At West Coast Green, Gil Friend, CEO of Natural Logic (NatLogic.com) discusses his motivations for writing The Truth About Green Business, and talks about some of the incredible opportunities for entrepreneurs in the Green sector.
Gil Friend (GF): I’ve been wanting to write a book for years, I have five… I’ve been working on sustainability for about 37 years. I’ve learned a lot along the way, I have a lot of knowledge to share and people have been asking me for years, where’s your book? Last year, financial times press approached me and asked me to do this, and so… and they provided a great format to bore the knowledge down into a very useful and practical structure. The book’s organized in 52 very brief chapters. Two, three pages each which gets you right into the nuts and bolts of what do you do about this? How do you make it work? Whether you’re a large company, a small company, whether you’re new in sustainability or seasoned in sustainability.
Lorna Li (LL): Sir, can you help us understand what exactly a “Green Business” is?
GF: The way we put it right on the cover is that you don’t have to choose between making money and making sense. So, while a lot of businesses may think, “oh I’d like to be green but I can’t afford to do it”, we say, “no, no, you can actually do both of these, in fact being green will help you be more profitable, more successful and more satisfied.
LL: That’s definitely very inspiring. So what would you say are the hot trends in green business today?
GF: Well, green business itself is the hot trend. The uptake of this is phenomenal across the society. We see this most obviously around clean tech and energy efficiency, renewable energy, better than the last couple of years. It’s been an enormous shift in how businesses think about green or sustainability. It’s gone from assuming that it’s something for the tree huggers and granola eaters. It’s gone from assuming that you have to sacrifice profits to be green or be responsible. To companies that understanding increasingly, that this is part of sense of a business, it makes sense as a business not to waste. Waste is pouring profits down the drain, so why do that? It makes sense to use energy sources that are reliable, it makes sense to operate in a way that not only satisfies but delights your costumers, both with what they want today and what they’re going to want in the future. So increasingly businesses understand that this is good strategy, this is good business and its good ethics in a way to live in the world.
LL: So with unemployment at an all time high, there’s a lot of people that are getting into their own businesses right now. What would you say are great opportunities for green entrepreneurs to get into?
GF: How much time do you have? There’s a vast number of opportunities. It depends on people’s skills and of course depends on their passions. If you’re going to be a successful entrepreneur you have to do something that you really care about not just something you think is a good opportunity. But lets, you know, sort of rattle off the list. Home energy efficiency improvements, waste reduction, green products, local crafts, recycling. Here’s an example, there’s a guy who has a business on eBay he goes out to golf courses, he collects dead golf balls or lost golf balls, takes them home, cleans them up and sells them on eBay, so it’s a recycling business, secondary materials, twenty million dollars a year revenue.
LL: Used golf balls earn twenty million dollars a year?
GF: Used golf balls… one..
LL: On eBay
GF: One company, twenty million dollars a year. So imagine, where.. you know. Look around you where’s all the waste in society, where are the things that are used once and thrown away? Where are the things that have quality and then for more lifecycles how do you put them to work, how do you find… how do you match the source and the market? There’s business opportunity in waste exchanges, companies are produce enormous amounts of material that go down the drain or to the landfill or up to smokestack much of that is material that could be a raw material for some other company. Making that match, it’s a standard… standard business operation or brokerage, arbitrage, linking one supplier with another, great opportunities there. Renewable energies, vast opportunities that takes more technical knowledge and more capital granted. But there’s another opportunity, enormous amount of potential on carbon emissions and climate change. But sitting right behind that is concern about water. So opportunities in water efficiency, water… contact products that improve water efficiency, systems to measure whether water… energy, I mean the list goes on and on, you tell me how much time you have. I’ll decide how long a list to go through. The point is that there is a whole new economy opening up here, we have the opportunity to reinvent industrial society from the last several century, in this century and to broaden economy that operates on renewable energy. That is zero waste, that is minimal use of toxics, well you know, frankly just the way nature operates and or job now is to bring that operating system that 3.8 billion years of experience living systems have and bring that into the world of business.
LL: So here’s a question that we’re all dying to find out the answer to. Gil does going green have to cost more money?
GF: No, going green doesn’t have to cost more money and I’m glad you said it the way that you did because it doesn’t necessarily cost more, it doesn’t necessarily cost less. It depends on how smart you are and how you operate. But it’s a key question because most people, most businesses, most environmental activists, even most government officials assume that “Green” will cost money, and you know, assume that there’s added cost involved or sacrifice of quality involved and the evidence is that flat out, is not true. Herman Miller, the furniture company built a lead gold certified building in Michigan seven years ago that cost, oh gosh, 20-25% less than the typical office building. Most people assume that lead will cost you more, they designed it well enough and managed the project well enough, and built it well enough so that the up front cost of the building were lower and of course the operating cost of the building were lower and the quality, air quality and the quality of the work experience inside the building was better, and the productivity of the people inside the building is higher. You put those together there’s no reason in the world not to do this.
LL: That’s fantastic. It’s really good to know that going green doesn’t have to impact the business bottom line.
GF: Let me just correct you on that. Going green will impact the business bottom line but do it positively.
GF: You don’t have to choose between making money and making sense. You get to do both if you’re clear on your focus and you do it well.
LL: Fantastic! Thank you so much for your time Gil. This was Gil Friend from Natural Logic and we’re here today at West Coast Green the premiere conference on Green Building Innovation I’m Lorna Li from Marketing 2.0 on camera is Steve Morozumi from SF enthusiast if you want to learn more about green business go get the book “The Truth About Green Business” from your local, independently owned bookstore. Thanks a lot and bye for now.
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