Green Business’ Go-to Guy Is Going

[Updated, 10:37am]

Andrew Shapiro, one of the most prominent sustainability advisers in corporate America, is leaving GreenOrder, the consulting firm he started in 2000.

GreenOrder, which is based in New York, is best known for its work with General Electric on its ecomagination initiative. The firm has also advised such blue-chip companies as General Motors, Hewlett-Packard, JP Morgan Chase, along with major utilities and real estate developers.

Shapiro, who is 43 and a Yale Law grad, will stay at GreenOrder until the end of the year, while a replacement is sought. GreenOrder was acquired three years ago by LRN, an ethics and compliance firm led by Dov Seidman, himself a prominent adviser to FORTUNE 500 firms and the author of How: Why HOW We Do Anything Means Everything.

Ron Gonen, a founder of RecycleBank, a company that rewards consumers for recycling, has become an adviser to LRN, "to help lead the alignment of GreenOrder Advisory Services with the company as a whole," according to Seidman. But Gonen told me by email that he will not be taking over at GreenOrder.

In announcing the change to colleagues, Seidman said: "Andrew's creative and entrepreneurial vision stands at the core of GreenOrder's advisory role."

Before saying more, a few disclosures are required. I've known and liked Andrew and his colleagues at GreenOrder for years, and wrote about the company for Fortune.com in 2007. [See Green business' go-to guys.] I consulted for LRN for about eight months in 2009, so I know Dov, too; in fact, Andrew introduced us. GO Ventures, an investment firm co-founded by Shapiro, owns a stake in GreenBiz Group, where I'm a senior writer. And my friend and colleague Joel Makower has been a senior strategist with GreenOrder, as well as a small shareholder in the firm. As ecologists like to say, we are all connected. (Cool music -- check it out.)

When I heard about his departure, I called Andrew to ask him what was going on. He told me that he was ready for a change after spending more than a decade building GreenOrder.

"We had our best year ever last year," he said, "and so I'm confident this is a good time for me to go work on new challenges."

He's proud, he told me, of what's been accomplished by GreenOrder. "The goal, when I set out, was to get big corporates to believe that energy and environmental innovation is not just good for the bottom line, but a critical driver of profit and competitive advantage. I think we've done that," Andrew said.

He's right, I think. With a handful of exceptions -- coal companies, oil companies and others with a strong stake in the status quo -- big companies now recognize that getting ahead of the curve on environmental and energy issues is smart business. GE, Walmart, IBM and Google had a big impact, influencing their peers to act, but Andrew and his colleagues played a role, too.

"The next challenge," he went on, "is to accelerate mass deployment of green technologies. That's what I'll be working on." This will require new forms of financing, as well as alliances between startups and big companies like GE and Google.

GO Ventures, which was spun out of GreenOrder (and not part of the LRN deal), is a step in that direction. It owns stakes in seven companies, including Serious Energy, GreenBiz Group, Global Thermostat (which I've written about for the next issue of FORTUNE), and GreenYour Media, which was acquired by RecycleBank earlier this year.

Another GO Venture portfolio company, Class Green Capital Partners, helps municipalities borrow money by taking out mortgages on public buildings, and then using some of the proceeds to upgrade the buildings to save energy, as the Wall Street Journal recently reported (download -- PDF)

Because small consulting firms depend on the reputation and relationships of their founders, GreenOrder, which employs about 35 people, will have its work cut out for it going forward. Other key players at the firm, including Nicholas Eisenberger, Stephen Linaweaver and Sarah King, have left since it was acquired by LRN in 2008.

Mergers, as we all know, are never easy.

Editor's note: This article was updated to reflect the fact that Ron Gonen will not be taking over GreenOrder, but will instead serve as an adviser.