Saying he’s usually the dose of “castor oil” to environmentally “clueless” corporations, environmental journalist Joel Makower told members of Berkeley’s Sustainable Business Alliance Friday that businesses need to practice environmental mentoring.
Acknowledging that he was preaching to the choir – those already committed to sustaining the environment – he said it’s time to deliver the message to the whole congregation.
Overall, the message is that the world of sustainable business practices can be integrated into what businesses already are doing. Instead of polluting with wastes, companies can recycle and get value for something they’ve already bought and paid for.
Changing a mindset begins with person to person contact, or mentoring in which skills are handed down, and he suggested the Sustainable Business Alliance act as a resource and broker for “changes we all want to see.”
In the process of teaching how to operate a environmentally sound business, he said, business owners will understand the processes involved in staying green, and they’ll benefit from being mentors.
Terry O’Keefe, chairman of the board of directors of Small Business Alliance: Berkeley, said, “I’m tired and embarrassed about perceptions about what business cares about. People say business could care less about people and the environment. We can make a difference.”
Bill Lambert, the city’s manager of economic development, said the city has listed approximately 250 green businesses with the Sustainable Business Alliance, which the city has funded, as the hub.
He said the city wants to attract more green businesses, and he asked Makower how businesses can add value by sustaining the environment.
Makower said they can increase value in terms of environmental issues in different ways. Value can be measured in reduced costs, increased sales and increased quality, the ability to attract and retain customers, and also by receiving less regulatory oversight.
Dan Knapp, owner of Urban Ore, said he delivered an environmental service when he helped a company find a salvage site in San Francisco. He also said he was paid for finding it.
Businesses making environmental improvements can reap benefits in any of these areas, said Makower, an Oakland resident who has published the Green Business Letter for 10 years.
Recently he launched a new web site (GreenBiz.com), that provides links to the vast amount of available green information. He calls GreenBiz “The Resource Center on Business, the Environment and the Bottom Line.”
“Nobody sees how much is out there,” he said. “So we make it free to push it out to the larger business community.”
Three main categories appear on the GreenBiz Web site. Business Toolbox offers “a wealth of hands-on help for companies,” such what to do with a dead computer. Another category is Reference Desk with links to leading green business sites and government programs for business, and corporate environmental Web sites. The third feature, News Center, offers news and opinions from industry leaders.
Makower compared the web site, which is funded in part by Pitney Bowes Corporation and foundations, to the 1.0 versions of software in their first stages. In later versions he anticipates localizing the information.
“That’s (the web site) our contribution to the world of mentoring,” he said.