The Exciting Potential of Sustainable Entrepreneurship

The Exciting Potential of Sustainable Entrepreneurship


The face of entrepreneurship is changing, particularly as more young adults establish their own companies. One of the ways in which the field is changing most noticeably is a newfound focus on sustainability. Many novice entrepreneurs are concentrating on products and services that could change the world, from alternatives to wasteful plastic packaging to food products that reduce humans’ reliance on the meat industry. In most stores, there are usually green options for goods ranging from T-shirts to milk. Some veterans in the field have expressed surprise at this focus on sustainability considering the financial toll that cleantech and green enterprises took on Silicon Valley more than a decade ago.

Changing perspectives on sustainability in American entrepreneurship

Between 2007 and 2008, venture capitalists betted on cleantech with an investment of over $6 billion, layered atop more than $40 billion in tax breaks and subsidies from the federal government. A few years later, the market crashed, and venture investors soured on the idea of green enterprises. Today, however, consumers are expressing increasing concern about sustainability and have demonstrated a willingness to pay more for responsibly engineered goods or at least purchases that also benefit someone else. The model of one shoe donated for each one bought, which was popularized by the shoe store TOMS, is one example of how many businesses are responding. Even large companies like Marriott and the Walt Disney Company are focusing on sustainability in order to appeal to customers and reduce their environment impact.

Additionally, new entrepreneurs have recognized consumers’ interest in sustainability and have figured out ways to align their desires to do good in the world with their own business pursuits. The first step, as with any form of entrepreneurship, is to design an excellent product that consumers need to love it if they are going to spend more on it. While some individuals will spend more solely for the ecological choice, most consumers need to be convinced. By creating something that attracts people and is also sustainable, companies can draw consumers toward their green-based propositions. For example, meat alternatives have been around for a long time, but only recently have they gained traction, as businesses like Impossible Foods and Beyond Meat release appetizing products.

Gaining credibility as a company that offers a sustainable alternative

Now that sustainability has become a popular business trend, it’s beneficial for companies to take steps to validate their claims. Consumers are becoming wiser and will seek out data behind specific claims. A few years back, a major airline asserted that it was diverting 20 percent of its waste, but offered no proof or information about what the term “waste” meant. Today, many people will not accept such a vague statement, requiring companies to prove that their commitment to sustainability is more than a gimmick to win over customers.

Several strategies exist for doing this, but one of the simplest is to partner with well-known and respected leaders. Sustainability organizations, advocacy groups, and nonprofits frequently partner with businesses and assist in substantiating green claims. Doing so provides benefits to both entities. For instance, while companies can enhance the credibility of their claims, the partner can obtain additional support or critical awareness from the corporate entities.

However, businesses will often need to do more than form partnerships to prove their devotion to green practices. This can involve conducting supply chain audits, acquiring certain certifications, and engaging in other suitability-conscious operations. Many organizations are well versed in helping to achieve these goals and addressing issues that stand in a company’s way. In addition, organizations like the Lonely Whale Foundation focus on marketing as a way of raising awareness.

Looking into the future of sustainability-focused entrepreneurship

Sustainability is experiencing a resurgence in the field of entrepreneurship, and more investors are becoming interested in this area as consumers continue to demonstrate loyalty to green companies. The ability to thrive economically and conscientiously is more within reach than ever before. In some ways, the ability of entrepreneurship to drive sustainability portends a future in which consumerism converts ecologically harmful behaviors into ones that fuel green practices. Moving forward, numerous industries can expect to see entrepreneurs identifying new ways to link their business efforts to ecological passions and create a better future while delivering an excellent product.

While the market for sustainability has grown exponentially in the last few years, there is still room for advancement. Experts in sustainable entrepreneurship advise people who are thinking about becoming involved in this sector to consider that virtually every product needs a green solution. When it comes to challenging another product for market share, it’s also important for sustainability-focused entrepreneurs to ensure that they connect with their respective customers. Various communities and cultures perceive environmental issues differently, and providing ideal solutions depends upon understanding them, as well as offering an attractive product and securing strong partners.

About the Author

Joanna RileyJoanna (Jo) Riley is an entrepreneur, investor, and advocate in technology, and is currently the CEO and Co-Founder of Censia. Jo has a highly experienced background in building and scaling companies, which she attributes to her deep passion for people and building technologies that allow people to be their best selves. She brings her wide knowledge of the industry to better transform the way enterprise companies hire talent. You can connect with Joanna Riley at @joannakiddriley on Twitter or on Linkedin. Read her full bio here.