When people talk to me about the green business they’re working on, it will sometimes become apparent as we talk that at least part of the problem they are encountering may not be what they think it is.
Rather than being an issue related to planning, marketing, product development, or greening their operations, the issue is sometimes more fundamental, reflecting an inner struggle they have about making money.
This can reveal itself in discussions of larger businesses that have undertaken efforts to save money by wasting less energy, water, and other resources. “Sure, but they’re just doing it to save money,” the person will say.
Another variation of this often comes out in discussion of using market mechanisms to address climate change, in which case some people say “Businesses got us into this problem – how can they get us out?”
Their thinking reveals a fundamental assumption many people have, that making money and doing the right thing for the environment cannot coexist.
Curiously this assumption reveals itself in people at opposite poles of environmental issues. For some people this assumption is used to support their belief that we cannot solve environmental problems without extracting a ruinous economic toll (more on this one another day).
For others though the conflict is the mirror image of this, that if you are making money you must not be doing the right thing for the planet. Statements like these reveal an internal conflict that shapes their efforts to create a business.
Deep in their mind some of these people are thinking that if they make money, then they’re part of the problem.
Which leads me to make a simple statement. It’s okay for a green business to make money. In fact, it’s more than okay – it’s essential.
Commitment to helping the environment is important, but if your business does not make money will disappear.