Why It Pays to Go Green in a Down Economy

By Bill Roth
October 24, 2008

Learn why even in this economy you can't afford not to implement
green practices in your business.

As I write this column the stock market has fallen more than 30 percent in
a year, the Dow below 9,000 points for the first time since 2003 and in
Times Square, a sign that clocks the U.S. national debt ran out of digits
when it passed the $10 trillion mark Sept. 30. I'm getting e-mails from
readers saying they're facing economic stress. Here's the potentially
really bad news: In 1974 when we had a similar oil price shock, the stock
market fell 40 percent, and it took about five years for our country to
return to a healthy economy. And that crisis wasn't nearly as severe as
the one we're in now.

Now for my optimistic take on this situation: America is the best in the
world when dealing with a crisis. We cut our losses, throw the bums out
and open the door to innovation. You can name the companies that emerged
from the 1970s oil crisis that pioneered new, more efficient products.
Microsoft and Intel are two that helped launch the information age, and
The Home Depot and FedEx streamlined how products and services were

The same will happen in the U.S. today. Sustainability will emerge from
this financial crisis as a global mega-trend offering business
opportunities similar to those that arose during the information age. Your
task right now as an entrepreneur is to immediately begin educating
yourself and prepping for this coming opportunity.

Of course, that's easier said than done. Times are tough. People are
losing their homes, and credit to run or start a business is a lot harder
to come by. What is "sustainable" is still being defined, so its market
also isn't clearly defined.

So here are some steps to help you hang on, get started and harvest the
coming green opportunities:

Conserve Cash: If you're running your business or household right now on
credit, you know exactly what I mean by conserving cash. During a
recession, debt is an expense most can't afford. Businesses should try
to operate within their cash flows, despite the fact that their cash
flows will probably fall during a recession. So do what you have to do
now to create cash. Sell assets, cut costs and access the best path for
creating cash: become more efficient.

Reach Out: You're not in this boat alone. I speak at churches that host
career planning for those in transition. Unfortunately, the attendance
is growing along with individual pain. But the key point is that these
people are not failures--but rather very talented people who've been
caught up by this economy. Reach out and find meetings like these to
network with talented people who can lend their first-hand experience
and advice to you.

Following are some valuable green websites where you can begin networking:

Co-op America

Find networks and resources for environmentally responsible businesses in
Co-op America's Green Business Program.

Energy Star Small Business Program

A federal program that acts as an energy-conservation guide to small
businesses, providing resources, education and technical support.

EPA Climate Change Site

The Environmental Protection Agency's site has resources on going green
for small businesses.

Flex Your Power

With its database that allows business owners to search for energy and
money saving grants and loans in California, this site also offers a great
section on its homepage with other green resources for small business

This online resource center provides tools, resources, educational
information and lists of organizations, events and other green business

Green Drinks
This is a fun, international networking group for those working in the
environmental field or who run green businesses to meet up for informal
sessions to share a "green" beer.

Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED)
Provides information the U.S. Green Building Rating System® that offers a
rating for sustainable buildings.

The Green Suppliers Network
This is a site for manufacturers to learn how to be environmentally

3. Explore: There's an explosion of new, sustainable technologies. Get out
there and find them, learn about them and build business relationships. A
growing number of conferences are available where companies demonstrate
their technology and products. Search the internet for sites like
Treehugger.com or RenewableEnergyWorld.com and read about the companies
and technologies that are gaining sales traction.
Here are some technologies your business can invest in:
Instantaneous Water Heaters. I use one in my home, it works great and it
really cuts my natural gas bill.

Low-Flow Toilets. They work great, conserve water and save money.

Geothermal Heat Pumps. These are costly, but can be 75 percent more
efficient than a code-qualified heating and cooling system. Still, only
a fraction of America's homes and offices have one.

Packaging. I'm impressed with the supply chain management industry's
results. They're increasing global sustainability and cutting costs that
give a big boost to a business's bottom line.

Grey Water Irrigation. Someday people are going to look back and wonder
what the heck Americans were thinking using clean, processed tap water
for irrigation and landscaping. The technology solutions range from
simple to high tech. The key is to conserve a precious resource and save
money as water becomes a commodity not dissimilar to oil.

The bottom line is that from tough times comes opportunity. Make sure
you're protecting your cash so you'll have the means to invest in green,
thereby positioning yourself to appeal to consumers who are demanding--and
selectively patronizing--the very greenest of businesses.

Bill Roth is president of NCCT, a San Francisco-based consulting firm
facilitating innovations in sustainability marketing and green business
strategies. In addition to participating in the launch of the first
hydrogen-fueled Prius, he has held executive leadership positions as
senior vice president of marketing and sales with PG&E Energy Services,
COO of Texaco Ovonics Hydrogen Solutions and president of Cleantech
America, a developer of solar power plants. Roth’s latest book, On Empty
(Out of Time) details an emerging multi-trillion dollar green economy that
is revolutionizing the business world.


Promoting Green Building Design, Construction and Operation, Sustainable Living,
Clean Technology, Renewable Energy Resources and Energy Independence