Three out of four small businesses say that demand for and sales of green products and services actually increased over the recent economic downturn, reports a new survey by Green America (GA), EcoVentures International (EVI) and the Association for Enterprise Opportunity (AEO). Among companies that reported sales increases during the recession, the more green the company was, the more likely it was to have increased sales.
The market for green products and services has grown dramatically in the past decade, the report says; for example, the market for green construction has increased by 1,700 percent, at the same time the demand for conventional construction has shrunk by 17 percent. And while the food market in general has grown by 33 percent, the organic food market has expanded by a whopping 238 percent.
The survey divided the 1,305 respondents into three groups based on their products’ and services’ green attributes, as well as how green the companies’ business practices were (i.e., how well did they conserve energy and other natural resources). The greenest, or “deep green,” companies (27 percent of the green business owners) reported stronger performance compared to their “light green” peers (38 percent of green businesses). The “medium green” segment accounted for 35 percent of green businesses.
Almost six in 10 small businesses said that adding green offerings to their product and service lines enabled them to grow their companies during the recession, and 84 percent said the new offerings led to increased sales.
More than three-fourths (79 percent) of survey respondents strongly agreed that they gained a competitive advantage by offering green products and services, and 75 percent planned to expand on their green product and service offerings.
What about green business practices? Small business owners said that the following 10 operational expenditures provide the fastest return on investment:
- Purchase energy efficient equipment
- Train staff to conserve energy
- Install more efficient lighting
- Recycle and/or reuse in-house plastics, paper, metals, glass and/or organics
- Redesign product to require less energy in production
- Create employee incentives for reducing energy use
- Enable energy-saving settings on computers
- Increase purchasing of products in local vicinity
- Install energy efficient windows
- Install solar photovoltaic panels
To see the full survey results, and a report that also includes recommendations for greening your business, visit Big Green Opportunity.
Image by Flickr user Sharon Mollerus (Creative Commons)