GreenBiz.com: 10 Years After

Two Steps Forward

GreenBiz.com: 10 Years After

Ten years ago today, GreenBiz.com went from dream to reality, as we "flipped the switch" on the site, making it live for the first time. An image of the site on that day is shown here. (You can click here to view a larger version.)

We've come a long way since June 21, 2000, both the website and the world of green business, though for all of our success, we've only just begun to fulfill our promise.

GreenBiz.com emerged from "The Green Business Letter," a monthly newsletter that I published from 1991 to 2005. Subtitled "The Hands-On Journal for Environmentally Conscious Companies," it attempted in eight monthly pages to capture the world of business and the environment. Eight pages a month was all it took in those days.

Over time, as the World Wide Web emerged and the greening of business moved from the margins to the mainstream, I recognized an opportunity to bring to one place the vast number of resources — news, research, reports, websites, tools, best practices, technical assistance programs, and more — that were crossing my desk on a daily basis. (I came to learn that in the Age of the Internet there was a new name for something I had been for many years: "content aggregator.")

GreenBiz.com was originally called "The Green Business Resource Center" and was incubated within the nonprofit National Environmental Education Foundation, based in Washington, D.C. The vision hasn't changed much since the original May 1999 funding proposal, which I recently dusted off. The mission I wrote then remains virtually unchanged from the one that's appeared for the past decade on GreenBiz.com's About page:

To provide clear, concise, accurate, and balanced information, resources, and learning opportunities to help companies of all sizes and sectors integrate environmental responsibility into their operations in a manner that combines ecological sustainability with profitable business practices.

Specifically, the 1999 document stated, GreenBiz.com would:

  • Serve as an information clearinghouse on sustainable business practices and resources from a wide variety of entities, including companies, nongovernmental organizations, trade associations, government agencies, and academic institutions.
  • Help companies and other organizations turn information into knowledge and action by providing hands-on tools, expert advice, and case studies.
  • Provide resources, tools, and information to organizations that offer technical assistance to companies on environmental issues.
  • Facilitate increased communication, information sharing, and learning among environmental professionals and other interested parties.
  • Facilitate increased understanding of sustainable business practices beyond the private sector to government entities, nongovernmental organizations, news media, investors, students and academics, and the public at large.

Ten years later, those activities continue to represent our lodestar.

Today, GreenBiz.com sits at the center of a constellation of products and services produced by Greener World Media, the company that I co-founded with publishing veteran Pete May in 2007 to build out the fledgling GreenBiz "empire." In addition to our websites and newsletters, Greener World Media now produces research, such as the annual State of Green Business reports and the monthly Green Confidence Index; a steady stream of webinars on leading-edge topics; events, such as the State of Green Business Forums and the upcoming GreenBiz Innovation Forum; and the GreenBiz Executive Network, a peer-to-peer learning forum for sustainability professionals that's the flagship offering of our GreenBiz Intelligence unit.

And, as we revealed recently, a forthcoming sustainability standard for companies in partnership with Underwriters Laboratories' UL Environment division.

There's much more to come.

So, why hasn't GreenBiz.com, et al., fulfilled its promise?

Because there's so much more to do, and in more creative ways, such as leveraging the terrific technologies that allow people not just to meet online but to share and collaborate.

Because as green strategies and practices continue to grow in both breadth and depth inside mainstream companies, it becomes increasingly harder to live up to our "information clearinghouse" vision.

Because there remain far too few good resources to help smaller firms improve their environmental performance.

Because environmental activities and concerns are merging with social ones inside companies, creating new opportunities but also new challenges for companies that want to remain on the leading edge of sustainability.

I could go on. And while this may seem a tad self-critical, I don't intend for a second to undermine the extraordinary work of my talented team, which keeps the information flowing and the wheels turning every business day — and of our growing audience, including the more than 300 professionals who write for us during a typical year. All of them — all of you — deserve recognition and heartfelt thanks for helping to turn GreenBiz.com into a center of thought leadership on the greening of mainstream business.

It's been a great ride, this past decade, but in many ways it feels like it's just beginning. I'm more excited than ever about the potential of business to be transformational change agents in our environmentally challenged and resource-constrained world. And I'm equally excited about the potential of my colleagues and company to continue to shine a light on all that's possible.

Joel Makower is Executive Editor of GreenBiz.com