And those changes are part of the motivation behind the People's Climate March on Sunday which drew thousands of marchers to New York and around the globe. The goal of the march, timed with the Climate Summit at the United Nations Tuesday, is to build awareness of the issue--and catalyze people into action.
Businesses, of course, have a carbon footprint and contribute to global warming too. While many business owners see an opportunity to innovate amid a changing climate, unfortunately, many others see rehabilitating the environment and making money as two opposing goals. But that's not necessarily the case.
To shed light on examples of why caring for the environment and growing a business aren't mutually exclusive, I checked in with some of the businesses that participated in this weekend's climate march.
As the following companies' stories show, you can indeed make money and work for positive environmental changes at the same time:
Diane McEachern, founder of BigGreenPurse.com, based in Washington, D.C., has the goal of educating consumers about climate change and climate issues. Her book, also called Big Green Purse, teaches consumers how they can make environmental changes through their spending. In addition, she gives talks and uses her website to inform consumers about what they're buying. For example, not all LED lighting, which is very popular with consumers, is the same. Some products are more energy efficient than others, and BigGreenPurse tries to get the word out about that. "My business model is to create information on products and give speeches and give workshops and work with companies to help them reach consumers when they create greener products," McEachern says.
Nicholas Pattison, co-founder and chief executive of Purible, runs an online retailer that focuses on well-designed, sustainable products such as T-shirts designed by the iconic Milton Glaser, backpacks, sunglasses and accessories. Based in Brooklyn, New York, Pattison also uses his website to profile companies making an effort to change production processes and lower their carbon footprints, such as Brooklyn Brewery, which has shifted to windpower to make its craft ales. "The challenge is getting people educated and interested in buying sustainably," Pattison says. "There is too much separation between what we buy and how it is made."
Josh Kammerer, founder of Austin-based Intelliroof, wants to change the way people shingle their roofs and to educate consumers about all of their home energy consumption habits. Intelliroof partners with contractors to install specially designed roofing that reflects sunlight and disperses heat, rather than trapping it. That's important to everyone, and particularly in Texas and the other sunbelt states, where roof temperatures can soar to 180 degrees in the summer. "Our perspective is not just to make money, but also to change the paradigm of how people use energy resources," Kammerer says. Even if customers don't buy the climate change rap, they usually pay attention to the bottom line, which is big savings on their home energy bills, Kammerer adds.
Operating sustainably is the future of business, says Andrew Winston, author of The Big Pivot, published by Harvard Business Review Press, because without it, the ability to do business won't be achievable.
Already, many large businesses, such as Walmart and Ford Motor Co., have gotten hip to the new realities, says Winston, who is attnending the march with is family. Part of the reason for their change is consumer demand for transparency about what they're consuming, and part of this is just good sense.
Walmart, for example, bans products that contain harmful chemicals like phthalates and BPAs from their shelves, not because there's any government regulation against them, but because consumers don't want them, Winston says. Similarly, Ford's best-selling F-1 50 pickup truck is designed to shed 700 pounds from earlier models, which saves on gas simply by shifting from steel to aluminum.
In all of this, there's an opportunity for small businesses, who may supply large companies, or who may seek to capitalize on helping companies become less wasteful through innovation.
"There's a need for small businesses to do better data tracking, and the need for technology that makes you more energy efficient or that saves water, and VCs are looking to fund these companies too," Winston says. "Small business is good at asking theoretical questions, and the upside for small business is that this is the next big wave for society."