Green Businesses

April 18, 2012: It’s Not Easy Being Green

Kermit the Frog was right. It really isn’t easy being a green-a green entrepreneur, that is-but for many, it’s worth it. In honor of Earth Day coming up this Sunday, let’s take a look at the green market.

Green businesses have gone from being anomalies to part of the business mainstream. As research firm IBISWorld observes, “As awareness of and concern for environmental issues grow, shoppers are demanding more locally grown food, retailers are selling more sustainable products, and businesses are implementing more eco-friendly practices. In the consumer products sector, many new companies with eco-friendly products have surfaced, while existing companies have altered current product lines or launched new ones. Examples run the gamut, from household cleaning sprays to cotton T-shirts to cereal packaging.”

Americans still claim they’re willing to pay more for products that are green, but it’s not a free ride. They expect you to prove your bona fides and be completely transparent. It helps to use independent third-party endorsements, testimonials and customer comments in your marketing, on your website and even on your product’s labels. In fact, about 30 percent of consumers verify a business’ greenness by seeking the opinions of other consumers.

Green opportunities range from the small to the enormous, like clean energy, which has been funded to the tune of hundreds of billions of investment dollars. You have to be a bit cautious, though. There’s a lot of buzz about the opportunities in solar and wind power generation, and IBISWorld stats show revenues in the solar panel manufacturing industry have grown an average of 34.8 percent per year. But the high capital requirements put the solar and wind industries out of the reach of most startups.

One field that might be more welcoming for startups is the fast-growing $19 billion environmental consulting industry. IBISWorld forecasts it will grow more than 9 percent a year and become a $30 billion dollar industry by 2016. There are actually two big business opportunities here. Between Americans feeling more socially responsible (women in particular and Millennials in general), and the government offering incentives for going green to both consumers and businesses, there’s been a rising need for consultants to help American consumers and businesses get green.