How to Turn Your Existing Business Green

turn your business greenBy Nellie Lide

So now, after reading my earlier article, Green Business Opportunities, you’re committed. You are convinced that going green is something you want to build into your business. You are ready to do it.

The question becomes, how?

For existing small businesses, going green can be anything from a wellness program for your employees to reducing your energy consumption to making a green (or greener) product. Or perhaps it means committing to a sustainable business model — a cradle to grave effort.

If you’re looking into going “green” figure out what that means for you and what makes sense for your business. You need to find what the Harvard Business Review called the “shared value”. In other words, does your green effort create a “meaningful benefit for society that is also valuable to the business.”

For instance, if you sell office supplies, it probably doesn’t make sense for you to sponsor a program at a nursing home. Instead, maybe you could open a section or your store with sustainable supplies or solicit supply donations to a school in your area — or if you’re in a relatively affluent area — then to a sister school in a disadvantaged area.

Also, don’t overlook the value of being a small local business — realize it is an advantage in consumers’ eyes. Kemi Osukoya recently wrote in the Wall Street Journal, “Many green consumers tend to see a small, local business as naturally more environmentally sound than a sprawling multinational. And small businesses can provide a personal touch that big ones can’t — which can be important when selling complicated eco-friendly wares.”

Actively engage in and promote the green life beyond what you sell. Be authentically green by consciously using less energy, trying to find local suppliers so your carbon footprint is smaller, and even live a green personal life. As a small business you owe nothing to shareholders or investors — which in the eyes of consumers, may make your business more trustworthy. The payback? Loyal customers, a decent business, and the satisfaction that you are doing good.

The other thing to keep in mind is the need to tell people about your green efforts — customers and suppliers and anyone else. Local papers and local television news always like a good story. Position your business as part of a larger story about how local businesses in the area are trying to improve the planet in lots of different ways.

And don’t underestimate the value of blogs. Write an article, offer an interview to a green blog — there are loads of them. Here’s a good list of “green blogs” to start with, and you can always look at their blogrolls for more:


World Changing

Clean Edge-The Clean Tech Marketing Authority

Ask Pablo — Sustainability Engineer


Green Trust Sustainability and Renewable Energy

Joel Makower

Lazy Environmentalist

Lime — Healthy Living with a Twist

Marketing Green

Organic Researcher

Envirolink Network — environmental resources

The Watt

Finally, I would also recommend these two books for an overview of green issues:

The Rough Guide to Shopping with a Conscience by Duncan Clark and Richie Unterberger.

Worldchanging: A User’s Guide for the 21st Century, edited by Alex Steffen.

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About the Author: Nellie Lide is Senior Creative Director at The McGinn Group in Arlington, Virginia, USA. She spent 20 years in television as a writer and producer for news, sports and children’s programming. At The McGinn Group, Nellie uses her creative insight and love of entertainment programming to identify and analyze cultural trends that are relevant to corporate clients. She also writes a blog called New Persuasion: Under Currents.


Nellie Lide

6 Reactions

  1. . . . and don’t forget the only professional website focusing on the greening of mainstream business:

  2. Thanks, Joel, for pointing out Yes, I have visited GreenBiz from time to time myself.


  3. What are the most frequently asked questions you get pertaining to greening small business and how do you respond to these questions?

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