Where the Right Tangos with the Left: Green Entrepreneurship

The following is a guest post by our friends at Dominican University’s Green MBA Program (a 3p sponsor) – an engaged learning community that seeks to promote financial viability, ecological sustainability, and social justice in business and organizations of all types.

By John Stayton, Green MBA Cofounder, Dominican University of California

In an era of mind-boggling partisan rancor and division, one would think that conservative Republicans and progressive Democrats live in parallel universes, separated by unfathomable hostility.  But there is one area where conservatives and progressives have a big, fat tract of common ground: entrepreneurship that solves environmental problems.

The Party of Economic Value Creation

As boldly stated on their website, the GOP positions itself as the party of economic value creation: “We believe in the power and opportunity of America’s free-market economy.” According to a poll sponsored by the Small Business and Entrepreneurship Council after the 2008 election, 38% of small business voters identified themselves as Republican, while 31% identified as Democrat, about reverse the numbers in the general public. 27% were Independent, frequently leaning to the right. So the 22% of voters who consider themselves small business owners will be a powerful force for the Republicans in upcoming congressional elections.

The Party of Economic Stewardship

The Democratic Party agenda emphasizes economic stewardship (implying a significant government role in the economy) that balances needs for fairness, health care, security, energy independence, environment and civil rights. In a 2009 Gallup poll, 73% of Democrats thought climate change was human-caused, compared to 42% of Republicans. In a 2008 Gallup poll, 84% of Democrats thought that the environment was getting worse, compared to 47% of Republicans. Democrats are motivated to elect candidates who will address environmental issues.

Where Economic Value Meets Environmental Value

If there is one area that is ripe for national consensus, it is the importance of green entrepreneurship. Both parties support energy independence and the creation of clean energy ventures. Conservatives support the job-creating power of new small businesses, and want to give them every advantage. Progressives recognize the level of innovation that will be needed to address intractable environmental problems like global warming and dying oceans. The GOP features a picture of windmills on their web page on energy issues. The Democrats are trying to pass tax cuts for small businesses. The venture capital community is investing heavily in clean energy technology. Green business is where conservative financiers can tango with environmentalists, and right-leaning entrepreneurs waltz with left-leaning scientists in the dance of innovation.

Unfortunately, that probably means Green Entrepreneurship is one topic that will not arise in the upcoming elections — because there is no division to exploit. But it is a major expanse of common ground that we can build on to make real progress in addressing issues that are enormous in their devastating implications, if not in their share of the real estate of the national consciousness.

In 2000, after 15 years in high technology industrial marketing and international business, John Stayton cofounded the first graduate program in sustainable business in the nation. The Green MBA at Dominican University of California (www.greenmba.com) transforms students’ abilities to advance environmental and social initiatives in any type of organization. After directing the program for eight years, John is now a full-time GreenMBA professor focusing on environmental and social entrepreneurship.

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2 responses

  1. This is a terrific posting, thank you John. You’re right on by saying that it’s not divisive enough to get any play nationally, and that it’s a shame, because my goodness does our country need common ground.

    During my work running a green business directory in Utah, an online green business incubator (GreenBusinessOwner.com) and in the research for the publishing of my book (Build a Green Small Business–McGraw-Hill 2008), I interviewed perhaps a thousand green business owners. Out of these, roughly 3/4 answered the voluntary question on our survey about their political leanings. Of those, there was exactly 1 Republican. And it was a “Leans Slightly Right” answer.

    Yes, it can be a bridge. Why isn’t it?

  2. Couple of thoughts:

    1)Agree totally – let’s seek out commonalities from which to start productive conversations instead of blistering each other with sharp slogans.

    2) I’m a co-founder of RecycleMatch. My partner counts himself in one party and I consider myself in the other. But as we have worked on this business together we have found more and more areas where we agree with each others political points of view. It just takes getting close to each other long enough to remember what we all share.

    3) I recently went to a dinner where fmr Shell Pres John Hoffmeister spoke. As the only environmentalist in a room of oil industry suits, I wasn’t sure what to expect. My blog post reviews the unexpected commonalities:


    @BrookeBF from @RecycleMatch

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