Ecopreneurship- Entrepreneurs and Ecology



At a very basic level, an ecopreneur is a person or entity which provides environmentally friendly services, goods, and technology such as recycling, green construction, or organic food. (Schaper, Michael.2002).  The term ecopreneur became quite popular in recent times as people and organizations became more concerned about environmental degradation caused by the activities of large companies who are only concerned about economic success. An ecopreneur is a business person or entity concerned about the whole humanity and the world we live in, and whose primary motive is not only to make profits, but to serve the humanity and to ensure that the world’s resources are available for the new generations. Large companies are also becoming more and more concerned with the concept of ecopreneurship as they find long term benefits in this model.

Ecopreneurship defined

The term “ecopreneur” is derived from two terms which are “entrepreneur” and “ecology.

            An entrepreneur is a person who undertakes innovations, finance and business acumen in an effort to transform innovations into economic goods and who accepts the risks associated with them. ( Schaper, Michael.2002) He can be anyone who identifies an opportunity in a market and has a belief that it would succeed in the economy and on that belief he starts exploiting the opportunity. They may create a new organization or may be a part of an existing organization where they revitalize the organization in response to their perceived opportunity. Generally, the word entrepreneur is used to denote a person who starts a new business but with time and more understanding of the subject, the revised definition of an  entrepreneur also includes “intrapreneurs”, that is an entrepreneur operating within a corporate environment. Entrepreneurs are the strategic factors in economic development and the central factors in the trade cycle as they are the driving force of an economy.

            Ecology or environmental biology is the branch of biology which takes into consideration the examination of living organisms in the natural environment. It includes the study of individuals, populations, communities, and ecosystems. (Goliath.2002).The ecology has reached enormous importance in the last years because of man’s interest in the environment in which he lives and to find ways to protect the environment in order to make it sustainable.

            The word ecopreneur is a portmanteau of “ecological” and “entrepreneur.” An ecopreneur is an individual who is focused on ecologically-friendly issues and causes, attempting to do business in a way which benefits the environment. He may not be a person or entity only involved in products like solar powered cells, water conservation system or compostable packaging. In fact, an ecopreneur is anyone who ranks environment more than or equally to profits as his most effective criteria as a business owner (reuters, 2007) . “While many entrepreneurs may be motivated, at least in part, to the mantra of “greed is great” on their journey to becoming a millionaire, growing numbers of ecopreneurs are adopting a different course, focusing on solving the problems facing society through the businesses they create, greening their bottom line. Many are redefining their wealth, as we have, not by the size of their bank account or square footage of their home. Wealth is defined by life’s tangibles: health, wellness, meaningful work, vibrant community life and family.”(John Ivanko.) . The main aim of an ecopreneur is to build a firm which is more sustainable and environmentally friendly.

            Sustainability development is a pattern of resource use such that it not only meets present human needs, but also preserves the environment so that the resource can also be utilized by the future generations. Sustainability is the balance of three spheres which are Economic, Social and Environmental. The three spheres and their interconnection can be understood from the following diagram:

What is an Ecopreneur?

“An entrepreneur whose business efforts are not only driven by profit, but also by a concern for the environment”.(Schuyler. 1998). The terms such as “Sustainopreneur”, “environmental Entrepreneur” and “eco capitalist” are synonymous with ecopreneur. The characteristics of ecopreneurs are:

·         They all undertake business ventures which involves a measure of risk

·         They must identify a feasible business opportunity

·         Their activities must have a positive impact on the environment.

·         The degree of intentionality separates ecopreneurs from accidental entrepreneurs.

The driving forces behind ecopreneurship are as follows:

1.      Global population growth: Ecopreneurs realize that as the resources and land area is limited, so it is their responsibility to ensure that there are enough resources not only to fulfill the needs of the current population which is growing continuously, but also for the future generations. Hence they should find ways to conserve energy, materials, and resources by developing new technologies or finding ways to control birth rate and finding ways to meet the food and shelter demand for the growing population in order to make sustainability possible.

2.      Increasing life expectancy: Ecopreneurs value life, not only their own and of family members, but of the whole humanity. They want everyone to live a longer and healthier life, that is why they develop products and ways to increase life expectancy such as healthier food, purified water etc.

