An "entrepreneur" is someone who thinks of a new idea or opportunity in business and who takes the risks necessary to convert his or her vision into a reality. Entrepreneurs are absolutely essential to the forwarding of human progress. An ecological entrepreneur is someone who is driven not only by the possibility of making a profit, but is also driven by environmental and social concerns. They want to make the world a better place by improving the environment.
One interesting thing about entrepreneurship is that it is a market-based approach, which encourages us to seek out positive rewards, mainly in the form of profit. Governmental oversight, the main way we address environmental issues, often involves punishing offenders in order to change people's approach to the environment. Ecological entrepreneurship is a reward-based approach to addressing environmental problems, rather than a punitive approach, and may prove more successful at changing attitudes and practices in the long run.
Business practices fundamentally affect the business world, the environment and our lives. Ecology implies community, and ecological entrepreneurs understand the connections between their actions and the greater community as a whole. The field is socially important because ecological entrepreneurs are instrumental in reshaping the way we approach the environment and its relation to business.
The Academic Requirements
Academia has begun addressing the relatively new field of ecological entrepreneurship, usually through business schools, economics programs or environmental studies programs. Few majors programs exist for ecological or environmental entrepreneurship. Courses usually focus on environmental sustainability, social equity and justice, and financial profitability. Students learn about the environment and sustainable practices, as well as how to start and run a successful business venture.
A degree is not required to start a business; however, those who learn successful business and marketing strategies are far more likely to have a successful business. If you are interested in being an entrepreneur, you could major in a business field and take several courses (or minor in) an environmental discipline.
Here are some courses that we've seen:
- Green Organizations: Businesses, Non-profits and Community Sustainability
- Introduction to Non-profit Management
- Green Technology: Assessment and Integration
- Applied Economic Analysis
- Practical Ethics
- Economics of Environmental and Social Issues
- Critical Thinking for Business Re-design
- Eco-Commerce Models
- Financial Accounting and Environmental Reporting
- Stategies of Entrepreneurial Development
- Green and Social Marketing
- Economics of Sustainability
- Ecosystem Services
- Environmental Justice
Being an entrepreneur requires a different mindset from your average business person. Entrepreneurs have a vision they are so passionate about that they will risk everything to fulfill it; this kind of dedication is not for everyone. They have to take risks, and the should be business-savvy (good planners and managers, and able to ask for help and funding). Of course, there is always the potential that you will be highly successful. Environmental entrepreneurs have the added bonus of helping the environment and inspiring others to do the same.
Job outlook for ecological entrepreneurs is likely to be better in the near future than it ever has been. Michael Schaper, of Greenleaf Publications, writes, "The move to a sustainable business framework provides numerous niches that enterprising individuals and firms can successfully identify and service." This does not mean the outlook is highly favorable, though. Like all entrepreneurs, ecological entrepreneurs face many challenges on their way to success, and many are defeated several times before they can even get a business off the ground.
By its nature, ecological entrepreneurship is not really a field with traditional job openings. Most entrepreneurs just start a business themselves or with partners and see how successful they can be.
Here are some job titles that we've seen, including some of the organizations that offer them, all of which included a requirement for experience in Ecological Entrepreneurship:
- Lecturer in Sustainable Development (University of Leeds)
- Lecturer in Environment and Business (University of Leeds)
- Land Project Manager (Scenic Hudson Land Trust)
- Assistant Professor, Green Entrepreneurship and Marketing (University of Waterloo)
- Assistant Professor of Entrepreneurial Studies (Fairleigh Dickinson University)
- Community Environmental Educators (SPW International)
- Canadian Association of Geographers, Job Listings
- Center for Entrepreneurial Leadership, Clearinghouse on Entrepreneurship Education, Kaufmann Center
- Center for Social and Environmental Entrepreneurship (SEE)
- College of the Atlantic, Ecological Entrepreneurship page
- European Society for Ecological Economics, Job Listings
- Foundation for Research on Economics & the Environment (FREE)
- Friend, Gil. "Toward the Dream: The Marriage of Prosperity and Ecology" Green Entrepreneurship of Bioneers
- The Green MBA for Environmental Entrepreneurship
- Greener Management International, Issue #38, Articles Issak, Robert. "The Making of the Ecopreneur"
- Outdoor Network, Job Listings
- Political Economy Research Center, The Center for Free Market Environmentalism
- Schaper, Michael. "Environmental Entrepreneurship"
- Taylor, Davis. "What is Ecological Entrepreneurship?" College of the Atlantic, 2003.
- The Green Institute
- United States Association for Small Business and Entrepreneurship