Successful Sustainability Entrepreneurship
Entrepreneurship and Sustainable Business
All the factors that are important to the entrepreneur in a standard business are critical to the successful sustainable business.
Sustainability entrepreneurship builds on the basics of entrepreneurship and extends it to encompass addressing ecological and social concerns through the creation of new enterprises and innovation in existing enterprises.
Sustainable businesses recognize change in the form of the increased scientific evidence about the effects of ecological disruption on human populations and the environment and increasing evidence of rising social inequities that are disruptive to the business environment and global society.
Sustainable businesses recognize change by understanding that the consuming public is becoming increasingly concerned about these challenges to a sustainable world.
These changes create market opportunities for sustainability-focused businesses. The market opportunity includes the opportunity to address concerns about sustainability by providing new products and services that reduce energy and natural resource use.
New Ways of Addressing Concerns
The opportunities to address sustainability concerns are worth pursuing if new ways of addressing the concerns can be conceived and delivered in ways that bring net value to significant numbers of consumers in the marketplace.
A key for successful sustainability entrepreneurs is to make sure that the new way of doing things they create provide value to their potential customers.
Example - Nest Learning Thermostat
Thermostats and even programmable thermostats have been around for a long time. But they have been hard to use and hard to achieve energy efficiency with.
The Nest thermostat was created by Silicon Valley start-up Nest Labs, whose cofounder Tony Fadell used to be in charge of iPods at Apple and wanted to start up a venture to fill an unmet need. And not surprisingly, the Nest thermostat has been described as the thermostat that Steve Jobs would have loved and the thermostat can be accessed and set using the iPhone and iPad.
How it Works
The innovative thermostat learns from household behavior and automatically programs the thermostat settings to reflect household routines and preferences to achieve maximum energy efficiency. The Nest thermostat adjusts to household patterns. The Nest thermostat gets smarter over time based on the way households raise or lower the temperature and how household members come or go at different times. In a week’s time, the Nest thermostat will automatically turn down heating or cooling when household members are not around.
The Nest product was introduced in 2011, and in early 2012, the company was sold out and could not meet demand for its product even though the price was well above conventional and other programmable thermostats.
Consumers that purchase a Nest thermostat pay a premium above the cost of conventional thermostats due to the higher cost of the technology in the Nest product. The benefit consumers derive is that over time they can more effectively and more easily manage their home heating and cooling, use less energy, and reduce their costs and greenhouse gas emissions.
Customers receive value in lowered costs and the personal satisfaction of knowing that their carbon footprint has been reduced, and they can also demonstrate their environmentalism to visitors in their home. A bit of conspicuous conservation can help sell “cool” new products like the Nest.
How to be a Successful Entrepreneur
Since there are always people pursuing market opportunities, to be a successful entrepreneur requires constant innovation and effort, continuously figuring out new ways to service customers’ needs and wants in cheaper, faster, and better ways.
The opportunities to address sustainability concerns are worth pursuing if new ways of addressing the concerns can be conceived and delivered in ways that bring value to a significant numbers of consumers in the marketplace and that are capable of generating revenues higher than costs over time for the enterprise.
Entrepreneurship as a mind-set, or kind of behavior, lends itself well to sustainable business practices.
For sustainable business practice, entrepreneurship is about constantly looking for innovative ways to protect the environment or improve societal conditions by providing new goods, services, or methods that reduce detrimental activities while also generating profits for the entrepreneur.
By always thinking about doing things in new and better ways, entrepreneurship is highly relevant to individuals and organizations interested in sustainability.
From the business perspective, entrepreneurship and an entrepreneurial mind-set can be advantageous. It can allow for quicker response to market opportunities, such as those emerging for sustainable business.
It can also allow for the ability to focus on particular customers, such as the households most interested in minimizing their environmental footprint even if that means having to purchase a product or service at higher cost than a similar product or service.
The Entrepreneurial Process of Sustainable Entrepreneurs
Choi and Gray  examined the entrepreneurial processes of sustainable entrepreneurs. They identified successful sustainable entrepreneurial companies in various industries ranging from apparel to biotechnology that were exemplary in their pursuit for sustainability. They examined their key decisions and activities in their “entrepreneurial process,” collecting most of the relevant information from published or self-developed case studies.
They found that most sustainable entrepreneurs are an unusual breed with limited business backgrounds. Most obtain financing from nonconventional sources and employ unorthodox, yet sound, human resource management practices. They are shrewd in their marketing strategies and effective in running efficient, environmentally sound operations. Also they find innovative methods for balancing their financial goals against their objectives of making a difference in their environment and society.
 David Y. Choi and Edmund R. Gray, “The Venture Development Processes of ‘Sustainable’ Entrepreneurs,” Management Research News 31, no. 8 (2008): 558-69.
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