The State of Green Business: Five Key Takeaways

The 2011 State of Green Business Forum, conducted by GreenBiz Group, started today in San Francisco, and follows with forums in Chicago and Washington D.C. in the next two weeks. The Forum is one of the standard bearers in the world of sustainable business conferences. It brings together thought leaders, innovators, and executives across all industries to discuss opportunities realized in the year past and challenges met.

Each year, the GreenBiz group develops a State of Green Business report, timed, perhaps, to follow the State of the Union and the State of the State addresses given by the President and Governors of states. The report contains an index summary of metrics related to the green economy, monitored year after year, to give a long term analysis of trends in issues such as pollution, e-waste, recycling, efficiency, clean tech investments and others. The news is mixed, as always, but this year’s report points to mostly improving trends in the sustainable economy.

To begin the conference, Joel Makower, Executive Editor of pointed at five key takeaways that we’d go over in the next two days:

1. The recession hasn’t deterred companies from spending on environmental, health and safety (EHS).

2. More companies are engaged in sustainability than ever before, and the trend is increasing in speed.

3. Corporate commitments are broader and deeper.

4. Progress is incremental. Even with the increased rate of sustainability awareness, the progress we’re seeing is even stronger than expected.

5. Communications are still a challenge. It’s a widely held belief, according to Makower, that many companies have: opening up and talking about sustainability goals is good and aspirational, but it also shines a light on all the companies’ problems.

One other big trend?

Consumer giants are awakening to green. Procter & Gamble and Unilever made some serious commitments this year. P&G committed to 100% renewable power, zero waste, and $50B in revenues from sustainability-related products.  Why? Their big hairy audacious goal is to reach an extra billion consumers, and they know that those billion are not going to be North Americans. They see the business opportunity to supply sustainable goods to developing countries.

Unilever said they will cut their environmental impacts in half in ten years. They’ve also stated by 2015 they’d get all their food related products from sustainable sources, and they are one of the biggest purchasers of food products in the world.

Stay tuned for more news from the State of Green Business Forum. As always, you can follow TriplePundit on twitter for live feeds from the event.


Scott Cooney is the author of Build a Green Small Business (McGraw-Hill) and Principal of

Scott Cooney, Principal of and author of Build a Green Small Business: Profitable Ways to Become an Ecopreneur (McGraw-Hill, November 2008), is also a serial ecopreneur who has started and grown several green businesses and consulted several other green startups. He co-founded the ReDirect Guide, a green business directory, in Salt Lake City, UT. He greened his home in Salt Lake City, including xeriscaping, an organic orchard, extra natural fiber insulation, a 1.8kW solar PV array, on-demand hot water, energy star appliances, and natural paints. He is a vegetarian, an avid cyclist, ultimate frisbee player, and surfer, and currently lives in the sunny Mission district of San Francisco. Scott is working on his second book, a look at microeconomics in the green sector.In June 2010, Scott launched, a sustainability consulting firm dedicated to providing solutions to common business problems by leveraging the power of the triple bottom line. Focused exclusively on small business, GBO's mission is to facilitate the creation and success of small, green businesses.

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