Business Brains

Corporate sustainability is not out of reach of small businesses

Posting in Energy

Two new initiatives bring some much-needed resources to smaller companies seeking to do their part for the environment and their community

It somewhat humbled me over the weekend when I really sat back and realized that this whole Earth Day thing is about the same age as me. We could be sisters!

This revelation was at once vindicating, because it means that there have been conscientious individuals worrying about practical environmental issues for a long time, and discouraging, when you consider how many people believe the green movement is somehow a fad.

One of my biggest personal issues with a lot of the corporate sustainability efforts going on across the United States is the focus on the big. As in big business. Realistically speaking, people, small businesses rule in this country. Yet, some many of the tools and programs and incentives to be green businesses naturally favor the large. There's good reason for this, I suppose. One example is facilities management: Most small companies lease their space, so they aren't necessarily responsible for the services -- water and electricity. Personally, I think that's a bit of a copout: Start adding up the impact of the small and that number gets big quickly.

Someone else other than me is worrying about this, apparently, because I just caught wind of two programs that could be great for entrepreneurs who aren't generating billions of dollars in revenue annually.

The first is an effort by a software company that virtually every small-business owner knows, Intuit. The developer has teamed up with the organization behind the B Corp sustainable business certification to create something called the Local Hero Challenge. The program is pretty simple: It gives businesses a chance to participate in a brief assessment that covers how they rate in the following areas: accountability, community, consumers, consumers, employees and environment. Small businesses get a little logo depending on their score that they can put on their Web site or marketing material. (The categories are Scout, Booster, Mentor, Pioneer and Local Hero.)

Incidentally, Maryland apparently just became the first state to recognize that it is possible for a company to legally declare that it wants to be socially or environmentally responsible. Vermont is waiting in the wings, and Colorado, New York, Oregon, Pennsylvania, North Carolina and Washington are supposedly considering similar efforts. If you want to know more about B Corp, here's my February blog about the organization and its efforts.

Small-business owners and entrepreneurs may also want to check out a new green business certification program announced this week that is being spearheaded by the Green Business Bureau and Green Irene. The two organizations are merging their respective services to create a green business certification program that is audited in-person.

Here's some perspective from their joint press release, in a statement from Green Irene Co-founder PJ Stafford:

"Green Irene and Green Business Bureau can now offer specialized green business certifications tailored to more than 20 industries. Topics covered include energy and water conservation, improving indoor air quality, creating a toxic-free workplace, green purchasing and paper reduction strategies, lighting replacements, sustainable travel and transportation options, tax credits and other federal, state and local financial incentives."

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Heather Clancy

Section Editor

Heather Clancy has written for United Press International, ZDNet, Entrepreneur, Fortune Small Business, the International Herald Tribune and the New York Times. She holds a degree from McGill University. She is based in New Jersey. Follow her on Twitter. Disclosure