Vous êtes sur la page 1sur 18

Society and Natural Resources, 21:828–844

Copyright # 2008 Taylor & Francis Group, LLC

ISSN: 0894-1920 print/1521-0723 online
DOI: 10.1080/08941920701612917

Green Entrepreneurship: A Method for Managing

Natural Resources?

Department of Sociology, Social Work, and Anthropology, Utah State
University, Logan, Utah, USA

Department of Sociology, Social Work, and Anthropology, Utah State
University, Logan, Utah

Globalization has often pushed aside the notion that business owners can use their
businesses to create household income, influence community behaviors and values,
and impact natural resource management. Here, we identify patterns of social
awareness described by green entrepreneurs and how they may be drawn into
the natural resource management process. We draw upon case studies of small
‘‘green’’ and ‘‘green-green’’ businesses to learn how they incorporate their busi-
nesses into environmental and social justice causes. A few themes emerged from
in-depth interviews with a sample of green entrepreneurs, including: low levels of
interest in economic success; high degrees of awareness about the business’s
environmental impact; and high levels of concern for social justice. In addition,
several constructs emerged, which included personal motivation and mission,
locality, and a forward-thinking orientation about sustainability. The findings
reveal innovative models for incorporating green business into environmental
causes and natural resource management.

Keywords constructs, ecopreneurship, environmental entrepreneurship, green

business, natural resources

Say the word ‘‘entrepreneur’’ and frequently the image of an enthusiastic,

industrious individual comes to mind: a person ready to tackle challenges and cre-
ate innovations most would find daunting. Along with these images come the
associations of high-pollution industry and adherence to the bottom line. However,
as a new line of academic inquiry and social activism indicates, these latter associa-
tions are not always warranted. A new breed of entrepreneur is creeping up the
business ranks, fusing environmentalism with entrepreneurial spirit, potentially
moving toward a reorganized ecological society, as Michael Bell has suggested
(Bell 2004).
The new environmental entrepreneur comes not a moment too soon (Hardin
1968). As the case for environmental sustainability strengthens each year, societies

Received 30 August 2006; accepted 14 May 2007.

Address correspondence to John C. Allen, PhD, Department of Sociology, Social Work,
and Anthropology, Utah State University, 0730 Old Main Hill, Logan, UT 84322-0730, USA.
E-mail: john.allen@usu.edu

Green Entrepreneurship and Natural Resources 829

feel the need for environmentally concerned entrepreneurs. As Volery (2002)

explains, the typical model of high-pollution, profit-driven businesses fails us now,
as the globalizing population faces the finite nature of resources and their rampant
degradation, the rapid growth of the world population, and the loss of biodiversity.
Much of society finds itself awakened and receptive to the necessity of a different
sort of business model: one that calls for sustainability and incorporates environ-
mental concerns into its considerations of the ‘‘bottom line.’’
In the realm of natural resources, further inquiry into green entrepreneurship
could one day help us understand how natural resource-dependent communities,
which often deal with persistent poverty (Humphrey et al. 1993; Peluso et al. 1994;
Carroll 1995), can harness the initiative of local entrepreneurs to create sustainable,
lucrative businesses. With a stronger economy (Petrzelka et al. 2006), these busi-
nesses could help bring about greater awareness of natural resource consumption
while also encouraging more sustainable economic growth in tourism and recreation.
Finally, initiatives such as those surrounding open space policies (Kline 2006) may
be better received in communities with visible examples of green thinking, introduced
by green entrepreneurs. While currently the task is to supplement the scant literature
and learn about the complexities of small green entrepreneurs, learning these details
will someday allow the problems of poverty and natural resource dependency to be
more thoroughly and intelligently approached.

Review of the Literature

As the literature—much of which originates in Europe and Australia—reports,
entrepreneurs may act as catalysts for change and advancement, in both an econ-
omic and environmental sense (Volery 2002; Anderson 1998; Isaak 1998; Krueger
1998; Pastakia 1998). Though the entrepreneur can be defined as a person who envi-
sions new business opportunities and creates enterprises from scratch—often with
limited resources and an abundance of risks—(Schaper 2002a) it seems counterintui-
tive to think of an entrepreneur whose visions of new opportunity include concern
for responsible resource use, sustainability, or social responsibility.
However, even decades ago, it was asserted that entrepreneurs could bring about
creative destruction by completely transforming the accepted modes of business
operation (Schumpeter 1934). The belief that entrepreneurs cannot be environmen-
tally aware, or do not care to be, is quickly becoming outdated (Porter and van der
Linde 1995; Anderson 1998). A new kind of entrepreneur—alternately referred to as
a green entrepreneur or ecopreneur—is fusing an enthusiastic business sense with a
cognizance of sustainability and other tenets of the environmental movement.
Ecopreneurs can be characterized or defined in a multitude of ways (Schaper
2005). For our purposes, ecopreneurs are individual innovators who see their busi-
ness as embracing environmental values as a core component of their identity and
as aiding in their competitive advantage in the marketplace (Gerlach 2002).
Ecopreneurs act as agents for societal change (Anderson 1998; Azzone and Noci
1998; Pastakia 1998), due in large part to their unique and enthusiastic vision and=or
their feelings of obligation to budding societal norms (Keogh and Polonsky 1998).
Anderson argues that at their cores, entrepreneurs and environmentalists are not
as different as they appear to be on the surface. He asserts that in their basic essence,
entrepreneurs create and extract value from a given situation and that environmen-
talists also find themselves deeply embedded in social ideas of value (Anderson 1998,
830 J. C. Allen and S. Malin

