The green economy promises jobs, business opportunity, wealth, health and hope to all who will leverage its potential early in the game. The African American community, with all of its ills -families in crisis and poverty, low graduation rates and high prison entry rates, rampant unemployment, crime, polluted environments, workplace discrimination and a host of other health and housing issues- cannot afford to let this unique opportunity pass us by like so many others have in the past. The threat of higher gas, food and energy prices coupled with record foreclosures and additional layoffs, place all of us, regardless of our current economic strata in a troubling and tenous position financially. Getting in on the ground floor of the emerging green economy with a projected value of $60 to $200 billion and expected to bring millions of new jobs, enables us to create a safer and more secure future for our families and our communities. Al Gore alone plegded $30 million to raise climate change awareness in our nation. No longer will we have to ask the question "How did this happen?" as we walk past storefronts in our neighborhoods that are owned by industrial immigrants who seem to have found the American Dream that has eluded many of us, right in our own backyards. We can take pride in our contributions to building a diverse new economy, a new future for our children and a cleaner, livable planet.
Green is the New Black
It is difficult to read the paper or your favorite magazine, watch television or go grocery shopping without running into some sort of eco-friendly product or message. Talk about over exposure. One could speculate that the "green economy" is simply a fashionable trend that "too shall pass". However, when retail giants like Walmart and Target decide to hire sustainability officers, maintain sustainability sections on their websites, build green buildings and demand environmentally responsible products and packaging from their suppliers, you know the paridigm has shifted and is not coming back.Primary incentives driving such green business strategies include, consumer demand for healthier, safer, eco friendly products, rising oil prices and energy costs that affect profit margins, public relations, the need to hedge against toxic product lawsuits and the desire to proactive in against the threat of tighter government mandated policies. These bottom line driven issues will be attractive for a long time to come. Money talks and walks the walk and we should be listening and lacing up our sneakers.
Walmart's 66,000 suppliers are scrambling to understand the company's new sustainability requirements and it's impact on their business. While this may cause panic among current suppliers, any business trying to get a foot in the door of this retail behemoth, should seize the day and get busy on developing a green sales and product strategy. Coupled with the supplier diversity policy of many of these large corporations, a sustainability component could give your business a powerful advantage. In 2007, Target Corporation, which is planning more LEED certified (green) buildings, opened a store in Compton, California, using an African-American team of developers, contractors and architects. The architect, Mr. Roland A. Wiley, of RAW International, promotes his environmental project on his bio. Certainly, there were many factors including, overall experience, expertise and price that went into Target's decision to work with RAW, but the green experience may have given his firm an even bigger seal of approval by the Target real estate decision makers.
Governments See Green
Corporations are not alone in pursuing green initiatives. Governments are becoming strong supporters of sustainability for many reasons- the need to reduce costs, economic stimulation and development, employment opportunities, and the need to prepare for and adapt to climate change. Many cities have also hired sustainability directors, with staffs and budgets to meet designated goals. Included are cities one would expect to have such positions, San Francisco, Chicago, New York Seattle, Atlanta and Portland but also unexpected old economy cities like, Cleveland, Milwaukee and Detroit. Not to be outdone, many southwestern cities, troubled by water shortages and urban sprawl have decided to green up their brown reputations. This is all good news for African American, Latino and female owned business, because, government contracts are typically good sources of revenue due to a tradition of awarding contracts to a diverse group of citizens.
While much of the intial growth of the green economy will lie in the fields of construction manufacturing, and alternative energy, the sky is the limit in terms of applying a sustainability model and component to your business. Over the next few weeks, Black and Into Green will uncover green business opportunities in the following areas:
- Construction and Renovation
- Education and Training
- Art and Fashion
If you can't wait that long, check out some of the following sites:
Green, not greed, is good - for our bottom lines, ourselves, our families, our communities and our world. Let's retrofit our lifestyles and our businesses to take advantage of this positive new opportunity to show that all can benefit from green capitalism.