Five Green Business Trends For 2010

Five Green Business Trends For 2010Small businesses are no longer cutting edge by calling themselves “green.” Big corporations like Wal-Mart and Nike down to the corner café are cultivating a greener image as consumer demand for environmentally responsible products and operations quickly goes mainstream.

What this means:  Businesses genuinely trying to limit their environmental toll must now work harder to authenticate their green practices and convince consumers they’re for real – not just throwing around green lingo.

The next phase of green business evolution will focus on businesses being more earnest an all-encompassing about their environmental sustainability practices and marketing. Here, then, are some green trends to pay attention to in 2010.

1. Transparency. Consumers want to know where products are sourced, what they’re made of and why they’re better than the status quo. Businesses are responding by giving them more information than ever before. Some restaurants, for instance, include the name and location of the local farm it buys chickens from and the conditions they were raised under. A “green” dry cleaner might describe its cleaning process on its Web site, so customers understand why the process is less environmentally harmful than traditional dry cleaning.

2. Measuring footprints. To be transparent, businesses must themselves know how much carbon they generate, how much water they use and other factors contributing to their environmental toll. What’s more businesses are paying more attention to environmental friendliness of their supply chain. Many big companies have take steps to measure their carbon footprints. But small businesses increasingly are, too.  Some online tools are making it easier for businesses to calculate their footprints. Find some tools here.

3. Engaging customers. Savvy green businesses aren’t just trumpeting their own environmental good deeds. They’re engaging customers in the conversation. Some are starting their own green initiatives, such as handing out reusable bags or encouraging customers to recycle products they buy. One green cleaning service I know hands out customer tip sheets on how to clean green, using household basics like baking soda, vinegar and lemons.

4. Green buildings. It’s no longer enough just to sell a green product or service – businesses are realizing they must practice what they preach in their own facilities. President Obama has pushed energy efficiency into the national spotlight, and provided money to governments to hand out to businesses in 2010 for energy upgrades. Many utilities, being held to stringent energy-reduction standards, are also throwing money at customers who make upgrades. This year, many businesses are finally looking to take advantage of the incentives.

5. Managing e-waste. Office electronics, such as computers and printers, create hazardous waste. So more small companies are turning to recycling and learning how to dispose of equipment in eco-friendlier ways. But you have to be careful which recycler you use – some are less green than others. Manufacturers are also rolling out more “green computers” and other green electronics.


Kelly Spors Kelly Spors is a former small-business and entrepreneurship reporter and blogger for The Wall Street Journal who has also written for Yahoo!, Entrepreneur, NFIB's MyBusiness magazine and The New York Times. Kelly is now a freelance editor and writer based in Minneapolis and has previously managed communications for an environmental non-profit that helps businesses find ways to be greener.

11 Reactions
  1. Kelly,

    Great article! Thank you for letting the Small Business Trends community what the future looks like in all things green.

    C’mon Folks! Do some good for our planet this year!

    The Franchise King

  2. I completely agree with all the trends listed here, mainly because I saw them emerging in late 2009. I’m happy to see them moving to the forefront as all of them involve communicating with the customer on a deeper level and helping the environment.

  3. Indeed there is a need for companies to start putting their money where their mouth is in regards to their going green promises…

    Its no longer “trendy” to say your a green company you now have to prove it and I love the emerging trend of being more transparent. I believe the more you expose to your customers and the more accessible your are will lead to better business…

    Thanks and Regards

    Noel for
    a graphic design studio

  4. Are we sure? I wonder if there is any research to show that customers really care. And do customers on the west coast care more than others?

    And how are the challenges to global warming data changing this game?

    On my side I find a lot of people who love the “green” stuff – but I also see people turned off by companies who think they are saving the world.

    While I am not commenting so much about is global warming true or not (although as a recovering scientist I do have an opinion about the science) — I am just wondering are we all jumping up and down thinking our customers care without knowing for sure.

  5. Being green has to make financial sense. Either you save money by going green or you are able to command a price premium because your product or service is green. If you can’t meet at least one of these conditions being green is just a gimmick.

  6. I have to say that I disagree with you on that, Robert. Most people tend to see sustainable practices in that black-and-white perspective, but there is a third, potentially more beneficial road to follow when considering the business incentive of sustainability – increased productivity. Study after study continually shows that switching to more energy efficient lighting, redesigning or reformatting office spaces to make use of natural lighting, improving indoor air quality through any number of means, engaging employees in sustainability, etc. can significantly increase productivity within your business and can be a major boon to your bottom line. The fact is that if a business only considers the potential energy savings when analyzing a efficiency project, it is doing itself a major disservice. It is true that doing a lighting retrofit – while one of the efficiency projects with the fastest payoff – may take updwards of 2-3 years to reach 100% payback if you simply consider energy savings and utility avoidance costs. But you also have to consider increased productivity, reduced employee strain and absenteeism, and the decreases in employee errors that result from a project of this sort. This can cut the payback period down substantially and take ROI up to more than 100%.

  7. Tim, you are absolutely spot on. After reading through some of the discussion, I was going to be sure to mention how you have to include not only energy savings but, as I call it, “employee savings” as well. There is no question, for me anyways, that going green is the right call. You are helping the environment out, you will be saving money via savings, tax breaks, etc, and improving your reputation among constituents. And in response to Dale, while there may be those people that are “turned off” by companies who think they are “saving the world”, I think the fact of the matter is that those companies are indeed doing that or at least contributing to making our world healthier and that is something to be proud of and in the long run, if not the short run, the best choice. I’ve read articles stating that Wall Street investors take into account green practices of companies to help them determine if the business will last into the future. Long and short, it is a good move.

    Someone who I have found to be extremely helpful in this business is Jim Simcoe. You can check out his website here:

Win $100 for Vendor Selection Insights

Tell us!
No, Thank You