135). With their uncommon confluence of environmental concern and business

savvy, ecopreneurs are in the unique position to do what most other businesses
cannot—‘‘incorporate and consolidate the value perceptions of the individual’’ into
the inner workings of an eco-friendly business (Anderson 1998, 139).
While this is the case especially for small and medium business enterprises, much
of the earlier literature focuses on the role of green entrepreneurship within corpora-
tions or large firms (Keogh and Polonsky 1998; Krueger 1998; Lober 1998). As
Porter and van der Linde explained in an early piece, sometimes the corporate form
of ecopreneurship stems mostly from concern about government regulations (1995).
However, progressive environmental thinking can make corporations uniquely
competitive in what is an ever-globalizing world market (Isaak 1997). Research
indicates that simple adherence to regulations and reaction to the demands of an
emerging environmental awareness can leave companies behind (Azzone and Noci
1998; Krueger 1998; Lober 1998).
Others have turned their view to small and medium-sized enterprises
(SMEs) (Schaper 2002b; Hillary 2000; Keogh and Polonsky 1998; Hillary 1997;
Tanner et al. 1996; Murphy et al. 1995). Unfortunately, there has been relatively
little work done on SMEs and their role in the environmental movement. In
fact, as Schaper asserts, the importance of small and medium-sized enterprises is
usually overlooked (2002b). However, with SMEs typically representing 95% of
all private sector firms in most nations (Schaper 2002b), their cumulative impact
is quite large.
The limited literature points to a few central concerns involving the reality of
SME owners. Though the research shows that SME owners tend to agree with gen-
eric environmental protection (Schaper 2002b), it is reported that they are generally
more reactive in their adoption of green methods, due to their limited resources in
comparison to corporations. However, these ideas can be negated when one
considers that often the owner=manager of the small enterprise can ‘‘see the forest
as well as the trees’’ because s=he has a hand in nearly every facet of the enterprise
(Keogh and Polonsky 1998). Schaper suggests many future research foci for
academics (2002b). He encourages researchers to delve into the nature of ecopreneurs
in the context of SMEs: namely, how ecopreneurs may differ from conventional
entrepreneurs and what profiles of such activists might look like (2002b).
As a result, recent scholarship has produced a flurry of ‘‘typology literature’’ that
broadly categorizes ecopreneurs (Taylor and Walley 2004; Isaak 2002; Schaltegger
2002; Kyrö 2001). Taylor and Walley emphasize that differing internal motivations
and external structural forces influence ecopreneurs. They created the following four
categories of green entrepreneurs: innovative entrepreneurs, ad hoc enviropreneurs,
ethical mavericks, and the visionary champions. Their motivations range from busi-
ness concerns to a desire to change the capitalist system. The last, the visionary
champion, is the most transformative, seen as an arbiter between two cultures
(2004, 39–41).
In line with this last type of ecopreneur, Isaak differentiates between types of
green businesses–either ‘‘green’’ or ‘‘green-green’’ (2002). ‘‘Green’’ businesses did
not start out with environmental concerns, but make innovations along the way
for either marketing advantages or because of ethical concerns. On the other hand,
the ‘‘ideal type’’ of ecopreneur will create ‘‘green-green businesses,’’ which are
thoroughly green from their inception. Importantly, the ecopreneur with this
vision introduces the business in order to transform the sector of the market in
Green Entrepreneurship and Natural Resources 831

which it participates—the industrial sector, tourism and recreation, retail, or any

other (2002, 2). Isaak presents several retail case studies of the ‘‘green-green’’ busi-
ness model (1998), including Ben and Jerry’s and Anita Roddick’s The Body Shop.
Despite such contributions, there remains a void in the literature on a few levels.
First, there is a need to supplement the Australian and European literature with
more American voices and experiences. With the United States being one of the most
consumer-driven and resource-consumptive societies, it is necessary to understand
ecopreneurship within that context. Furthermore, relatively little attention has been
paid to SMEs and even less attention, it seems, has been paid to very small, locally
owned businesses in the less urbanized pockets of the United States. Case studies of a
few such operations in the United States can help fill this void.

This study draws upon qualitative data collection and analysis. We see this study as
not only descriptive but explanatory: descriptive in the sense that we are attempting
to describe the phenomena of green entrepreneurs, and explanatory in that we are
attempting to explain the relationship between the values, motivations, and beliefs
of green entrepreneurs as they relate to starting and maintaining these enterprises
(Bailey 1982).
In our study, we utilize Kirk and Miller’s definition of qualitative research,
which states that ‘‘qualitative research involves sustained interaction with the people
being studied in their own language, and on their own turf ’’ (Kirk and Miller 1986,
12). Therefore, to conduct these case studies we first developed an open-ended inter-
view guide with questions pertaining to the motivations of the green entrepreneurs,
their values and belief systems, the role of community and peers, and their visions for
the future of their business.
The sampling frame for this study used a purposive sample technique (Salant
and Dillman 1994). We identified a publication listing ‘‘sustainable businesses’’
and identified a cross section of businesses that represented retail businesses. We also
wanted businesses that had been operating for different lengths of time and that pro-
duced different types of products. See Table 1 for a detailed description of the busi-
ness types. This study was undertaken in 2006 in the Rocky Mountain region of the
western United States.
We used 10 case studies of small retail businesses that have been identified as
supporting sustainable concepts by regional directories of sustainable businesses.
The case study method was chosen for several reasons, but primarily because we
were interested in discovering our subjects’ motivations. We wanted to capture the
personas of our subjects, with case studies serving to ‘‘investigate a contemporary
phenomenon within its real-life context,’’ and because we ‘‘deliberately wanted to
cover contextual conditions,’’ the case study method was ideal (Yin and Campbell
2003, 13). Case studies have gained greater credibility in the past years, especially
for this vein of research (Schaper 2005), and are touted by institutions such as
Harvard Business School for the possibility that sets of case studies can overcome
previous issues with generalizability (Hoaglin et al. 1982). We interviewed the owners
at their place of business and spent time touring the businesses with them. Two
interviewers were present at all interviews and debriefing took place following the
Table 1. Small and medium enterprise information summary
Green Swimming
City Fair Trade Beans Organic Hole
Wood Beverage Natural Local Goat Scientific Staff of Sporting Sunny World
Name Rescue Company Foods Farms Soap Chemical Life Goods Cycles Handcrafts

