Green entrepreneurship: innovation for the good of the planet?

In the current climate, ecology is making headlines. Every year, new environmental issues are raised, and new questions are asked about how to address these within various areas of society, whether economic, social, cultural or political. There have been a number of initiatives aiming to tackle such issues and link economic projects with ecological issues. In this overview, we will take a closer look at various approaches related to green entrepreneurship.


More than just a good gesture for the planet, it’s a new way of doing business

At first, the term might seem a little simplistic or overused, however green entrepreneurship is a trend that deserves to be clarified, perhaps even redefined. The mission of the green entrepreneur, or eco-responsible entrepreneur, is to bridge the gap between theoretical knowledge and productive tools. In fact, its objective is to create an economy that respects the environment and its ecosystems.

From a broader perspective, green entrepreneurship is part of the economic sector and aims to establish a widespread awareness of environmental issues and the role of sustainable development. It seeks to raise awareness of environmental issues among decision-makers and promote new projects that have a positive impact on the environment on a local or global scale.

As defined by UNEP, green entrepreneurship is about improving human well-being and social equality, as well as reducing environmental risks. A beach cleaning company in New Zealand would therefore be considered green entrepreneurship. As a result, green entrepreneurship attracts many different jobs! Today, the waste and wastewater management industry generates half of the jobs in this sector. “Eco-activities” employ around 500,000 people around the globe, with examples including heat pump and solar panel installation, waste recycling and eco-friendly refurbishments.


A model that promotes sustainable and creative growth

While the primary objective of green entrepreneurship is to have a positive impact on the environment, it is also important to stress that creativity is at the very heart of this business model. Indeed, “green creativity” aims to limit the polluting emissions of the richest countries, while improving the standard of living in developing countries. Michael Braungart and Bill McDonough’s approach of advocating a positive ecological footprint has revolutionized the way we should think about the creation of new goods and services. According to them, every new object we design must be biodegradable so that it can sustain at least one ecosystem on Earth, and can be reused indefinitely in our biosphere as material for new products. Tomorrow’s growth must be sustainable and creative, but above all cyclical.


The powerful leverage effect of successful green entrepreneurs

Elon Musk (Tesla’s CEO) is perhaps the best example of a creative and visionary green entrepreneur. He has succeeded in combining a long-term vision with a bold goal of reducing carbon emissions through his inventive and ambitious business. Tesla’s strategy was to build and popularize electric cars starting with an expensive roadster (car model), followed by a luxury sedan and ending with an affordable family car. Tesla also managed to break away from the traditional dealer model by selling its vehicles directly to consumers. As a result, the automotive group has installed affordable charging stations for Tesla customers throughout the United States, which has enabled them to dramatically change the conventional gas station business model across the country. The latest addition to this innovative model is the ability for drivers to charge their electric vehicles using solar or wind power. This example shows that Tesla’s objective is twofold: to have a long-term economic vision and to assume its leadership position in a sustainable and ecologically beneficial global industry.

Several levels of involvement for the green entrepreneur

Green entrepreneurship is possible at all levels. While this alternative model of entrepreneurship needs success stories like Tesla’s to gain visibility, it also relies on initiatives that are more grounded in everyday life. Let’s take the example of Ecosia! Ecosia is a German non-profit search engine which has committed to planting trees in specific geographical areas in order to link digital technology with the fight against large-scale deforestation. It also neutralizes all the carbon emissions of its servers. It takes an average of 45 searches to plant a tree, and thanks to this innovative system, more than 75 million trees have been planted since the project was launched in 2009 in countries such as Kenya, Colombia, Haiti, Burkina Faso and Peru. Other innovative search engines allow us to add value to the countless requests we make online, such as Lilo, which donates 50% of its advertising revenues to fund social and environmental projects. These entrepreneurial initiatives are multiplying, with some trying to solve domestic problems, such as food waste. A new rapidly growing market has been created based on apps that recover unsold goods from local shops at a lower cost. Apps such as Too Good to Go, Karma or Food Hero make it possible to consume products that would otherwise be thrown away, in France or elsewhere.


An essential new business model

Green entrepreneurship therefore responds to crucial environmental and social issues. While its impact is immediate when it comes to tangible solutions designed to limit waste or tackle deforestation, its vision is indeed forward-looking. Green entrepreneurs, committed to changing business models, are also leading the way in anticipating new business shifts for a more sustainable economy.