Archive for February 26, 2009
Penned by Nick
Mark Penn’s recent article in the Wall Street Journal examines the “microtrend” of “green workers”, but misses the macrotrend that’s turning the fight against climate change into the 21st century’s brawl for corporate profits and credibility. At the end of Mr. Penn’s article, he suggests that: “…the executives of federally subsidized green companies…should not profit excessively from these government-sponsored programs in a time of crisis. So jobs that used to be done for greenbacks may soon be done just for the green of it.”
Tom and I often joke that I’m “all business” and he’s “all better planet.” To our colleagues, we quip that it’s going to take both of us–business and better planet–to solve climate change. That’s because, for the first time in human history, we face a challenge that requires 1 billion people to act: global warming. When you think about it, there are only a few places we could get a billion people to act. We could ask China or India to legislate on their billion-plus person populations to be more environmentally responsible.
Unfortunately, this request has been a tough pill for these countries to swallow, and rightly so (witness the post-Kyoto divide over the “double standard” of emissions targets for developing countries). The only other place where we can motivate 1 billion-plus people to act is through the market. Indeed, every day more than a billion people engage in some form of commerce.
The market, it turns out, is the most powerful tool for social and environmental change the world has ever seen. Social and environmental entrepreneurs the world over are daily discovering this fact. In doing so, they not only generate a profit in pursuit of a healthy planet, but they demonstrate that profit and planet are mutually reinforcing motivations that create a virtuous cycle. Ecopreneurs are driving profitable, sustainable businesses forward through their ingenuity and market-savvy. At a time when the world needs a new example of how to do good, responsible business, we should not punish these individuals by limiting their profit motive. Instead, we should encourage environmental organizations to be as profitable and successful as possible. In doing so, we can inspire a generation of business leaders to pursue a brighter, greener future.