Number of 1 1 1 3 2 3þ 1 1 2 1
owners shareholders
Legal Sole SP Limited Simple Corporation Corporation SP SP SP Non-profit
structure proprietorship Liability partnership
(SP) Corporation

No. of 0 27 2 3 1 200 30 5 2–3 All volunteer
Year Late 1960s 1974 2005 2001 2001 1974 2004 2004 1981 2003
Location Utah Utah Utah Utah Utah Utah Utah Utah Utah Utah
Type of Craft=trade Coffee retail Food retail Food Cosmetic Industrial Food Outdoor Bicycle Fair trade
business and wholesale production retail production production retail sales and craft retail
and retail and retail repair
Green Entrepreneurship and Natural Resources 833

Data analysis in this article relies upon the reconstruction of the social
situations, groups, and cultural worlds in which the data were collected (Fielding
1986). We use a constructionist model of analysis, taking from our interviews the
constructs that explain the phenomena of green entrepreneurship.

The analysis of our interviews and on-site tours of the businesses is presented in two
forms. The first is descriptive. We describe the businesses and how owners perceive
their relationship with the community, their environmental impact, and their values
and motivations. These insights are detailed next and in Table 1. Our second
section presents the themes that emerged from the interviews and presents constructs
representing potential theoretical relationships among the themes generated.

Case Studies1
Staff of Life has been open for just over two years. It is a production bakery focusing
on high-quality, artisan breads. Its building is a striking structure, made from locally
purchased peeled logs. Customers frequently sit outside at round, wooden tables on
the patio. The building runs on a geothermal heating and cooling system and passive
solar. The philosophy of the owner is ‘‘keep it local, simple, and true’’ when it comes
to the business. She believes that by focusing on quality bread and a smaller market,
she can make people think about ‘‘what can be’’ when it comes to locally oriented,
natural products. Her motivation for starting the business was linked to a value
system that focuses on family, the environment, and community. She buys local
and sees herself as part of a larger social movement focused on healthy food and
environment. She said that ‘‘through education I hope that people will begin seeing
the value of working toward a long-term sustainable system where business can gen-
erate livable wages for employees, owners, and make a difference in the long term.’’
City Wood Rescue and Heirlooms is a sole proprietorship that ‘‘draws upon
environmental waste’’ and creates high-quality wood heirlooms, mainly jewelry
boxes. The owner does his handiwork within a large, wood-filled warehouse. The
smell of sawdust fills the rooms, and work projects spill over in every corner. The
owner has been working with wood since the 1960s and started his own business
about a decade ago. His mantra is ‘‘why bury a resource?’’ as he explains that 20
to 30% of landfill space in the United States is taken up by tree waste. He says
‘‘I’m an environmentalist—not by choice, but by activity.’’ The owner’s goals are
to make a living, reduce greenhouse gases, increase landfill productivity, and pro-
duce quality heirlooms. Although nearing retirement age, the owner sees the Internet
as a great opportunity to sell his product globally. He sees globalization as both a
negative because of competition and as a positive because the new technologies allow
small businesses to reach supportive customers.
Green Beans Natural Food Market is a limited liability corporation (LLC) that
the owner describes as a natural food store. Located along a main street in the down-
town area, it provides customers with the ambience of two large, wood-floored
rooms lined with organic produce, bulk nuts and granolas, and many other goods.
The owner started the business because of local demand and believed there was a
niche to be filled in the community where the health-minded locals could congregate.
Environmental concerns were a foundation of his business values and he sees himself
834 J. C. Allen and S. Malin

as part of a larger social movement. He believes strongly in children’s health and

