The Initiative for Green Habitats represents a long term commitment towards providing solutions for the creation of Sustainable Built Environments. This blog attempts to provide an insight to our views, commentaries on our work, ideas that we are working on, and provoke thought where there are more questions than answers.

Saturday, November 7, 2009

The Business of Green

Opportunities galore they say! Entrepreneurs are meant to feel excited by the various doomsday scenarios dished out to our target audiences. Yes, it is true... our rivers are running dry, weather patterns seem to be changing, fuel prices are threatening to go up, many of our resources are dearer by the day, national emblems- tigers, lions, gharials can now be counted on ones fingertips.....

But has all this made 'green businesses' any more lucrative than before? Has it really? It is equally true that a perceivable change towards greener development is being seen. Buildings are going green, cars are going green, power and fuel is going green, textiles are going green, food products are greener (read organic), governments are imposing compliance standards and banning polluting practices. Ok, so the going green has caught on. So, green entrepreneurs must be seeing surging growth rates and newer markets adding to their burgeoning TG...... Well, that's where it gets weird. No, not all is green in the sustainability trade.

Why are we not hearing great success stories of green entrepreneurs? At least in the numbers that we expect after we hear all the positive stories. Rainwater harvesting schemes are limited to a few instances, green homes are for the exclusive few, Green paints have not dislodged regular paints, Are the technologies or services Then what is?

Now let us look at consumers and mindsets at large. Have these perceptions changed?
  • Why should I save power… it really does not pinch my purse
  • Why should I harvest water…. My current water is available pretty cheap.
  • No sense of urgency as the impending absence of these natural resources and environmental aspects don’t pinch us at all.
  • I don’t mind participating as long as it doesn’t cost me.
  • What is in it for me?
  • The environment is a cool thing to be associated with…. The truth is that I may not do a thing further.
  • Why should I manage my waste? I don’t get anything from doing so.
We have found these views being echoed all over. We know some of the reasons too.... water and power are relatively cheap, we don't pay much for waste management, in fact we dont get taxed heavily if we dump too much waste, the costs of green alternatives are high, and more importantly, green solutions don't talk the language of the mainstream. No guarantees on water security, no clarity on the clear benefits of the product... to the extent that green is considered pretty vague that necessitates the employment of specialists.

So what should green entrepreneurs be doing? At IGH we have been working on the following:
  1. Better communication based on sound knowledge. Involve your consumer in understanding all sides to a sustainable alternative.
  2. A parallel conversion activity... through viral awareness campaigns which aims at increasing acceptance amongst the masses
  3. Find ways in monetising the customer's financial obstacles
  4. Ensure that a high impact solution is found that can cut across all sections of society
  5. Collaboration- Many entrepreneurs end up re-inventing the wheel, when by working with others who are already involved in their focus area, would have enabled them to start from a higher rung.
  6. Knowledge building- Actually this should be high up on the list. IGH has been working on putting together various information sets on all things green. This forms the backbone of all the work that we do.... the value that we add.
What else would help?
  • Unsustainable alternatives should be heavily taxed.... same logic as polluter pays.
  • Governments need to get bolder... if not have a larger vision of sustainability from a national perspective. The idea is to make sustainable development an imperative not a choice (as it is currently).
  • Increased spending on R&D by individuals, corporates and institutions
Here's to a greener beginning.

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