Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Sustainable Networking

I have been a member of a couple networking groups and have visited numerous different ones over the years. These networking groups can be an important marketing and sales element of a business plan for small to medium size organizations. These groups usually allow just one representative from each industry who then provide leads to each other.

One problem with most of these groups is the dearth of like-minded green businesses, since this is not a criterion for membership. Fortunately, that is starting to change and I’m hoping this post will encourage others to start green business networks in their communities.

First, a little background. I helped start a “green” networking group here in Portland back in 2002. I was selling B2B in the progressive community and saw a real need for values based businesses to connect efficiently and economically. Informally, with folks from the ReDirect Guide and others, we started our own green networking group to make it easier for like minded folks to connect.

Our group was informal, with minimal dues (we asked everyone to throw in a few bucks each meeting) and met every other week at a locally-owned progressive restaurant. Everyone present got a chance to give a 30-60 second introduction and promo for their business before we’d feature a 10-minute in depth talk by one of our members. This group successfully served its function of helping all of us obtain more business.

That group has since dissolved but I recently joined a similar group here in Portland called Bridges, a green business networking group. Bridges is a bit more formal and structured but the key here is that the group uses sustainability as the primary screening tool for every member. Besides myself, Bridges has a green financial planner, physician, acupuncturist, builder, insurance broker, mortgage broker, real estate agent, graphic designer, marketing consultant, life coach, computer tech, geologist, and a real estate appraiser. This group is vibrant and growing.

It is really easy to start a networking group and I would encourage green business leaders to get one started in their area. Feel free to contact me if you need any help and/or post ideas and suggestions here to help others get started.

Business networking groups are a great way to learn, share and grow as a community. There should be green business networking groups across the country.

Friday, November 7, 2008

Health, Happiness and Sustainable Business

BGI Founder and President Emeritus Gifford Pinchot will be giving an address at the Green Festival in San Francisco next week entitled "Health, Happiness and Sustainable Business: The Happo/Dammo Ratio." I bring this up because Gifford's Happo/Dammo ratio is onto an important aspect of sustainability. Here is what Gif has to say:

The purpose of the economy is to support our health, well being and happiness. Unless we find ways to produce substantially more happiness with far less stuff and damage, our civilization is doomed. But this is a happy task, a joint project of sustainability experts, entrepreneurs, consumers, citizens, corporate innovators, academics, legislators and policy wonks. Given that most happiness comes from relationships and most of our consumption uses stuff symbolically rather than for its intrinsic value, it won’t be hard to make 1,000 fold improvements in the ratio of happiness to stuff. These innovations will often be very popular, cost-effective and profitable. In this direction lies hope and true prosperity.

Our current economy is driven by a take, make, waste consumption cycle and as long as we stay in this paradigm the future looks bleak. However, as Gifford correctly points out, we have an incredible opportunity to expand our economy by figuring out how to increase happiness while decreasing stuff. We have an unlimited and endless supply to provide comfort, joy, laughs, smiles and support. These have no environmental or social costs.

The cycle of giving support/getting support/giving support is an endless human cycle that has been around as long as humans have walked the earth. It was the basis for tribal economies. Maybe we can learn something valuable from an economic system that has been around for 100,000 years.