sustainable practices in food production and consumption. He says ‘‘everyone is sick
with something now’’ and believes that through sustainable thinking everyone can
access healthy food and practices. He refuses to support global food systems and
wants to avoid ‘‘selling out,’’ wanting to make a difference in the local community
through business and activism.
Fair Trade Beverage Company is a partnership between a husband and wife
started in 1974. The business is filled with the aroma of coffee, has plenty of art
and unique decorations, and is filled with sunshine. One owner describes their busi-
ness as ‘‘a thirty-year-old, award-winning green business,’’ focused on custom
organic beverages brewed with Fair Trade coffees and teas from around the world.
The owners were interested in environmental and social justice issues from the start
of their business. They view their business as an extension of their values, having
been very active in community change for over 30 years. They see their business
as economically viable, but instrumental in alleviating poverty and providing alter-
native products. Their motto is ‘‘take the long view’’ toward social change. While the
owners see their business tied to a global market, they are serious about acting
locally. Their hope is that in the future their type of business will become represen-
tative of the mainstream.
World Handcrafts provides fairly traded goods from around the world. The
enterprise is located in a historic house, with colorful exterior paint and wood floors
and high ceilings within. Masks, woven baskets, tea sets, and elaborate jewelry
brighten up the inside. The owner, who depends on volunteers, is currently seeking
nonprofit status. He views his business, begun in 2003, as one that ‘‘supports our
friends’’ from around the globe, by helping maintain cultural traditions and alleviate
poverty. Through education on sweatshops and Fair Trade, he hopes local residents
will see that when they buy something they are ‘‘voting on people’s quality of life.’’
The owner sees himself as an environmentalist, as part of a larger social movement,
and as someone interested in social justice issues, and his business as an opportunity
to educate others about the trends of globalization that ‘‘hurt’’ those in developing
Organic Goat Soap is a sole proprietorship that has been in business for about
four years. The business is located in the owners’ basement and their spacious home
is filled with the scents of flowers and herbs. The owners use the business to express
their creative sides and to allow the wife to be a ‘‘stay-at-home mom’’ while still
being active in the community. The owners were motivated by health and a desire
to have a business that incorporated their belief in organic, natural food and pro-
ducts. They saw a niche that they believed could allow them to give back to the com-
munity while providing high-quality soaps and other cosmetics. Even their children
make soaps and give the proceeds to a local children’s justice fund. While the
majority of their market is national, they are very active locally and see themselves
as part of a larger social movement focusing on natural products, community, and
the environment.
Scientific Chemical is a corporation started in 1974. Though operated by one
man now, at that time it was a partnership among three brothers. The business is
located near the industrial segment of the community, and manufactures electronic
data acquisition and data communication equipment. A large warehouse contains
the comfortable, clean, and well-lit space. The company’s founders were motivated
by a ‘‘strong desire to control our circumstances.’’ The founders of Scientific
Green Entrepreneurship and Natural Resources 835

Chemical did not intend to benefit the environment until their primary customers
demanded more environmentally sound products. In response to that, the company
began using powder coat paint2 about 10 years ago, in addition to cleaning electro-
nics with fluorinated solvents. Though they waited to introduce the changes until the
processes looked viable, expensive upgrades were made because the owners felt they
had an ‘‘ethical and moral obligation, not just financial concerns.’’ Though the own-
ers do not want a public reputation as environmental pioneers, Scientific Chemical
supports environmental initiatives that come from its employees, such as their cur-
rent bike park. Though the business is located within the area, they do millions of
dollars in business outside of the community. The owner expressed little concern
with globalization, except to mention that certain developing nations are unable
to hold to some environmental ideals.
Local Farms began 5 years ago as a labor of love. The partnership between two
siblings and a brother-in-law was motivated by a passion for good food, for garden-
ing, and for teaching people how to grow their own food. Local Farms is a small-
scale family operation that grows shallots, eggplant, Swiss chard, and other produce.
All produce grows in their long, xeriscaped backyard, creating a wonderland of
edible plants. They believe in ‘‘guerilla gardening’’ and say anyone with a piece
of ground can grow food and that it can be a beautiful, green endeavor. The primary
outlet for their produce is the community Growers’ Market, a large Saturday-
morning festival with local vendors. The main operator in the trio also sits on the
Growers’ Market board. Through this position, the owners can express their strong
support for homegrown, homemade, and handmade goods. Eschewing the temp-
tation to export their produce, the trio believes that staying local is key to starting
a food ‘‘revolution’’—a phrase mentioned more than once.
Swimming Hole Sporting Goods began as an Internet company and has been a
modest storefront for nearly 8 months. Located in a downtown shopping district,
it is simple in its design and layout. This sole proprietorship sells outdoor sporting
goods such as tents, hydration packs, and maps, as well as offering guides to and
expertise about local trails. The owner wanted to start this business ‘‘before I had
to start working for somebody else.’’ With her love for the outdoors, she figured this
type of business would suit her well. Though she has a great love for the outdoors,
and supports local open-space initiatives and other land access concerns, earning
money and growing the business are her primary concerns. She does not want to
have a direct influence on local values and believes that a retail business is not the
appropriate place for environmental activism. She worries that such visible activism
would claim her little spare time, as well as alienate her from certain potential cus-
tomers. She recognizes that most of her goods are manufactured with little concern
for the environment in factories abroad, but seems resigned to her inability to change
the system.
Finally, Sunny Cycles is a bike shop located in the historical district downtown,
in a Victorian home with custom bikes and colorful decorations spread across the
lawn. Inside, there is a wide variety of bicycles, helmets, tire pumps, and other
cycling-related merchandise. The owner began the business back in 1981 and uses
the store to provide a living, as well as an example to the community of how its
members can be more ecologically responsible, especially regarding local air quality.
However, the owner is always looking for ways to make his business even greener
than it is. He reports that he would ‘‘love to go solar’’ and has brilliant ideas about
packaging innovations. The owner expresses great concern for the need to keep
836 J. C. Allen and S. Malin

things local, keep manufacturing decentralized, and reduce waste at every stage of
production and consumption. When he attends trade shows he tells vendors about
his concerns for environmental equity and workers’ rights. He believes that bicycles
can help wean people off cars and overconsumption, and that the most important
vote consumers have is their dollar. He wants to change the mentality and awareness
of the local consumer. The creative energy inspiring his bike business drives his
inventive pursuits, from new ideas about packaging bicycle tire tubes to hangers
made from bike tire rims, complete with packaging that can be reused as magazine
racks or storage containers.