3.      Climate change: Climate shapes the way we live on this planet and the way we live, work and play is advertently changing the climate.  The pollutants released in the air due to use of fossil fuels is adversely affecting the climate. In order to sustain the climate, ecopreneurs are involved in finding alternate ways to produce energy such as using wind, water and solar energy.

4.      Resource scarcity: The diminishing natural resources are a great issue as we will be left with no natural resources if we do not sustain them. In order to sustain them, ecopreneurs constantly look for alternatives by recycling them or using a cheaper, abundantly available resource if possible.

5.      Lack of equity in the world: the people of the world are living in a continuum, with one end which has all the facilities of the world including the best quality food, water and home, while on the other end are people who do not even have the basic necessities of life. Ecopreneurs want to make sure that every living being on the world is treated equally so that no one is deprived of anything. That is why they are active members of movements such as WTO and also find ways to produce goods and services affordable by everyone. They are also involved in philanthropic acts such as giving charity donations to help the deprived people of the society (Environlution, 2010).

Ecopreneurs can utilize green issues as a competitive advantage for their enterprises on the basis of the four principles known as Natural Step principles. The guidelines in these principles are (Harper, gavin.2009):

1.      Energy and Resource Use Efficiency and Maximization:

“In nature, one-way linear flows do not long survive. Nor, by extension, can they long survive in the human economy that is a part of the earth's ecosystem. The challenge is to redesign the materials economy so that it is compatible with the ecosystem”. (Lester Brown. Earth Policy Institute). By minimizing waste production and maximizing reuse of waste streams, sustainable business can potentially significantly increase profits.

2.      Ecosystem Services: Services related to protection of ecosystem and natural resources and preventing environmental degradation can be an inspiration for a green business idea for ecopreneurs.

3.      Natural step principles: ecopreneurs can see potential risks, such as extinction of substances extracted from the Earth’s crust or overharvesting etc, as opportunities for success through green business.

4.      Eco- efficiency and eco- effectiveness: ecopreneurs should find methods of decreasing waste while increasing productivity such that the waste of the production process and the product itself can be the raw materials of a new product of service.

Sustainability development over the next several decades offers vast new business opportunities with value up to $6.2 trillion (Connor, Michael.2010). Companies who are proactive in their approach and want to survive in the long run can utilize these opportunities to generate large profits and at the same time build rapport for being environment friendly. According to a study, by 2050, there would be vast opportunities for businesses as the global challenges of growth, urbanization; scarcity and environmental change would become the strategic drivers for businesses (Connor, Michael.2010). Moreover, in today’s time, the awareness and the effort to protect the environment have increased to a great extent. People expect from the companies that they should not only be there to make profits, but must also serve the society and the environment because, after all, the society and the environment are the driving forces of any company. The term “Corporate Social Responsibility” or commonly known as CSR is used to denote to a business’s responsibility towards the society and environment. Many companies are now engaged in CSR activities. But, the biggest hindrance in the company’s efforts to protect the environment and for long term good of the company is the stakeholders who expect only economic success from the companies which is usually measured in short spans of time. Capital is extremely mobile, so stockholders are more interested in policies that quickly generate profits by raise in share prices rather than in policies which would work for the long term success of the company (Cobb, John B.1998).  .

     By implementing ecopreneurial policies, companies can achieve both objectives, that is, generate profits to keep stockholders happy and at the same time achieve sustainability (Shah, Anup.2002). For example, companies can save fuel costs by using energy efficient mechanisms which would ultimately result is more profits as the total cost would reduce. Moreover, the company can also gain popularity by adopting green businesses which would help in gathering a larger market share as consumers today are more attracted towards companies which are environmentally friendly. Companies can also gain competitive advantage if they find niche in the green-industry and are able to become efficient by increasing the productivity (Goliath, 2002). Companies who enter the market with a long term vision of surviving and growing for decades such as Coca Cola and P&G, are concerned about the protection of natural resources and the environment as they would be needing them in the years to come, that is why they try to find means of preserving them or by finding ways to minimize their uses by reusing the same resources.

      We have examples of many companies who have become very profitable by adopting the business models of ecopreneurs. Industries such as recycling plants, energy production by using waste materials, using byproducts for packaging and making new products etc have grown a lot in the recent years and still there are innumerable opportunities in the green- industry. By exploiting these opportunities, companies can not only make profits but can also protect the environment and make it sustainable for the new generations.



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