly or responsible. I found that my definition of what was environmentally responsible did not necessarily fit with what many manufacturers were touting as eco-friendly. An example of this is outdoor upholstery fabrics. Leading brands touting their eco-friendliness are developed out of plastic that last forever and give off cancer producing poisonous gasses called VOC's (volatile organic compounds) as the sun hits the fabric. Granted, technically speaking if someone were to actually send the fabric somewhere to recycle after they grow tired of it, it's probably recyclable but the abandoned cushions are most likely going to be found sitting in a landfill forever instead.
I don't know about you, but this is not my idea of environmentally responsible manufacturing. My vision is more along the lines of using a natural growing, non-toxic fabric like organic hemp or cotton that is beautiful, sustainable, long lasting, and holds up to the elements yet won't sit forever in a landfill. I'm personally willing to sacrifice the less than eternal life span of my outdoor cushions for a healthier and natural material. Hopefully other consumers are too.
Launching an eco-friendly business today is not an easy endeavor, but I've found a couple of things that have held true throughout this process that I'd like to share.
Anke's helpful hints to launching an environmentally responsible business are:
1. Do your homework. Research all of the materials to make sure they are truly environmentally responsible.
2. Define what you mean by environmentally responsible. If you are not clear about your beliefs, you will be swayed to make concessions.
3. Question everything. Ask your vendors a lot of questions, make them prove their practices to you.
4. Network. There are people out there who have been utilizing organic and environmentally responsible practices for many years and their insight is invaluable.
5. Be honest. When you tout your product as eco-friendly, be honest with your customers. Greenwashing, or exaggerating claims about environmentally friendly practices will harm your business in the long run.
6. Be persistent. As with any new business, you will need to be passionate and driven, learning not to take 'no' or 'it can't be done' for an answer. While the media is touting green as the next big thing, old school industries are not implementing change as quickly as many of us would like to see.
7. Don't get frustrated. Remember, environmental responsibility is an emerging market, new innovations are popping up every day. I can't tell you the number of times I've heard from well meaning old-fashioned manufacturers that customers are not really interested yet in environmentally responsible practices and that what I'm trying to achieve can't be done.
8. Take baby steps. Don't expect to get it all right the first time, keep improving and learning.
I don't believe that being green is the next big fad. To me, it's a mandatory lifestyle change we all need to make in how we think and what we do. Much like the middle ages didn't know about sanitation and thus it was a time when disease and sickness ran rampant. We now know that many of our current manufacturing and consumption practices need to be reevaluated. The chemically saturated products we are eating, wearing, and surrounding ourselves with are not safe and the depletion of our natural resources is creating an unstable environment and future.
All of us can play a part in changing how we consume and what we consider acceptable business practices for ourselves and companies we do business with. I'm still working on making a difference in my little part of the world both personally and professionally, learning a lot every day. I look forward to having you join me on this journey as you launch your own environmentally responsible business.
Anke Corbin is launching her eco-friendly outdoor and indoor lifestyle company called Anke C.- Real Living spring 2008. She also has a marketing and eco-business consulting agency. Anke is an ongoing member of the San Diego Ladies Who Launch Incubator. To network, for consulting services or just to chat, contact her at: firstname.lastname@example.org
Follow Amy Swift on Twitter: www.twitter.com/SMARTYAmy