Emergent Themes
Several themes relevant to social justice, the role of community, and natural resource
management emerged from the case studies. These themes include: low levels of
interest in economic success; high degrees of awareness about the business’ environ-
mental impact; and high levels of concern for social justice.
One of the most intriguing themes uncovered during interviews was the unique
way in which these entrepreneurs view capitalism. Many business owners in this study
fit under Taylor and Walley’s ‘‘visionary champion’’ type of green entrepreneur. Not
only did they show a genuine concern for social and environmental justice and sustain-
ability, but very few of the subjects expressed a driving interest in making a personal
fortune from their enterprise. Almost all of our respondents initially commented that
they did not see their business as having any large economic impact on the community,
despite employing local people and buying goods from local suppliers.
When discussing this, the owner of City Wood said that his business had not
made a profit in 10 years, but that ‘‘my business is not about the money.’’ Staff of
Life’s owner informed us that in her business ‘‘the bottom line is not to make a dollar
at all costs.’’ The owner of Organic Goat Soap told us that she has avoided compro-
mising the quality and organic status of her product. When she was approached by a
large hotel chain with a lucrative request for her soaps, she rejected their offer
because she refused to make her soaps with different, less pure ingredients. This
sentiment recurred in almost every interview, with the potential for large economic
benefits low on the list of priorities for local green entrepreneurs. As the owner of
Staff of Life commented, ‘‘I have no expectations of getting rich doing this. I want
to pay for this building, for quality ingredients, and for a living wage for myself and
my staff.’’
Instead of financial concerns, nearly every owner saw environmental responsi-
bility as a vital component of the business’s identity. Fair Trade Beverage Company
recycles everything it uses, even the used coffee grounds, which are given to local
farmers. Their building was made from reused and nonhazardous materials, and
the owners are working on developing more sustainable packaging materials. City
Wood’s owner believes that his business keeps wood from clogging the landfills,
which also prevents air pollution caused by burning wood. The owner of World
Handcrafts delighted in showing us environmentally friendly Fair Trade products,
including coaster sets made from tightly rolled newspapers, earrings fashioned from
pop cans, and wind chimes constructed from old television antennas.
Additionally, each of these owners expressed a desire to affect local conscious-
ness and bring greater awareness to social justice issues. The businesses with a global
supplier base, such as Fair Trade Beverages and World Handcrafts, believe their
Green Entrepreneurship and Natural Resources 837

enterprises spread knowledge of other cultures. At the same time, they take comfort
in knowing that their fair trade practices are improving the lives and communities of
their suppliers. For those with local focus, social justice concerns were often
expressed through donation to local children’s justice funds. Most owners repeatedly
cited spreading awareness throughout the community as one of their most impor-
tant functions. Most owners expressed the belief that it was vital to work for
environmental and social progress at the local level, and that a ‘‘ripple effect’’ of
growing awareness would eventually spread out of the local context.
With these themes emerging, it became apparent that few of the ecopreneurs
were attempting to fill an economic niche or make a fortune. In other words, the
interviews being conducted were leading to a surprising discovery—regardless of
the wide variations in age, trade, and product among our ecopreneurs, most shared
a fundamental belief in the importance of environmental and social awareness above
strict economic success. Interestingly, this helps to fill the void in the literature,
especially in regards to SMEs (Schaper 2002b) and their relationships with their host
communities. From these interviews, we find that SME owners are not as concerned
with profits and filling green market niches as large corporations (Porter and van der
Linde 1995). In addition, we are finding that the ‘‘green-green’’ business owners we
have interviewed are deeply concerned with their interactions with their local com-
munities, and feel their companies may help contribute to social and environmental
movements locally and beyond. This is not a traditionally capitalist venture for most
owners, but a chance to move their local communities toward a healthier relation-
ship with the environment and a more progressive social hierarchy within their
As could be expected, exceptions to these themes exist, most strikingly in
Scientific Chemical and Swimming Hole Sporting Goods. Though the former sees
a need for environmental concern, its CEO expressed a reluctance to be active in
the environmental movement. The owner of Swimming Hole expressed a similar
hesitation, while focusing primarily on the economic viability of the company. These
two companies remind us of the variations among green businesses and the fine line
between economic success and environmental responsibility walked by these
entrepreneurs every day.

Emergent Constructs
Here we draw upon the interview data to formulate preliminary sociological con-
structs. These sociological constructs are formulated to add breadth and depth to
our understanding of green entrepreneurs (Heise and Durig 2006; Balzer 1990).
These constructs may mediate between society and the individual. As we analyzed
the data, the sociological constructs that emerged included: personal motivation
and mission (passion and humility); locality (community); and a forward-thinking
orientation about sustainability (taking the long view). These constructs are visually
summarized below in Table 2.
What makes these ecopreneurs so exceptional in the business world is the uncom-
monly strong connection between their business and their own personal passions and
values. Through our interviews, we discovered that it was not a passion for business,
but for their craft—be it woodworking or artisan bread—that inspired them to start
their enterprises. Combined with their environmental passions, this makes for some
Table 2. Emergent sociological constructs in green entrepreneurship
Emergent constructs Examples What do they say and do?

