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Inc. Magazine's 'Green 50' Celebrates Green Entrepreneurs
Joel Makower, 28 Oct 06

It's been a long time coming, but environmentally minded entrepreneurs are finally enjoying their day in the sun -- or, more specifically, the Klieg lights of the mainstream media.

Inc. magazine, in its November cover story, has named The Green 50 -- "a new set of entrepreneurs" that, cumulatively, are creating "a new way to think about being in business."

It's all good. My only question is: What took them so long?

Many of the companies named to the list will be familiar to longtime readers of Worldchanging (and of GreenBiz.com) for they are stalwarts of the sustainable business and clean technology marketplace. As always, there's Ray Anderson and Interface (is there any "green" list on which they don't appear?). There are icons of green business (Clif Bar, NaturaLawn, New Belgium Brewery, New Leaf Paper, Seventh Generation, Stonyfield Farm); rising stars among clean-energy companies (Energy Innovations, Greenfuel Technologies, Konarka Technologies, Nanosolar, Tesla Motors, Verdant Power); makers of green building products (AFM, Collins Co., Hayward Lumber, IceStone, Michelle Kaufmann Designs); and several lesser-known (for now) firms.

It's great to see many good friends listed here (including GreenOrder, with which I am affiliated). Overall, it's a good list. I can't think of many major omissions.

Unlike Inc.'s signature ranking -- the Inc. 500, which tracks the fastest-growing private companies -- the Green 50 is far more subjective. "There's nothing scientific about it," Larry Kanter, Inc.'s articles editor, told me. "There's no real methodology other than that we appreciated the passion and creativity that these business owners were bringing to their companies."

I asked Kanter if he was surprised by what he and his team of researchers and writers found. "We expected to find the venture-backed science and technology companies that were doing super-ambitious, Silicon Valley-kinds of start-ups," he replied. "But we also came across a lot of fairly anonymous companies that aren't particularly using sustainability as a marketing tool. They're doing it as something that's the right thing to do."

As an example, he pointed to the Belllingham, Washington-based Ryzex Group, which sells and repairs new and used bar code scanners and data-collection equipment. According to Inc.:

CEO Rud Browne started the business because he was sick of seeing old machines wind up in landfills when companies upgraded their systems. If Ryzex can't find the machines a home, it dismantles them and sells the parts to recyclers. And the commitment to sustainability doesn't end there. This year, the company, which expects revenue of $75 million in 2006, went 100 percent waste-free -- trash cans disappeared and staffers began recycling everything, even leftovers from lunch. To date, Ryzex has recycled 225,000 pounds of garbage, including over 15,000 pounds of paper, 1,400 pounds of bubble wrap, and countless Chinese food containers.

Of course, leave it to the mainstream media to oversimplify things. I'm referring specifically to a couple of sidebars that accompany the fifty write-ups. One, "How to Make Your Business Greener," offers the kind of "simple things you can do" advice I was writing back in 1991. ("Go paperless." "Get an energy audit." "Buy green.") It will represent progress when esteemed publications like Inc. begin telling companies how to go beyond such elementary steps to engage in more cutting-edge moves companies (including many in the article) are making: creating closed-loop manufacturing processes, turning products into services, harnessing nature's design protocols to develop new products, and all the rest.

There's also a temptation to quibble with the magazine's cover line: "Do Good, Get Rich." It's a little too reminiscent of the "doing well by doing good" mantra that's more than a little passé. Fact is, a lot of these companies, while no doubt concerned about "doing good," are driven by much less altruistic concerns. There are billions of dollars to be made providing clean energy, water, materials, services, and other staples of a more sustainable world. And the companies in the Green 50 are out to claim their unfair share.

Green business as a ruthlessly capitalistic pursuit: I kind of like that.

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Comments

i understand that all these inovations in energy use are necessary and fantastic. the company that i work with has developed a house that reduces energy use in heating and cooling by 75%(documented). put that with the technology for cars and trucks and now your consumption reduces to managable levels that the enviroment can deal with


Posted by: techbuilt on 31 Oct 06

With most of the world's current power supply coming from coal and other fossil fuels, we need a transition to clean, renewable energy sources that will protect the world's health, environment and quality of life. A commitment to clean energy would reduce pollution, create millions of high tech jobs, diversify our energy sources, add to global energy security and save billions of dollars. A much-needed transition to solar, wind power and other renewable energy in every region of the world holds the promise of a better future for us, our children and future generations.


Posted by: EV Rider on 3 Nov 06



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