From dreams to reality, your business plan is a guiding document that describes the heart and soul of your business. Along with details about your products and/or services and how you intend to deliver them, a business plan will provide financial information, forecasts, and other operational information pertinent to bringing to fruition the goals of your business. Though writing a business plan takes time, mental and emotional effort, and collaboration with key stakeholders for your organization, without a plan, your business may be operating without direction and purpose.
As a green business, a business plan is as important (if not more so) than any other organization and contains all of the same elements. However, for any organization looking to set themselves apart from the competition based on environmentally-preferable operations, products, or services, the environment should play a large part in the narrative of the business plan. It is to the green business plan that we now turn in order to explain how it is different than a conventional business plan.
What is a Green” Business Plan?
How is it different from a regular business plan? Just like a conventional business plan, a green business plan will include all of the basics:
- Summary of business goals and/or mission statement
- Information on business structure
- Overview of your competition
- Marketing plans
- Financial information and plans
When it comes right down to it, a green business plan considers not just people and profit, but also the planet. This is known commonly as the triple bottom line (TBL or 3BL). So rather than just looking at the financial viability of a business idea, a green business plan will also take matters of the environment seriously, considering how the business will impact the planet from start to finish.
That means for every portion of the green business plan, the reader will have to come away with some understanding as to how the environment fits into that portion of the plan. In other words, the mission statement should say something about how ecology fits into your guiding principles. In the business structure, the environment should figure largely into your day to day operations. When comparing your business to the competition, you’ll want to detail how your business stands apart because of your environmental focus. And your marketing plans should not only include eco-friendly methods, but plans for getting your green message to your customers. If you truly want to develop a green business, the planet should be included in every aspect of your business planning.
Resources for Writing your Green Business Plan
Getting your green business off the ground should start with a solid business plan, but this process can be intimidating for the newbie to the business world, especially if you’re contemplating incorporating green into your business plan. Thankfully, there are numerous free and fee-based resources online to help you spread your wings in the green business world, with things like templates, software programs, guides, and networks into which you can plug to get ideas, guidance, and all of the information you need to get your green business dreams off the ground.
- Bplans.com – Sample business plans, templates, and videos: How-to articles, sample plans, blogs, forums, and software for getting your business plan written.
- Business plan – BDC: Templates and sample business plans along with legal advice for new Canadian businesses.
- Business Planning. The Exasperating Made Simple – A Primer for Freelances and Small Shop Principles: A great article on some of the most perplexing problems faced by new business owners.
- Canada Business Plans: Articles and tips on how to write plans and avoid the biggest mistakes, as well as hands-on consulting if you need a little more help.
- Center for Business Planning: A whole host of resources including software and directories for investors.
- Developing your business plan – Government of Canada, Business: Advice from the government on writing good business and how to avoid the most common pitfalls when new to the world of business planning.
- Green Business – Green America by Coop America: Networking, resources, and technical assistance for people developing socially and environmentally responsible businesses.
- Green Business Conference – Green America by Coop America: A regularly-held business conference for green companies as well as an online community.
- Green Business Plan.com: A certification program for emerging green businesses.
- Honing Your Business Plan: Helpful advice on how to perfect your business plan.
- Startup Nation: A vibrant online community for newbies to the business world.
- The Green Business Plan Guide – Green for All: A comprehensive guide to writing your green business plan.
- US Small Business Administration: US government program for supporting small businesses.
Steps to Writing a Green Business Plan
Now that you have some general information about writing business plans, as well as some guidance as to how to include eco-factors in your business planning, let’s go over just a few of the most important factors to keep in mind as you write your green business plan:
- Mission statement: This is perhaps the key to completing an air-tight green business plan. Keep in mind as you write your green mission statement your personal goals (make them concrete!) as well as your overarching philosophy. What is your reason for wanting to develop a green business? What will it look like when it is successful? What outcomes do you want to see come to being as a result of your green business?
- Contributions to the green economy: As one green business in a sea of many eco-focused green businesses, you’re part of a larger community of business builders looking to make the planet a more sustainable, healthy place. Each member of the community is important for what they contribute. What will your green business add to this green business economy? A market for recycled goods? A way to use locally-produced waste? A service for reducing greenhouse gas emissions? Better systems for saving resources in the supply chain? Funding for small ecological clean-up projects? Whatever it is, be sure that you’re enhancing the community with your knowledge, skills, and resources so that you’re part of the larger solution.
- Input from stakeholders: Your customers, employees, community members, suppliers, investors, and advisors/directors all have a stake in your green business. Consulting them to get their input on your green business plans will be an important step to ensuring business success. And you may just find some additional ideas and resources you didn’t know you had when consulting those who will be most impacted by your eco-friendly business.
Best of luck to you as you embark on bringing your green business dreams to reality. With a solid business plan, you’ll have clear direction for how your business will benefit the environment!