1) Locality (community) –Green Beans Natural Foods –Buys local organic produce
–Concerned with strengthening local ties –Staff of Life –Buys local organic flour and wheat from
within community regional farmers
–Local Farms –Believes that Grower’s Market and
businesses like his can create a ripple
effect which strengthens community
–Fair Trade Beverage Company and –Encourage fair trade to strengthen
World Handcrafts communities in developing nations
2) Personal motivation and mission (passion –Staff of Life –‘‘The quality of my bread and
and humility) environmental responsibility are

–Started business to serve a personal one and the same.’’
passion for a craft and the environment –City Wood Rescue and Heirlooms –‘‘I am not an environmentalist by
choice—I’m an environmentalist
by activity.’’
–Organic Goat Soap –Started business to do something about
her son’s allergies
3) Forward-thinking orientation –Sunny Cycles –Inventive approach to packaging while
–Want to influence values over the long spreading the belief that ‘‘centralization
term rather than make money in the of manufacturing leads to inertia
short term against green businesses.’’
–Fair Trade Beverage Company –To stay inspired about ability to affect
change ‘‘we take the long view.’’
4) Sustainability –Sunny Cycles –‘‘The right thing to do is to soften your
–Anticipating the effects of one’s impact on the earth.’’
actions=business plan on future –Green Beans Natural Foods –Wants to use store as a ‘‘public service
generations statement’’ for children’s nutrition

–Promoting a durable lifestyle and –Staff of Life –Envisions his business’ eco-friendly
business plan building being around for generations
The natural resources connection:
—Each construct reflects a concern for natural resources and how they are used.
—The focus on locality, especially buying locally, expresses an awareness of resources used in transport of goods.
—Personal motivations and missions of the ecopreneurs were guided largely by desire to conserve natural resources.
—A view toward the future and sustainability stems from a realization of the finite nature of the earth’s resources.

840 J. C. Allen and S. Malin

unusual business owners. Such characteristics support the literature’s contention that
entrepreneurs can fuse environmentalism and business sense (Porter and van der Linde
1995; Anderson 1998) and that entrepreneurs can indeed be agents of creative destruc-
tion (Schumpeter 1934).
More importantly, these case studies have shown something new; they have
shown not capitalist contentions, but an uncommon mix of entrepreneurial spirit,
passion and humility, and a sense of personal obligation to the environment and
society. For most of the subjects, passion and a progressive view are deeply inter-
twined. As the owner of Staff of Life told us, ‘‘The quality of my bread and environ-
mental responsibility are one and the same.’’ The owner of City Wood has a deep
love of woodworking and his environmentalism has blossomed out of that initial
passion, as has his business. When the owner of World Handcrafts first visited
Guatemala and witnessed the negative impacts of free trade on indigenous women,
he says that his life changed forever. For him, opening a store in which people could
sell their handcrafts at fair trade wage made him feel at peace with his vocation.
Organic Goat Soap’s owners started their business after discovering that one of their
children had very sensitive skin and would feel strong discomfort when using
synthetic cosmetic or bath products.
Though passion drives our subjects, it is tempered by their humility regarding
their role in larger social movements. Even the economic impact they have on the
town is minimized in their own view. Consistently, when asked what impacts they
thought their business had, owners would stop and think, and then tell us in what
‘‘little ways’’ their businesses were helping the community. This was repeatedly the
tone of the owners—although most own uncommon businesses, no one saw him-
or herself as being visionary. For example, when asked about her business’s positive
environmental impacts, one of the owners of Organic Goat Soap did not think her-
self exceptional, though all her products are organic and either from her garden or
bought locally. Though environmentally and socially progressive, she was far from
marketing that image. Along similar lines, the owner of Staff of Life wants to bring
awareness to the community, while ‘‘avoid[ing] the elitist orientation’’ of some
environmental outfits.
As such, this research has uncovered a new brand of ecopreneur. Not only do
most subjects fit into one of the typologies offered in the literature, they go beyond
that mold. In our case studies, we uncovered ecopreneurs with a passion for their
craft, business initiative, and humility about their roles as social change agents; these
are not your typical capitalists. As such, this research goes beyond typologies and
adds depth and complexity to the existing categories.
Locality and the importance of community were central for many of the business
owners. On the one hand, a few of the food-oriented businesses insist upon selling
locally grown produce, both to provide a quality product and to support local
entrepreneurs like themselves. This concern often bridged their environmental and
social concerns. Staff of Life’s owner buys all of her flour from a local mill, and
wheat from farmers in the region. Wood from local municipal collectors and headed
for the local dump is fodder for the proprietor of City Wood. The owner of Green
Beans Natural Foods believes that buying local is one of the key environmental and
civic contributions he makes. Local Farms’s proprietors believe that focusing on
locally grown goods will bring about a social revolution. Not only does buying
shallots, eggs, honey, and rhubarb from local suppliers make for better produce, it
also cuts down on fuel usage and other waste. Of equal importance were concerns
Green Entrepreneurship and Natural Resources 841

