Five Green Business Trends for 2011

It’s wasn’t so easy being “green” when the economy was blue. But as the U.S. economy looks brighter in 2011 – as most hope and expect it will — businesses will be more focused on long-term sustainability.

A key part of that is environmental sustainability.

Environmentally responsible business practices are quickly becoming a top priority for many businesses, as more realize the financial benefits and competitive advantages that come with it. But being a “green business” now and in the future will demand even more transparency over green practices and less tolerance for fuzzy green marketing.

Green Business Trends for 2011

Here’s a look at some green business trends to expect in 2011:

1.     Charting progress and success. Many big corporations like Microsoft and Walmart are creating teams of employees focused exclusively on environmental sustainability and have executives to oversee those teams. This will undoubtedly raise the bar for every company, large and small. More businesses will weave environmental sustainability into their business plans and budgets, writing full-blown sustainability plans and benchmarking their progress. Don’t be surprised to see more businesses devoting sections of their Web sites to describing their carbon- and resource-saving initiatives.

2.     Eco-managing the supply chain. It’s easy to unravel a company’s green image if consumers find out its products are sourced in environmentally unfriendly ways. So companies will continue to dig deeper into the green practices of their suppliers and hold them to higher standards, such as creating supplier scorecards.

3.     LEDs get more play. As the New York Times reported last summer, some LED (light-emitting diodes) light bulbs’ prices dropped to less than $20 in 2010, and prices are expected to drop substantially over the next few years. With lighting one of the biggest energy costs for so many businesses, a growing number of them are likely to start replacing older, less-efficient lights with LEDs, which use at least 75 percent less energy than incandescents and even less than compact fluorescent lights (CFLs). Moreover, many utilities are introducing rebates to make the upfront costs of LED lighting more palatable.

4.     Greater employee engagement. More companies are realizing they need their employees’ help identifying ways to reduce their environmental footprint. As a result, they will be communicating with employees more frequently about their green practices and soliciting new ideas, using green teams and other engagement techniques.

5.     Smarter green marketing. Companies are also getting savvier about communicating their environmental sustainability initiatives with their customers and the public. More will be engaging their customers in the conversation in creative ways, launching public awareness campaigns about green issues connected to their business and helping their customers see why their green practices make a difference. Don’t be surprised to see more businesses devoting sections of their websites to describing their carbon- and resource-saving initiatives.

What will you be doing different with your green practices in 2011?


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.

4 Reactions
  1. Green definitely became much more mainstream in 2010. Hopefully it’s not just a trend and will eventually become the way it is.

    In 2011, I will be doing my best to work with green business to extend their reach and brands online. Many are short staffed and don’t have the ability to have an impact.

  2. Hi Kelly,
    I love the LED developments going on. Plus, the carbon-saving aspect is going to be huge. You nailed it with the special sections on websites – companies want to talk about what they are doing and this one is clearly measurable, verifiable.

  3. My impression is that the green movement is getting less “trendy”. Do you think this will affect how companies approach green initiatives in the next year?

  4. Tynnisha Hamilton

    Environmental sustainability is definitely becoming a huge priority for many businesses. As a consumer, I specifically look for companies that are taking the initiative to go green. I no longer want to waste my money on a company who is laying waste to the world.

    I love that restaurants are getting their ingredients locally, I love that many businesses are choosing paperless and doing more tasks electronically, and I definitely love the new eco-friendly architecture that is going on.

    I might have to agreed with Robert and say that yes, it may be getting less “trendy” but only because it is becoming more of a lifestyle. At least, I am hoping it is anyways. This “trend” shouldn’t just be about the tax refunds that they may be getting or the publicity. It should be, in part, about them doing something good for the environment and becoming a positive role model for the rest of the country.