Jen van der Meer

Green Brands: Do Intentions Matter in Ultimate Success?

Published: (Updated: ) in Inhabitat, Open Forum, Product Ecology, by .

At Open Forum for Inhabitat:

Two roads diverge
Two roads diverge

Let’s imagine two business leaders, both entrepreneurs, both looking to create an environmentally friendly and efficiently produced sunscreen.

Entrepreneur One is a green purist. Inspired to start a business after failing to findeffective non-toxic sunscreens for her first baby, and she decided to create thehealthiest, most environmentally friendly sunscreen in the marketplace. She has done a comprehensive analysis of how to how to reduce environmental impact across all stages of the lifecycle, and impacts beyond just carbon emissions. She realizes the product manufacturing will be more expensive, so she is looking to distribute her product through Web sales, word-of- mouth and eventuallyspecialty retail stores that cater to a hyper-aware, green consumer parent.

Now imagine Entrepreneur Two, a self-admitted and proud green opportunist. Aserial entrepreneur who has successfully supplied products to Walmart and otherbig box retailers, Entrepreneur Two was inspired by the Walmart SustainabilityIndex effort. The first phase of Walmart’s effort focused on their suppliers, providing a set of questions and conversations with current and future vendors to suggest a preference environmentally efficient products. Entrepreneur Two is convinced of the market potential for a “clean sunscreen,” and is working furiously to create a cost-effective solution that might compromise with a few ingredients to achieve the right price for the business model. She is looking for her environmental gains to help her sell her product and get a distribution deal with Walmart, and then plans to dominate the category of sunscreens at the mass-market level.

These two stories post other questions for those starting business with a sense ofpurpose and opportunity. Do original intentions matter to you, as an entrepreneuror as a consumer?  Do you think consumers care about the individuals and ideals behind a brand? If you were purchasing sunscreen for your baby, which productwould you buy?

These two stories also provide us a framework to understand how we measure value in our society – cultural value, economic value, and environmental value. Looking through these three lenses of measurement, which entrepreneur will achieve  the most business success, and which will achieve the greater good?