that certain proprietors, such as those of the Fair Trade Beverage Company and
World Handcrafts, had with supporting Fair Trade causes, which helped improve
the communities of their suppliers. For example, the owner of Fair Trade Beverages
paid a Fair Trade wage to women coffee growers in South America, allowing the
villagers to move away from growing cocaine, to establish better infrastructure in
the town, and even to offer women leadership training.
Along these lines, 8 of 10 case study businesses desired to affect and improve the
level of environmental and social awareness among fellow community members.
Though none of these entrepreneurs portrayed themselves as particularly wise, all
hoped that their business, their volunteers or employees, and their regular customers
would help instigate greater local awareness. These findings also supplement the scant
literature (Volery 2002; Anderson 1998; Isaak 1998; Krueger 1998; Pastakia 1998), in
that they reveal the unique relationships between SMEs and their communities, as
well as the possible role that SMEs could have in being active agents of social change.
One final construct that was uncovered during interviews has two pieces to it—a
forward-thinking outlook, coupled with strong interest in sustainability. Most of our
subjects expressed the hope that their impact would continue long into the future.
According to the owner of Fair Trade Beverages—the oldest company in our sam-
ple—‘‘taking the long view’’ is warranted. She reports that since the company’s
beginning in 1974 the local area has incorporated many of the values espoused by
Fair Trade Beverages. More green space has been incorporated into the town, a local
Grower’s Market has been started and become quite successful, and awareness of
Fair Trade has increased.
This paradigm also encourages a concern for today’s children and for future
generations. The owner of Green Beans Natural Foods stated that one of his main
reasons for starting his business was his desire to use his store as a sort of ‘‘public
service statement for child nutrition.’’ The eco-friendly building that houses Staff
of Life was quite an investment, but the owner built it not only for its energy con-
servation, but because its sturdy construction will help spread a green message after
her lifetime. City Woods’s owner makes high-quality jewelry boxes that he hopes will
be passed down from one generation to the next. In addition, though he acknowl-
edges that changing public awareness and opinion is a long process, the owner of
World Handcrafts sees it as a necessary journey for his business. Furthermore, many
of the owners provide local, organic goods to promote agricultural practices that are
sustainable. For many of our subjects, concern for locality and the environment have
been fused into an enduring concern for sustainability.
Again, two of our case studies did not fit the emerging patterns. The owners of
Scientific Chemical and Swimming Hole Sports expressed great concern with main-
taining a mainstream business model. Locality and strengthening local community
were not expressed as key interests. The chief executive officer (CEO) of Scientific
Chemical would help his employees initiate certain green agendas, but was not inter-
ested in promoting ideals at the community level. Along those same lines, the owner
of Swimming Hole Sports did not express concern with the local community and has
little interest in influencing local values. In addition, consideration of future genera-
tions and the sustainability of their business practices were not main concerns for
these two, and making an increasing profit was the purpose of each business.
Overall, desire to be independent and grow a viable business were the main goals
for these entrepreneurs. As we can see in Figure 1, the themes and constructs create
one flowing picture of the motivations of our sample of green entrepreneurs.
842 J. C. Allen and S. Malin

Figure 1. The relationship between personal motivation themes and community impacts.

These themes and constructs expand the available literature. Case studies such
as these allow us to understand how businesses go about incorporating sustainability
into their practices. More importantly, it tells us why they do it, what motivates
them, how they maintain their visions, and how they have interacted with their

At first glance these green business owners could be seen as moving toward the past,
where community and locality were the primary economic and social regions and
where quality craftsmanship was the key to economic survival (Allen and Dillman
1994). However, as we look deeper into the global information age, it may well be
that the emergence of green businesses reflects a new social structure. In traditional
agrarian society it was difficult to integrate family, community, personal values, and
economy with larger social issues or movements. In mass, or industrial, society,
workers generally separated their personal values and professional lives. In our
analysis of these emerging business structures, we find that the business owners have
clearly integrated personal values of environmental integrity, social justice, fair
trade, living wages, and the development of high-quality products and services that
are hoped to last generations. This new social and economic structure poses some
interesting options for those interested in natural resource management and local
economies. Integrating the voices from these business owners into long-term
planning efforts could enhance the voice that argues for a sustainable approach to
natural resource areas, social justice, and local economies.
Researchers intrigued with this area of research could enhance the current
limited research by asking questions about how these new SMEs evolve. Does size
influence their ability to carry out a green agenda? Comparative analysis is another
area of research that is important. The high level of social awareness of these
sampled green businesses may be in direct contrast to traditional businesses.
Research comparing business types would be of value. Natural resource scientists
could focus on how green businesses interact with public lands via physical or
psychosocial perceptions and behaviors.
Green Entrepreneurship and Natural Resources 843

At this point, the emergence of small and medium green entrepreneurs who see
themselves as activists and business owners provides alternatives to the ‘‘us against
them’’ orientation between environmental activists and local community business
support organizations such as chambers of commerce. As more businesses adopt
green values, the opportunities for local economic viability, social justice, and
environmental integrity seem not so removed from reality.

1. The names of the businesses have been modified as well as the names and genders of the
owners to protect their identity. Slight modifications in the descriptions of the business
have also been included for the same reasons.
2. This technique avoids overspray and keeps solvents from evaporating into the atmosphere.
Fluorinated solvents reduce carbon dioxide emissions.

