Last week, I had the good fortune to co-present on the topic “How to Join the Women Leading the Green Economy,” with Grace Tiscareño-Sato. Grace is the author of “Latinnovating: Green American Jobs and the Latinos Creating Them.” The book is the first to examine the role of Latino entrepreneurs in the emerging green economy.
Our presentation was at the 3rd Annual Women’s Business Expo held by the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce (video highlights are available below). We focused on three main topics:
In terms of reducing your impact on the planet, areas to look at include:
To ensure that your business is having a positive impact on people, areas to look at include:
These are all important areas to look at in your business as you consider what you can do to go green and develop a sustainable business. The actual practice of greening your businesses in these areas may seem to be overwhelming, but it’s important to realize that the business case for sustainability has already been made: businesses that minimize their environmental impacts can in turn reduce their expenses, while also generating goodwill among employees and customers, which can lead to higher revenues. The businesses that do this will also realize a competitive advantage in being able to tap new markets. Finally, this is just an overview (we only had 45 minutes!), but fortunately, there are several resources available:
This short video captures some of the highlights from the Expo:
Are you a woman with a green business? Share your story below!
In a TED talk that has rightfully received considerable attention, Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg recently addressed the important question of “Why we have so few women leaders.”
The statistics that she points out are rather grim for women:
Sandberg is focused on keeping women in the workforce, particularly in corporate positions. She prescribes the following recommendations for women:
Although her talk centers on helping more women get to the top in corporate America, it has important implications for women entrepreneurs as well, since taking advantage of opportunities, balancing work and family life, how successful women are perceived, and believing in your own ability to be successful are all pertinent issues for those of us who start our own businesses.
She concludes by saying that a world in which half of the countries and companies in the world are run by women will be a better world. We may have a long ways to go before women hold 50% of the leadership positions in global politics and in corporate America, but in U.S. business as a whole, women have made greater strides. The most recent U.S. Census Bureau data from 2007 indicates that “businesses where women were owners or half-owners numbered 12.4 million firms, representing 45.7 percent of all firms.” This trend in women’s entrepreneurship, particularly when combined with the trend in sustainable business, is indeed a powerful combination that can move us closer to a better world.
You can view the video below and then share your thoughts about it in the comments.
The busiest election season of the year is coming up… how will you vote?
Yes, I know that the political mid-term elections are already behind us. However, that’s just one type of election: a political one. Every day, you vote many more times with your dollars. You may choose to support large corporations that focus on maximizing shareholder profits; small, independent businesses that are active in their local communities; or any number of other businesses in between. But with each purchase, you are casting a vote in support of that company’s practices.
This holiday season, you might consider supporting green, women-owned businesses. To get you started, here are a few suggestions (and in case you’re wondering, I’m not receiving any compensation for listing these companies). All of these businesses are either certified B Corporations or members of the Green America Business Network (GBN).
In addition to purchasing green gifts, you might also want to consider other holiday options such as making your own gifts, supporting charitable organizations through volunteering and/or donations, or choosing gifts that give back to women, which give back to the women who produced them.
Do you have a green product that would make a great holiday gift this season? If so, please share it in the comments!
Last Friday, approximately 200 women attended the Women’s Network for a Sustainable Future West Coast Summit. This gathering, held at IBM’s Almaden Research Center in San Jose, was a forum designed to allow women to “co-create a picture of success for the next phase of sustainability development.” Attendees represented the diverse mix of women in sustainable business, from MBA students to entrepreneurs to corporate executives.
The summit proved to be both interesting and informative. In particular, five questions were posed throughout the day to frame some of the larger issues around sustainability in business:
These are all, of course, questions that businesses are grappling with – developing long-term strategies in a dynamic environment, understanding the changing market, recognizing that success requires partnerships, creating jobs, and keeping employees engaged so as to retain the best talent.
The speakers included women who represented a wealth of experience in the field of sustainable business:
The statistics from the last few years confirm that women entrepreneurs are a force to be reckoned with. Women are starting businesses at twice the national rate, and the revenue from women-owned businesses is estimated at $2.8 trillion, according to an October 2009 report on the economic impact of women-owned businesses. If U.S.-based women-owned businesses were their own country, they would have the 5th largest GDP in the world.
At the same time, we’re seeing that many of our most common business practices are fundamentally unsustainable. For example, many businesses today are built on the use of cheap labor from third world countries to develop products full of toxins that are then shipped worldwide using fossil fuels. How long, realistically, can such a model be sustained? The rise of sustainable business is in large part due to the realization that business models dependent upon the indiscriminate use of both social and natural resources are not sustainable in the long term.
Both women-owned businesses and sustainable businesses are fairly new trends in business. Neither had an impact until perhaps the past 20 years, and weren’t even a consideration during the Industrial Revolution when many of our business practices were established. Now, however, they are both positioned to significantly change the way we do business in the 21st century.
The opportunity that we have with women-owned businesses is this: to harness that entrepreneurial activity and steer it in a sustainable direction. By doing so, we can demonstrate that businesses can be successful without depending upon the exploitation of workers in third-world countries. We can show that businesses can be successful without destroying our natural environment or exposing us to toxins in the products we bring into our homes. We can show that business has a role to play in mitigating the effects of climate change. We can develop businesses that benefit the communities in which they operate.
All of this is possible through sustainable business, which shows that businesses can be financially profitable while also being ecologically sustainable and socially beneficial. And women can lead the way, because we are the ones who are currently driving much of the entrepreneurial activity. If small businesses are the engine of the economy, then women are in the driver’s seat. We can choose the path that we want to take.
What do you think? Would you like to develop your business to be sustainable? Why or why not?