Allen, J. C. and D. A. Dillman. 1994. Against all odds: Rural community in the information age.
Boulder, CO: Westview Press.
Anderson, A. 1998. Cultivating the garden of eden: Environmental entrepreneuring.
J. Organizational Change Manage. 11(2):135–144.
Azzone, G. and G. Noci. 1998. Seeing ecology and ‘‘green’’ innovations as a source of change.
J. Organizational Change Manage. 11(2):94–111.
Bailey, K. D. 1982. Methods of social research. New York: The Free Press.
Balzer, W. 1990. A basic model for social institutions. J. Math. Sociol. 16:1–29.
Bell, M. M. 2004. An invitation to environmental sociology. London: Pine Forge Press.
Carroll, M. S. 1995. Community and the northwestern logger: Continuities and changes in the
era of the spotted owl. Boulder, CO: Westview Press.
Fielding, N. G. and J. L. Fielding. 1986. Linking data. A SAGE University paper. Beverly
Hills, CA: SAGE.
Gerlach, A. 2002. Sustainable entrepreneurship and innovation. Centre for Sustainable Manage-
ment (CSM), University of Luneburg, Luneburg, Germany. Unpublished manuscript
(can be accessed at http://andersabrahamsson.typepad.com/Sustainable%20Entrepre
neurship%20and%20Innovation.pdf). Retrieved 29 May 2006.
Hardin, G. 1968. A tragedy of the commons. Science 162:1243–1248.
Heise, D. and A. Durig. 2006. Qualitative models. In Encyclopedia of sociology, vol. 4, eds.
E. Borgatta and R. J. V. Montgomery, 1582–1586. New York: Macmillan. Pre-publi-
cation version retrieved from http://www.indiana.edu/~socpsy/papers/QualEncy-
clo.htm. Retrieved on 29 May 2006.
Hillary, R. 1997. Environmental management standards: What do SMEs think? ISO 14001 and
beyond: Environmental management systems in the real world. London: Greenleaf.
Hillary, R. 2000. Small and medium-sized enterprises and the environment. Sheffield, UK:
Hoaglin, D. C., R. J. Light, B. McPeek, F. Mosteller, and M. A. Stoto. 1982. Data for
decisions. Cambridge, MA: Abt Books.
Humphrey, C. R., M. S. Carroll, C. Geisler, T. G. Johnson, P. C. West, G. Berardi,
S. Fairfax, L. Fortman, J. Kusel, R. G. Lee, S. Macinko, N. L. Peluso, and M. D.
Schulman. 1993. Theories in the study of natural resource-dependent communities and
persistent poverty in the United States. In Persistent poverty in rural America, ed. Rural
Sociological Society Task Force on Persistent Poverty in Rural America, 136–172. Boulder,
CO: WestviewPress.
Isaak, R. 1997. Globalization and green entrepreneurship. Green Manage. Int. 18:80–91.
844 J. C. Allen and S. Malin

Isaak, R. 1998. Green logic: Ecopreneurship, theory, and ethics. Sheffield, UK: Greenleaf.
Isaak, R. 2002. The making of the ecopreneur. Green Manage. Int. Special Edition 38:81–91.
Keogh, P. D. and M. J. Polonsky. 1998. Environmental commitment: A basis for environmental
entrepreneurship? J. Organizational Change Manage. 11(1):38–49.
Kirk, J. and M. L. Miller. 1986. Reliability and validity in qualitative research. A SAGE
University paper. Beverly Hills, CA: SAGE.
Kline, J. D. 2006. Public demand for preserving local open space. Society Nat. Resources
Krueger, N. Jr. 1998. Encouraging the identification of environmental opportunities.
J. Organizational Change Management 11(2):174–183.
Kyrö, P. 2001. To grow or not to grow?: Entrepreneurship and sustainable development.
International J. Sustainable Development and World Ecology 8(1):15–28.
Lober, D. J. 1998. Pollution prevention as corporate entrepreneurship. J. Organizational
Change Manage. 11(1):26–37.
Murphy, P. R., R. F. Poist, and C. D. Braunschweig. 1995. Role and relevance of logistics to
corporate environmentalism: An empirical assessment. International J. Phys. Distrib.
Logistics Manage. 25(2):5–19.
Pastakia, A. 1998. Grassroots ecopreneurs: Change agents for a sustainable society.
J. Organizational Change Manage. 11(2):157–173.
Peluso, N., C. R. Humphrey, and L. P. Fortmann. 1994. The rock, the beach, and the tidal
pool: People and poverty in natural resource-dependent areas. Society Nat. Resources
Petrzelka, P., R. S. Krannich, and J. M. Brehm. 2006. Identification with resource-based
occupations and desire for tourism: Are the two necessarily inconsistent? Society Nat.
Resources 19:693–708.
Porter, M. E. and C. van der Linde. 1995. Green and competitive?: Ending the stalemate.
Harvard Business Rev. 73(9):120–134.
Salant, P. and D. A. Dillman. 1994. How to conduct your own survey. New York: John Wiley
and Sons.
Schaltegger, S. 2002. A framework for ecopreneurship: Leading bioneers and environmental
managers to ecopreneurship. Green Manage. Int. Special Edition 38:45–58.
Schaper, M. 2002a. The essence of ecopreneurship. Green Manage. Int. Special Edition 38:
Schaper, M. 2002b. The challenge of environmental responsibility and sustainable development:
Implications for SME and entrepreneurial academics. Unpublished manuscript. Accessed
at http://www.kmu.unisg.ch/rencontres/band2002/F_09_Schaper.pdf. Retrieved 29
May 2006.
Schaper, M., Ed. 2005. Making ecopreneurs: Developing sustainable entrepreneurship.
Burlington, VT: Ashgate.
Schumpeter, J. A. 1934. The theory of economic development. Cambridge, MA: Harvard
University Press.
Tanner, M. M., C. L. Twait, J. M. Rives, and M. L. Bollman. 1996. Barriers to waste
reduction efforts: Small business response. J. Environ. Systems 24(3):299–310.
Taylor, D. W. and E. E. Walley. 2004. The green entrepreneur: Opportunist, maverick, or
visionary? International J. Entrepreneurship and Small Business 1(1–2):56–97.
Volery, T. 2002. Ecopreneurship: Rationale, current issues, and future challenges. University of
St. Gallen, Switzerland. http://www.igw.unisg.ch/rencontres/band2002/F_11_Volery.
pdf. Retrieved 30 March 2006.
Yin, R. K. and D. T. Campbell. 2003. Case study research: Design and methods, 3rd ed.
London: Sage.